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

Seabirds
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.