Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: August 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 26 August 2015

Posted 29 August 2015

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Christine Arnold

Outward: Rain and strong winds
Return: sunny with much lighter winds

Summary of sightings:

Little Egret
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Common Tern

On Guernsey:
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Rock Pipit
Carrion Crow

I boarded Condor Liberation and was warmly welcomed by the staff on board. As usual they were very hospitable and friendly and were interested in what we were likely to see.

It wasn't promising, standing on the top deck in the rain, but I found many people to talk with about MARINElife and give leaflets to. Many people were just about to begin their holidays on their way to the Channel Islands so were very interested in the places in the Poole Harbour area that they could see from the ship.

We passed Brownsea Island where there were Great Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Common Tern and Little Egret to be seen. As we voyaged further out into the Channel graceful Gannets were soaring majestically over the waves.

Turnstone Christine Arnold 01
Turnstone (Christine Arnold)

In Guernsey the rain continued but I still cycled to Castle Cornet where I saw a Rock Pipit sheltering near the castle grounds. At last the sun eventually came out and I saw some Turnstones moving and drying their wings on rocks nearby. I carried on along the coast to Clarence Battery where Red Admiral and Large White butterflies were flying around near the plants on the cliffs and Carrion Crows soared in the updrafts.

The journey back was wonderful, we were now bathed in glorious sunshine. There were many people on deck and they were happily talking about their time in Guernsey. As we passed Alderney one passenger was keen to tell me about the area around Les Etacs rocks, while the Gannet colony on Ortac was more active than I've ever seen before, they were swarming around it. The Gannets were also extremely busy fishing in the waters around the colony and we saw plenty more on the journey north across the Channel. We passed the usual array of large tankers as we crossed the Channel shipping lanes, along with a tall ship which caused excitement amongst the passengers.

Ortac Christine Arnold August 2015
Ortac Gannet colony (Christine Arnold)

The Condor staff were very keen to know what had been seen during the crossing so far, they each had their own story about observations on previous crossings. We had lovely views of the Purbecks, Old Harry Rocks and Brownsea Island with the sun shining on them.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 23 August 2015

Posted 26 August 2015

Andrew Gilbert, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Overcast, wind southwesterly, sea state: 2-4, good visibility.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Unidentified dolphin sp.  3

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 17
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 47
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 47
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5

Terrestrial Birds
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 53
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 4
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 6
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 8

Having been warmly welcomed on the bridge of the Condor Liberation by Captain Wade I was thankfully still able to observe the birds on the lagoon at Brownsea Island as we left the dock, despite the constant rain that had plagued us the past few days. The harbour itself was very quiet on the bird front but a large number of Great Black-backed Gull, Canada Geese and Cormorant, plus a handful of Little Egret were sheltering in the lagoon.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11a
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we passed Old Harry Rocks and entered the Channel the rain slowly eased and with a sea state of 2 I was hopeful for a great survey. Unfortunately the seabird count was particularly low with only 400 birds sighted throughout the whole trip and the sea state increased to a pretty constant 4, reducing my chances of seeing any cetaceans. The highlight of the first leg to Guernsey was a group of Manx Shearwater in mid Channel and an Arctic Skua spotted heading southwest down the Dorset coast. Great Black-backed Gulls were seen in good numbers, as were Gannet, particularly as we neared Alderney and the Ortac and Les Etacs Gannet colonies. No cetaceans were to be seen in the tidal races between Ortac and Les Casquets.

However, on the return leg from Jersey to Guernsey three dolphins were spotted feeding nearly a kilometre in front of the ship. Unfortunately, they weren't showing much and had moved on by the time we reached the area. It wasn't possible positively identify them, my instinct told me that their small build and quick splashing suggested Common Dolphin but with such brief shows it was impossible to call.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 04
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Buoyed by that encounter I spent the rest of the journey back to Dorset eager for more but had to be content with more Gannet, an occasional Fulmar, a Great Skua and four Shelduck at sea, and another quiet Poole Harbour on return.

I would like to thank Captain Wade and his crew for making me so welcome and Condor Ferries for their continued support of our work.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 19 August 2015

Posted 22 August 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Outward: light southwesterly winds, warm but overcast, fine except for light drizzle later.
Return: moderate southwesterly wind but fairly flat sea with persistent rain and poor visibility.

Summary of Species seen:

European Shag
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

A few Cormorant, Herring Gull and a Great Black-backed Gull flew by as we left Poole Harbour and passed Old Harry Rocks in fairly calm sea conditions. Several adult Gannets as well as some in juvenile plumage were spotted as we crossed the Channel, passing quite close to the ferry, and we had a good view of a juvenile Kittiwake with its attractive markings as it briefly followed us before veering off.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 05a
Juvenile Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Several passengers booked on the MARINElife day trip came and chatted as we kept a look out from the rear viewing deck. Ortac, the Gannet colony at Alderney, was busy with birds wheeling above and groups of 10 or so birds flying in formation as they set out on foraging trips. Quite a few immature Gannets in their dark plumage were also spotted and a number of Shag as we approached Guernsey.

We docked at St. Peter Port in intermittent light rain, which didn't dampen our spirits as we wandered around the cobbled streets exploring the town for a couple of hours before re-boarding the ferry for our return trip.

St Peter Port Peter Howlett 08
St Peter Port harbour with Condor Liberation docked (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

This time our return route took us between the islands of Herm and Sark giving us close views, but as we headed north towards Alderney the rain came down harder and reduced visibility. At this point we retired inside to enjoy the comforts of the ferry and keep watch through the windows. A number of Gannets were seen as we crossed the Channel but unfortunately no cetaceans on this trip.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 12 August 2015

Posted 20 August 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Ali Quinney

Weather: Sunny and calm outward journey with great visibility, strong winds and choppy on the return journey.

Summary of species seen:

Cetaceans: none

European Shag
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern

It was starting to look like a nice summer's day as I boarded the Condor Liberation. The ship was at full capacity and many passengers were making the most of the warm weather on the deck taking in the sights of Poole harbour in the morning sunshine. We set sail at 10am in a light breeze and we enjoyed watching Black-headed Gulls in winter plumage and terns flying past the ship and seeing lots of holiday makers on the chain ferry and at Studland Nature Reserve. The sea state wasn't bad for viewing, a few breaking wavelets and hardly any swell.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 06
Guillemot in winter plumage (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We passed a number of jellyfish including the large barrel jellyfish just under the surface as we moved through Poole Bay, 1 of 8 species of jellyfish that have been recorded along the Dorset coast. I chatted to the passengers about jellyfish attracting larger marine species including Leatherback Turtle, like the one spotted in Lyme Bay the week before, and Sunfish. Shortly after this I learnt from Twitter that a Sunfish had been spotted in Swanage Bay so we kept our eyes peeled for a floppy fin.

The rest of our crossing was warm and calm and a constant stream of Gannet, flying with purpose, entertained us as we attempted to estimate their ages by their plumage features. Shortly after passing Ortac rock and Alderney I spotted a winter plumage Guillemot on the water. These will have left their breeding colonies to spend their winter on the sea and would have undertaken a post breeding moult. As we neared St Peter Port the usual gull species were seen, Herring, Lesser and Greater Black-backed.

We arrived in Guernsey in bright sunshine but it soon turned hazy. I boarded a bus and travelled half way round the island to a beach at Torteval where I spent the afternoon rock pooling and taking in the scenery, stony outcrops, historical sites and fishing boats moored out in the bay.

Gannet Peter Howlett 18
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

It was a much choppier crossing back to Poole. The wind really picked up and the waves and swell were much bigger. The thousands of Gannet that circle above Ortac rock were displaced and groups of birds were circling on the wing downwind. We were hopeful to see diving and feeding behaviour but it was too choppy even for the Gannet. I was lucky enough to see a couple of Kittiwake braving the strong winds. As we neared Poole Bay the winds died down and viewing conditions improved, more passengers joined us on deck in hope of seeing the pod of Dorset dolphins. Even though we didn't see any cetaceans we were treated to a stunning sunset as we arrived back in Poole harbour lighting up Brownsea Island and the lagoon in pinks and orange hues.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 5 August 2015

Posted 07 August 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Charles McGibney

Weather: Fine day with some sunshine, no precipitation. Sea state 2-3, visibility excellent - 10km plus.

Summary of species seen:

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull

It was a fine clear day, with sunshine poking through the clouds as I boarded Condor Liberation. After locating my seat I made my way up to the viewing platform before we set off. The sea state was great for viewing with very little swell and only a few ripples. A number of smaller gulls were circling above and there were a few passengers already gathered on top.

As we made our way past Brownsea Island I spotted a few Cormorant perched on buoys and a Great Black-backed Gull. I kept a sharp look out in the harbour and as we made our way towards Old Harry rocks for seals and cetaceans but despite the excellent viewing conditions none were seen.

Gannet Charles McGibney 04
Gannet (Charles McGibney)

During the crossing we saw a number of Gannet, one of which stayed following the Liberation for some time. I hoped to see them gathered together and diving down but they either seemed to be on a mission to get somewhere, or were just scanning the seas as they effortlessly glided.

After leisurely enjoying a bite to eat on Guernsey and having a stroll around Guernsey's back streets is was almost time to re-board Liberation. The visibility was still excellent and the sun was shining, though the sea state had picked up a little.

Ortac Charles McGibney
Ortac Gannet colony (Charles McGibney)

As we left St Peter Port there were a lot of passengers on the viewing platform who like me, were hopeful of seeing some marine mammals. Although there were some Gannets on the way out, we immediately saw them more frequently and in greater numbers as we left the port and made our way towards Alderney, lifting our spirits. As we passed Ortac there was a huge mass of Gannets covering the rocks and circling above. I doubled effort desperately looking for possible cetaceans below but none were seen then, or before we reached Poole.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance.