Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: May 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 27 May 2016

Posted 30 May 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Out: Overcast, wind E-NE 3-4, sea state slight to smooth and good visibility
Return: Sunny to start, fog in Channel then clear skies, wind NE 2-4, sea state slight.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Kittiwake
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Guillemot

Terrestrial birds:
Greylag Goose
Mallard
Oystercatcher
Swallow

It was an overcast start to the day with thundery showers forecast when I arrived at the ferry terminal. At the Condor Ferries check-in desk, the friendly staff dealt with the passengers efficiently and soon we were boarded onto Liberation. Shortly before departure I went up to the viewing deck and mingled with the other passengers. Following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, several passengers were interested to find out what we might see on our journey.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 03
Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Sailing through Poole Harbour I was able to point out various birds on Brownsea Island Lagoon including Mallard, Cormorant, Greylag Goose, and Oystercatcher. There is a breeding colony of  Sandwich Tern on the lagoon and these were fascinating to watch as they swooped and dived for their breakfast. As we came out of the harbour I trained my binoculars in the direction of Boscombe, where Bottlenose Dolphin had been spotted on one of our training trips, but no such luck this time.

The weather improved after we had pased Old Harry Rocks which encouraged more passengers out onto the viewing deck. However, sightings of seabirds were sparse until we neared the Gannet colony on Ortac, off the west coast of Alderney, when the numbers of Gannet nesting and circling the rock made up for it.

Once in St Peter Port, I disembarked the Liberation and, having a few hours ashore, strolled around in the sunshine. The town was bright and colourful - the phone boxes are bright yellow, the post boxes are blue and the streets decorated with floral arrangements, bunting, and flags. I even indulged in a spot of retail therapy in a couple of the many boutique style shops in the town.

Back on the Liberation for the return journey, with clear blue skies, many people were out on the viewing deck making the most of the sunshine. Several families approached me, with the children asking when we would see the dolphins. With the calm sea, it was ideal conditions to spot a cetacean but I couldn't promise any.

Several local Guernsey people joined me as we neared Alderney, looking for Gannet and Puffin. The wind was in the 'wrong' direction so we were able to smell the Gannet colony on Ortac before we got to it! They told me to look out for Puffin as the nearby island of Burhou is home to several hundred birds, unfortunately none were to be seen.

Brownsea Lagoon Glynis NorthwoodLong
Brownsea Lagoon (Glynis Northwood-Long)

However, shortly after that sea fog closed in and visibility was reduced, putting a stop to any sightings and unfortunately the fog did not clear until nearing Poole Bay and we returned to the harbour in sunshine once again. Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome onboard and for supporting these wildlife trips.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 18 May 2016

Posted 19 May 2016

MARINElife WLO's Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:
Southbound: Wind SSW 3-5, cloudy with showers
Northbound: SW 4-6, mainly cloudy with sunny spells

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise 1 + c4 probable

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater
Fulmar
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Kittiwake
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Guillemot
Razorbill
Puffin

Terrestrial birds
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Shelduck
Mallard
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Carrion Crow
Jackdaw
Wader Sp.

This was the second combined Wildlife Officer and training trip kindly supported by Condor Ferries. Glynis and I met up with Hazel, Vicky and Lucy our trainees for the day at the check-in and promptly boarded the Condor Liberation.

We left Poole under a cloudy sky and a southwesterly wind and once up on the viewing deck, immediately started to see Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull. As we headed out we passed Brownsea Island where Cormorant, Little Egret, gulls and waders could be seen. Common and Sandwich Tern were seen in flight and also a single Mediterranean Gull. Once past Old Harry Rocks the sea state picked up as we left the protection of Poole Harbour making cetacean sighting rather challenging. The onset of some squally showers sent all for cover and we decided the time was right for a late breakfast and hot drink.

Ortac Rick Morris 2016-01
Ortac with Les Etacs in the background (Rick Morris)

We returned to the viewing deck prior to reaching Alderney so as to see the Gannet colonies on Ortac and Les Etacs, an area where we have also encountered Minke Whale and Harbour Porpoise. Continuing onward to Guernsey was very quiet with just the occasional Gannet showing, but with the islands of Sark, Herm and Jethou in sight we soon started to see various gulls and a few auks.

The tide was low and so the ship's course to St Peter Port took us between Sark and Herm through the channel known as the Big Russel as the Little Russel between Herm and Guernsey is not navigable on the low tide. We had passed Herm when we observed 200 plus mixed gulls feeding at some distance and amongst all this activity c4 probable Harbour Porpoise were seen.

Once in St Peter Port we decided on a walk to La Valette to look at the swimming pools that were built into the rocks. For anyone interested there is also an underground military museum and aquarium nearby as well. We returned via the castle and stopped for a nice mug of tea before checking in for the return home. With boarding cards obtained we decided to have a look on the viewing area on the roof where we watched the Liberation arrive with Condor's conventional ferry the Commodore Clipper following behind.

Liberation passing Jethou Rick Morris 01
Condor Liberation in front of Jethou on her approach to St Peter Port (Rick Morris)

The return trip was a little busier for seabirds as we left Guernsey until reaching Ortac where a lone Puffin was seen in flight, a single Manx Shearwater was also seen shortly after. Then with an increasing sea state we headed down for a break before heading back up top prior to reaching the UK mainland. Here we encountered Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Gannet, gulls and a few Shag. We turned into the approach to Poole Harbour after passing Old Harry Rocks and into more sheltered waters and here I noticed the sun glistening off something in the water, it turned out to be a marker pot, but then to the right of this another flash of light revealed the small triangular dorsal fin of a Harbour Porpoise, a nice end to the day.

Our thanks to all the cabin crew of the Liberation and Condor Ferries for the continued support.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 14 May 2016

Posted 18 May 2016

Julie Hatcher and Steve Boswell, research surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outward - variable cloud and sunshine but fine and bright with a fresh NNE wind.
Return - fine, bright and very clear with lighter winds and very calm sea conditions.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 64
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 30
Great Black-backed Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Gull sp. 303
Auk sp.  8

Terrestrial Birds
Sanderling Calidris alba 25
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

There were a large number of foot passengers awaiting embarkation at Poole but we were soon through security controls and onto the Condor Liberation where we were taken straight to the bridge and introduced to Captain Steve Crowe and his crew.

We departed early and as we sailed passed the lagoon on Brownsea Island we spotted three Sika Deer beside the water's edge in the tall reeds.

As we started our survey a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver flew across the bow, a great start. Seabirds started to appear with sightings of Kittiwake, Fulmar, Guillemots and Common Scoter being of interest. Gannet numbers started to increase as we crossed the Channel, all adult birds.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 13
Fulmar (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we approached Alderney we encountered two cetaceans which came to the surface together close in front of the ship showing the small triangular fins of Harbour Porpoise; they briefly surfaced once more before diving as we sailed past them. There were spectacular views of the Gannet colony on Ortac in full sunshine with many birds sitting on eggs and one bird was seen to collect seaweed from the sea to replenish its nest.

As we approached Guernsey harbour a large mixed flock of gulls were seen, at least 300 mainly Herring Gull but also Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed loafing on the sea. The onward journey to Jersey was fairly quiet and after a break sitting out on deck as the passengers changed over we returned to the bridge for our return trip.

New birds seen on the return leg were Manx Shearwater, Puffin and some migrating Sanderling.  Gannets were seen in good numbers again and we saw a third year bird, our only non-adult bird.

Puffin Peter Howlett 03
Puffin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Approaching Dorset we continued to scan for cetaceans but on this occasion did not add to our earlier sighting.

Our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Condor Liberation who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 12 May 2016

Posted 14 May 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Rick Morris

Weather: Cloudy with showers. Light Northerly winds. Sea state 3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise 3

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull
Kittiwake
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Fulmar
Guillemot
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Black Tern

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret
Shelduck
Oystercatcher
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Lapwing
Bar-tailed Godwit
Sanderling
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

I arrived at the terminal on a rather cloudy and misty morning and after checking in with the ever friendly and efficient desk staff, made my way to the departure gate and on to the 'Liberation'.

On board I equipped myself with binoculars and camera then headed up to the viewing deck in readiness for departure. As we made our way out of Poole Harbour there was plenty of seabird activity with Sandwich and Common Tern in good numbers. Passing the lagoon on Brownsea Island gave sightings of Lapwing, Cormorant, Canada and Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard and Little Egret. Plenty of Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull were seen in flight and also a single Yellow-legged Gull. A dark bird caught my eye and to my delight this turned out to be a Black Tern, a species I haven't seen on this route before.

YL Gull ad Mike Bailey 01a
Yellow-legged Gull (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

I had heard that Bottlenose Dolphin were seen off Boscombe earlier in the morning, so I eagerly looked out for them. The sea mist restricted visibility to around a kilometre and although I didn't locate the dolphins a single Harbour Porpoise gave an obliging appearance briefly before disappearing into the mist.

Once in the Channel bird activity went very quiet with a single Guillemot, a Fulmar and a few Gannet seen. Passing the Gannet colony on Ortac off Alderney, Lesser Black-backed Gull were feeding in the tidal race, I hoped there may be cetaceans present, but none were seen. Leaving Alderney behind in the mist we carried on toward Guernsey and with Herm and Jethou in sight I caught a glimpse of a small fin. Further observation gave way to a sighting of 2 Harbour Porpoise and frustratingly just too far to get a decent photo.

Once in St Peter Port I headed into town for some window shopping as the rain set in. wandering back I stopped off at the Crow's Nest restaurant for a warming cup of coffee looking out over the harbour.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 04
Guillemot (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return trip was very quiet, mostly due to the mist giving way to fog, reducing visibility down to just a few hundred metres in places. Nearing the Jurassic coast, Guillemot, Fulmar, Gannet and Herring Gull were seen with a couple of Shag just off Old Harry Rocks. The terns were still busily feeding as we headed in to our berth and with a final look around I headed down to say thanks to the crew before disembarking.

My thanks to Condor Ferries for supporting these wildlife trips.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 3 May 2016

Posted 08 May 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Mostly fine with light to moderate WNW winds, sea state 2 to 3 with low swell and good visibility.

Summary of Species seen:

Cetaceans: No sightings

Seabirds:
Gannet
Cormorant
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Guillemot
Fulmar
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern

Birds seen on Brownsea lagoon:
Swallow
Oystercatcher
Greylag Goose
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

This was my second trip on the Liberation in seven days because the week before, Rick Morris and I were on board training four new volunteers for the role of the Wildlife Officer. It was  a lovely sunny day with a calm sea so I was hopeful of similar sightings to the previous week, when we had seen a pod of dolphins.

On arrival at the ferry terminal, I was greeted by the friendly staff at the Condor check-in desk as I enquired on the numbers booked on that day's Wildlife trip. Then, using the new e-boarding card, I quickly boarded the Liberation with ample time to enjoy a delicious breakfast from Casquets Bistro, before we sailed.

Ortac Nigel Northwood 2015 06
Ortac Gannet colony (Archive photo: Nigel Northwood)

Shortly before departure, I went out onto the viewing deck and following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, a few passengers approached me to find out more. As we sailed through Poole Harbour it was an ideal opportunity to point out the different  bird species such as Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Oystercatcher, Sandwich Tern and various species of gull on the lagoon at Brownsea Island.

After passing Old Harry Rocks, with the calm sea,  blue skies and warm sunshine, it was a lovely morning to be out on the viewing deck. However, sightings of seabirds were sparse and so I chatted to people about MARINElife aiming  to conserve marine life through research and education.

As we approached the west coast of Alderney, I pointed out the Gannet circling around and nesting on the islet of Ortac. With over 2,500 breading pairs on Ortac, they appear to occupy every available ledge, providing a really spectacular sight.

The Captain announced that due to the tide, we would be coming into Guernsey 'the long way round' in between Herm and Sark, which provided  different views to the usual route. As we came into St Peter Port, it became overcast but a gap in the clouds allowed the sunshine to highlight the Albatros - unfortunately not the seabird but a cruise ship, tendering it's passengers to the harbour.

Albatros Glynis Northwood-Long 01
The Albatros anchored outside St Peter Port (Glynis Northwood-Long)

I disembarked the Liberation and having a few hours ashore, I decided to catch the bus and take a tour of the island. I was amazed that this only cost £1 and for nearly two hours, I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful Guernsey scenery.

Back on the Liberation on the return journey, the sunny and calm conditions meant that I  was joined on the viewing deck by quite a few people, eager to spot a few cetaceans. Unfortunately we didn't see any, although there was rumour that someone on the other side of the ship had seen a fin. I was unable to confirm this and we had to settle for marvelling at the Gannet colony as we passed Ortac again.

Liberation St Peter Port Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Liberation entering St Peter Port (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed back into Poole, we spotted Sandwich Tern, Fulmar, Cormorant and various gulls, as well as watching small yachts racing in the harbour, bringing an enjoyable day trip to an end.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome on-board and for their support.

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