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