Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: September 2015

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 26 September 2015

Posted 01 October 2015

Sarah Hodgson & Julie Hatcher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Sunny, good visibility with some glare at times, E-NE wind, sea state 2-5

Summary of sightings:

Gannet Morus bassanus 205
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 25
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gull sp. 32

Terrestrial Birds
Passerines 37
Hirundines 12

Poole was bathed in autumn sunshine as we arrived at the port ready for our crossing to Jersey. As we boarded Condor Liberation, there was time for a quick cup of tea on the outer deck, whilst we made our way out of the harbour. We were soon invited onto the bridge by Captain Steve Ainscow so we could begin our survey.

The viewing conditions were favourable, with calm seas, few whitecaps and not too much glare.  Leaving the Dorset coast behind us we started to record individual Gannet, both adults and juveniles. Midway across the Channel we came across a few small groups of migrating terrestrial birds making their journey south for the winter and the dark silhouettes of Great Skua appeared high in the sky.

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

As we neared the Channel Islands, Captain Steve Ainscow informed us that due to the low tide we would be making a slightly different approach into Guernsey, a route that took us between the islands of Herm and Sark.

Following a brief stop at Guernsey, which allowed us to sample some of the delicious food on offer from the on-board bistro, we continued our journey to Jersey. More gulls, Gannet and Shag were present, but we were still to spot any cetaceans.

The return journey was similar with the sun still shining and a fresh north-easterly breeze. At times the sea state picked up with more whitecaps making viewing a little trickier. A single Guillemot in winter plumage was the only auk of the day and we also spotted a lone Manx Shearwater flying low and fast just above the surface of the water.

The sun was setting just as the Dorset coast came back into view and the fading light marked the end of our survey. Thanks to Condor Ferries, Captain Steve Ainscow and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their support and assistance throughout the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 23 September 2015

Posted 29 September 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Outward: Sunny, wind NW 3-4, sea slight to moderate with good visibility.
Return: Sunny, wind SW 3-4, sea slight to moderate with good visibility.

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin 4

Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Great Skua
Sandwich Tern
Little Egret

After several days of dull and wet weather, it was a welcome change to arrive in Poole harbour in the bright sunshine and the forecast looked good for sun all day. The girls at the ferry terminal check-in were fast and friendly and we were quickly through departures, boarding the Liberation. I made myself known at the information desk so they could announce that the Wildlife Officer was onboard.

Out on the viewing deck, I was able to chat with several passengers as we departed Poole Harbour. More passengers came out on deck to view the birds on the Brownsea Island Lagoon and I lent my binoculars to a couple of people interested in seeing the Spoonbill, Avocet and Cormorant, amongst other wading birds on the lagoon.  As it was so sunny, the coastline including Old Harry Rocks was highlighted providing an ideal photo opportunity that many passengers took advantage of. I reminded them to be out on deck as we approached Ortac Rock, west of Alderney.

BND Peter Howlett 04
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Approaching Ortac Rock from the distance, with the sun shining overhead and the Gannet circling round, one passenger said that it looked spooky, rather like Dracula's castle. As we got nearer, there was plenty of activity on the Gannetry and one lady was fascinated by the differences between the adult and juvenile plumage as she looked through my binoculars. She then asked what the small bird was that was flying low at sea level, which we identified as a Manx Shearwater.

We disembarked at St Peters Port and having a few hours ashore, sampled a delicious Guernsey seafood lunch before walking it off by wandering around the harbour.

On the return journey, many people came out on the viewing deck to join me, where we spent much of the time, relaxing in the sun, hopeful for sightings of marine mammals and seabirds. As we sailed back towards the Dorset coastline, the sun started to set and much to our surprise, a large dark bird rose up over the bow of the ship, and disappeared over the other side. As we discussed what it might have been, it reappeared a few moments later for it to be identified as a Great Skua.

Approaching Poole Bay, the Liberation reduced speed and just before Old Harry Rocks, we suddenly spotted a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphin with at least 3 breaching on the starboard side and another on the port side. As the dolphin leapt amongst the waves, they provided us with a fabulous finale to the day with several passengers remarking that it was the first time that they had seen dolphin in UK waters.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for welcoming me onboard and the passengers who joined me on the viewing deck for a successful MARINElife day trip.

Old Harry Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Old Harry rocks (Glynis Northwood-Long)

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 16 September 2015

Posted 22 September 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Rick Morris

Weather: Cloudy with occasional showers, sea state mostly 5 with easterly winds

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise 3

Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater
European Shag
Sandwich Tern

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Peregrine Falcon
Little Egret
Rock Pipit
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon
Warbler Sp

I was greeted at the check-in by Condor's friendly and helpful receptionist, issued with my boarding pass and promptly transferred to the smart looking 'Condor Liberation' and after settling in and having a spot of breakfast I made my up to the top deck.

The sun was coming up as we left and I could make out Cormorant in the lagoon with the occasional Herring Gull flying overhead. The wind had picked up as we neared Old Harry Rocks and out into the Channel, so making cetacean sightings a little challenging! Bird numbers were fairly low, but that was to be expected, with Gannet and gulls the most numerous.

Peregrine Rick Morris 01
Peregrine Falcon (Rick Morris)

As we neared Alderney, Gannet numbers increased due to the large colonies on Ortac Rock and Les Etacs. As we travelled between Ortac and the Casquets lighthouse I happened to glance up and saw a dark bird, clearly a raptor in shape and further observation proved it to be a Peregrine Falcon and it had its prey held firmly in its claws. I couldn't identify what it had caught, but it didn't have webbed feet, so I assume it was a terrestrial bird that was on migration as I did see a warbler species fly down the starboard side a little earlier.

Reaching St Peter Port I enjoyed a walk to Castle Cornet and along the breakwater. As I walked back I could hear the chinking sound of pebbles from the shoreline around the castle, which sure enough led me to a small group of Turnstone busily turning over the pebbles looking for food.

Turnstone Rick Morris 01
Turnstone (Rick Morris)

After re-boarding for the return home, I had time to enjoy a lovely meal of pie and mash and then once again made my way up top. Our course leaving Guernsey took us between the islands of Herm and Sark, a first for me and in the calmer water produced a sighting of three Harbour Porpoise to the delight of the passenger standing next to me that I'd been talking to. The rest of the journey was fairly quiet, but I did see a lone Manx Shearwater and, around five miles south of Alderney, I observed two critically endangered Balearic Shearwater. The rest of the trip produced mainly Gannet and gulls with a lone Cormorant flying past Old Harry Rocks.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 9 September 2015

Posted 16 September 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Outward: Overcast until past Old Harry Rocks and then sunny with strong easterly winds
Return: Sunny with strong east to northeasterly winds decreasing towards Poole Bay

Summary of species seen:

Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Little Egret

On arriving in Poole Harbour, although it was overcast, I was hopeful that the weather would improve during the day. The check-in at the ferry terminal was busy but the friendly staff quickly got me on board the Liberation, so I was able to enjoy a delicious breakfast from the Casquets Bistro. Then it was up to the viewing deck for our departure out of Poole Harbour, passing Brownsea Island we were able to see a variety of wading birds on the lagoon, including Spoonbill, Oystercatcher and Avocet. As we approached Old Harry Rocks, the clouds started to disperse and as we got further out into the Channel, it was sun and blue skies all the way.

Several passengers heard the announcement that there was a MARINElife Wildlife Officer onboard and came to join me on the viewing deck. As we chatted, we kept an eye out for dolphins as they had been seen along the coast but unfortunately we had no such luck. However, I did tell them to make sure they were on deck as we approached Ortac Rock, west of Alderney.

St Peter Port Glynis Northwood-Long 01
St Peter Port harbour (Glynis Northwood-Long)

We weren't disappointed as there was plenty of activity at the Gannetry on the rock. No matter how many times, I make this journey, I am still in awe of such a magnificent sight, with the rock covered in Gannet and many more circling overhead, then diving into the sea below.

I disembarked at St Peter Port and, having a few hours ashore, I wandered around the harbour watching several Cormorant sitting on the moored boats, majestically drying out their wings. I then wandered along the breakwater by Castle Cornet and had my lunch sitting by the lighthouse whilst watching terns diving for theirs.

On the return journey, I was joined on the viewing deck by people hopeful for sightings of marine mammals and seabirds. I exchanged details with someone from a Channel Islands TV company with a view to a possible interview with one of our Trustees, which would be great publicity for the MARINElife charity. Another person was particularly interested in volunteering for MARINElife and becoming a Wildlife Officer and gave her my contact details. We spent the rest of the trip on the viewing deck, chatting about recent cetacean sighting reports, whilst relaxing in the sunshine.

Dorset Coast Glynis Northwood-Long
Late afternoon over the Dorset coast (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed back towards Poole, the sun started to set over Old Harry Rocks and Poole Harbour where we watched a variety of birds including Common Tern and Cormorant diving for their supper.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me so welcome onboard and the passengers who joined me on the viewing deck.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 2 September 2015

Posted 07 September 2015

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Charles McGibney

Weather: Bright and sunny, some wind, very good visibility, sea state 1-2

Summary of species seen:

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

It was a bright and sunny morning on the 2 September when I boarded Condor Liberation for another trip to Guernsey. Visibility was excellent, sea state was relatively calm and hopes were high!

There were quite a few passengers on the upper deck viewing platform who were also enjoying the fresh weather and view, so I introduced myself and talked about the fantastic marine life that one could hope to see on the crossing to Guernsey including the variety of seabirds, cetaceans and other marine mammals.

Ortac Charles McGibney
Ortac rock with its Gannetry (Archive photo: Charles McGibney)

Despite many eyes sharply focused on the waters around Poole Harbour, Studland and Old Harry Rocks, no sightings were made. During the crossing we saw a steady number of Gannet scanning the seas for prey, with the occasional making an effort to keep up with the Liberation before gliding off in a different direction. As we sailed past Ortac there was a huge mass of Gannets covering the rock and circling above, but sadly not much diving or evidence of cetacean activity beneath the waves.

After enjoying a few relaxing hours on Guernsey it was time to re-board Liberation for the return leg to Poole. With similar viewing conditions and beaming sunshine the viewing platform was fairly busy with passengers. After speaking to one family I found out that there had been a small pod of about 3 Bottlenose Dolphin spotted off Jersey earlier that day, so my hopes were again lifted. The return journey however didn't result in any sightings, other than the usual mass gathering of Gannets around Ortac and a lone Fulmar.

Jethou and Herm Charles McGibney 01
Herm and Jethou (Charles McGibney)

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