Abby Bruce & Lucy Grable, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Bright sunshine throughout with a scattering of clouds, sea state 2-4
Summary of sightings:
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 8
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 69
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 31
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 41
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Gull sp. 170
Auk sp. 24
Terrestrial birds at
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 15
Swift Apus apus 3
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 1
Crow sp. 1
Passerine sp. 7
Wader sp. 7
Finding Poole harbour and the parking facilities was easy and with an efficient check in we were on for a prompt start to our sailing. Once on board we were warmly welcomed on to the bridge and encouraged to set up on the starboard side.
It was a glorious sunny day in Poole and the scenery was stunning. We were instantly surrounded by birds and had our pens at the ready when we reached the Channel to start surveying. Particularly numerous were the majestic Gannet. Some other species of note were a group of waders we found tricky to ID in the bright sunshine, but they were most likely a group of Knot, and a few Swift, a sure sign spring has sprung at last.
Ortac Gannet colony (Abby Bruce)
Across the Channel from the white chalky columns of Old Harry rocks off Handfast Point we met another white formation, but this time bird-stained rocks, the mound of Ortac, a Gannet breeding colony. A spectacle to see and fully explained the high numbers we were recording.
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
The views of Guernsey and Jersey were equally as stunning and although the return leg of our journey was a little quieter for marine life a Sooty Shearwater, Fulmar and handful of Manx Shearwater kept our senses sharp. We longed for a brief glimpse of a cetacean but alas this time it was not meant to be. The crew inspired us though, with previous tales of whale, dolphin and the odd Basking Shark sightings. All were very interested in our work and keen to contribute to it. All making for a very enjoyable trip, many thanks to everyone involved.
MARINElife WLO's Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long
Weather: Mostly sunny with light northwesterly winds on outbound, increasing to moderate inbound, sea state 3 to 5
Summary of sightings:
Bottlenose Dolphin 8
Unidentified dolphin species 1 (passenger sighting)
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
We arrived at condor's check-in and met up with four of our volunteers that wanted to learn about the role of the Wildlife Officer (WLO) for this first wildlife trip of 2016. This will be MARINElife's third season on the Channel Island route having a WLO aboard with the support of Condor Ferries.
Glynis with the trainees on deck (Rick Morris)
Upon boarding and locating our seats, we promptly equipped ourselves with binoculars, cameras and a supply of information brochures and headed outside ready for departure. Due to the cold unseasonal weather, ice had formed on the top viewing deck so we had a short wait whilst the efficient crew made the area safe!
We were close to Brownsea Island when we made our way up top, just in time to view Little Egret, Cormorant, Canada and Greylag Goose, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, various gulls and small groups of waders in and around the lagoon. Sandwich and Common Tern were also seen, many feeding as we passed the island and headed out into the Channel.
We had left the 'red zone' and were at the far end of Poole Harbour when Tony (one of our volunteers) shouted "dolphins", all of us made our way to the port side and we were delighted to see 8 Bottlenose Dolphin c500m away.
Bottlenose Dolphin (Rick Morris)
Leaving the dolphins behind us we had sporadic sightings of gulls and Gannet, the later in greater numbers the nearer we got to Alderney and the breeding colonies of Ortac and Les Etacs.
Around the halfway point a passenger excitedly got my attention to say a dolphin had just jumped out heading toward the ship, it had disappeared by the time I looked. After a bit of questioning to try and get more information on the animal seen, I deduced it was probably a Common Dolphin and possibly one of a small group that came in unnoticed whilst we were all observing seabirds on the other side!
On our arrival in St Peter Port, Glynis and I decided to walk to Castle Cornet whilst the others went off to explore the town. Meeting up back in the terminal Glynis explained to the group in more detail about the Wildlife Officer initiative before boarding for the return home. Leaving St Peter Port behind us we were soon observing a variety of seabirds, but the sea state had picked up a little making cetacean sightings quite challenging and as a result none were seen on the return to Poole. With the Jurassic coast in sight, Guillemot numbers increased with the odd Kittiwake and Fulmar making an appearance.
Heading back into Poole Harbour, similar bird species were seen to those on the way out. We made our way down to our seats for a quick recap before disembarking, saying our farewells and making our way home.
Chris and Alan talking to passengers (Rick Morris)
This was a very enjoyable and informative trip with a good number of passengers approaching us wanting to know more on the wildlife that can be found on the crossing.
Special thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting the wildlife trips and to the crew of the 'Condor Liberation' for the help and assistance.