MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 28 April 2016

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:

Marine mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin 8
Unidentified dolphin species 1 (passenger sighting)

Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Little Egret
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon
Passerine Sp.

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 and trainees Rick Morris 01
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.

BND Rick Morris 03
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.

Passenger engagement Rick Morris 03
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.