Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: June 2016

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation‘ Poole-Guernsey 29 June 2016

Posted 30 June 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Tony Chenery

Summary of sightings:

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

As always thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance. This was my first trip alone as WLO on this route, although, having completed my MARINElife WLO training on this route it was familiar to me and I was very much looking forward to another visit to St Peter Port the capital of Guernsey.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 10
Common Tern (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The weather forecast was not very good, with rather a lot of rain predicted, especially for the return leg. In the event, however, I managed to survey for three quarters of the journey each way, before rain set in. For the journey out to Guernsey there was a strong south-westerly breeze with intermittent showers and sea state was generally five. The return journey was less breezy and the sea state fell to three or four. Cloud cover on the way out was generally about 75%, while on the way back it tended to rise above 75% for the majority of the time to 90% or at times total cover.

Leaving Poole we saw good numbers of Common Tern around the ship, joined by several Sandwich Terns as we headed out to sea. On my first trip on this route we had nine Bottlenose Dolphins as we left Poole. I was attentive and expectant! But not this trip and as we progressed the weather remained too lively to have much chance of sighting cetaceans especially smaller ones.

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

There were plenty of Gannets, however, moving very swiftly and effortlessly in the breeze. Occasional gulls and terns came into view, initially giving the impression of being something unusual when catching the stronger gusts of wind. Despite the wind It was quite warm and enjoyable being up on deck and I had some good conversations about MARINElife with the hardier souls that braved the wind with me.

All in all an exhilarating trip with some spectacular skies. All out for cetaceans the next trip!


MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 26 June 2016

Posted 29 June 2016

Rick Morris and Christine Arnold, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Cloudy, wind westerly 4 with sea state 3-4.

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
None seen

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 78
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 43
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 19
Guillemot Uria aalge 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 50
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 18
Larus Gull Sp. 101

We were welcomed onto the bridge by the Condor staff, they were very friendly, accommodating as usual. As we entered the Studland bay area we began our survey. We recorded both effort data and wildlife sightings which included flotsam sightings.

After a while surveying we approached Les Ortac rock where the majestic Gannet nests in large numbers. This time of year meant that we were also able to identify some juvenile birds, these being much darker coloured than the adults. We also recorded Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and many Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 06
Manx Shearwater (Rick Morris)

Even though we were still near Alderney we were able to make out two huge cruise ships on the horizon anchored off Guernsey. As we sailed down the Little Russel, the channel between Guernsey and Herm, the Liberation slowed down and we were able to count a feeding flock of nearly 100 gulls just outside St Peter Port. We also got a close view of the two cruise ships, the Britannia and Caribbean Princess and could see the passengers being transferred to St Peter Port in the ships' tenders as we passed. Both ships were huge and towered above the Liberation.

Cruise ships Christine Arnold 01
Britannia and Caribbean Princess anchored off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

We came off our survey effort for this stretch as the Liberation berthed in Guernsey ready for some passengers to disembark. Once we had docked in Guernsey we saw a very smart  Sunseeker-type motor yacht which even boasted a hot tub! Once passengers had disembarked and new ones had boarded we continued to Jersey and the survey restarted logging more gulls, Manx Shearwater and Guillemot on the short crossing to Jersey.

After a short stop in Jersey we began our journey back towards Guernsey. On leaving St Helier we saw a  large Great Black-backed Gull trying really hard to take flight with a large crab in its beak. It did not succeed, the crab looked far too heavy and large and was putting up quite a fight itself.

GBB Gull Rick Morris 01
Great Black-backed Gull struggling with crab (Rick Morris)

We continued the survey, pausing only whilst we docked in St Peter Port to collect more passengers. For the final leg of the journey we took the Big Russel, the channel around the back of the Herm and Jethou, offering a different view of the islands to the outward journey. On the return journey we were fortunate enough to be on the near side as we passed Les Ortac rock so had a very good view of the hundreds of Gannets on it including many circling the top. Every so often during the return journey a Gannet would soar low to the side of the ship or over the top of it enabling Rick to take some mid-air flight shots.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries, the Captain and crew of the Condor Liberation for their assistance and support throughout this survey.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 23 June 2016

Posted 27 June 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Winds northwesterly 2 to 4, sea  state slight to moderate, with drizzle, intermittent heavy showers and mist reducing visibility from moderate to poor.

Summary of sightings:

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

Terrestrial birds:
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose

It was an early, misty start to this week's Wildlife trip on the Liberation and with the forecast of fog and thundery showers, only the really keen spotters and sightseers were out on the viewing deck. The drizzly conditions seemed to also hamper bird activity with only Cormorant, Greylag and Canada Geese and gulls being seen in any number on Brownsea Island Lagoon. The bonus to the early start was that there was more ship activity with both the Barfleur and the Corinthian seen coming into port as well as fishing boats, ferries and Harbourmasters boats within the harbour.

Barfleur Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Barfleur entering Poole harbour (Glynis Northwood-Long)

After passing Old Harry Rocks, the weather deteriorated further and the other passengers left the viewing deck. I also retreated inside and enjoyed a large breakfast from the Casquets Bistro. Unfortunately, conditions did not improve throughout the voyage and even the Gannetry on Ortac near Alderney was shrouded in mist.

Disembarking at St Peter Port, I took a sightseeing tour of the island, the Guernsey Vaeux, on one of the local buses as the intermittent showers seemed to be set in for the day. After the tour, I took a leisurely stroll back through the town, admiring the floral displays which were obviously benefiting  from the wet conditions and had grown significantly since my last visit a few weeks before.

Once back on the Liberation for the return journey and out on the viewing deck, I chatted to a few people from the Channel Islands, around the UK, and from the US about our previous experiences of cetacean sightings. Sadly on this occasion, we didn't spot any dolphin or Harbour Porpoise, as had been seen on previous trips and more rain put a stop to further viewing out on deck.

Birds on buoy Glynis Northwood-Long 01
Birds on one of the channel buoys in Poole harbour (Glynis Northwood-Long)

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 15 June 2016

Posted 16 June 2016

This trip was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 9 June 2016

Posted 14 June 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Chris Gleed-Owen

Outward: overcast and foggy, visibility down to 200m, clearing later, sea state 3-4
Return: mainly sunny, sea state 3-5. Good visibility

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5

Great Skua Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Auk sp.
Shearwater sp.

Following a training and induction day by Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long in April 2016, this was my first solo daytrip as Wildlife Officer (WLO) for MARINElife in partnership with Condor Ferries. The role provides a visible point of contact for interaction with the general public, answering questions and promoting an interest in marine wildlife, whilst observing cetaceans and seabirds.

We departed Poole at 07:50 and the route past Brownsea Island brought a variety of birds including Cormorant and various gulls. Unfortunately fog descended as we left Studland and Sandbanks behind and with visibility down to 1km we could barely see Old Harry Rocks.

Ortac Chris Gleed-Owen 01
The Gannet colony on Ortac - fortunately the fog had lifted! (Chris Gleed-Owen)

A lone Gannet passed close but visibility dropped even further, to a few hundred metres, and the ship had to sound its foghorn for a while. As the fog lifted a little, I saw what looked like a Great Skua flicking low over the water 200m to starboard. An unidentified shearwater and auk were the only other birds seen.

Visibility improved for the rest of the trip, allowing sightings of gulls and Gannets as we passed Alderney and Ortac rock. Despite a fairly flat sea state, no cetaceans were seen. Quite a few passengers asked me questions, including a couple of birders who regretted leaving their binoculars in the car - something to be rectified on the return leg! Most passengers were pleasantly surprised to hear that cetaceans or other interesting wildlife could be seen on this route.

St Peter Port Chris Gleed-Owen 01
St Peter Port breakwater and Castle Cornet (Chris Gleed-Owen)

After a pleasant three hours in St Peter Port, the return journey began in sunshine, with a busy top deck. Oystercatcher, gulls and Guillemot were seen, with increasing number of Gannets as we approached Ortac rock. This guano-covered rock is home to many nesting pairs and there are always hundreds of Gannets circling it.

The highlight came half-way back across the Channel, with five Bottlenose Dolphin briefly surfacing off the starboard side. Observant passengers with window seats would have had a great view! From the top deck, I had to wait for them to re-emerge astern, and resurface twice in our distant wake.

BND Peter Howlett 08
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The wind was strong on the return journey, with whitecaps and a low swell, though the sea state improved later on. A few gulls and Gannet showed themselves as we approached the Purbeck coast and we had great views of Old Harry Rocks. The sun stayed out as we entered Poole Harbour and passed Brownsea Island, topping off a great day.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for its hospitality during my first WLO trip! If you'd like to come on one of our daytrips from Poole to Guernsey, you can book online here. What's more, Condor Ferries kindly donate £5 per ticket to MARINElife!


MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 1 June 2016

Posted 06 June 2016

MARINElife Guernsey WLO: Christine Arnold

Weather: Outward - cloudy but dry and calm, visibility good.
Return - dry with slightly stronger wind, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans: None

Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater

Terrestrial birds
Feral Pigeon
Grey Wagtail

I joined fellow passengers on deck for the journey from Poole to Guernsey. People were very interested in the wildlife they were likely to see during the crossing along with finding out more about the surrounding geography of the Poole and Weymouth area.

Condor Liberation Christine Arnold 2016-06
Passengers enjoying the view of Poole Harbour (Christine Arnold)

I spoke with many passengers informing them about the wildlife and about MARINElife whilst handing out leaflets. It was very interesting to speak with the passengers and find out some of their reasons for travelling. One family had arranged a MARINElife day trip for the father's 50th birthday present, some were going on holiday whilst some were travelling to the Channel Islands to meet up with relatives.

As we passed Brownsea Island we saw several Cormorant and Shag along with Great Black-backed and Herring Gull. After passing the chain ferry and travelling past Studland beach we saw several Sandwich Tern fishing. Later we saw the first Gannet soaring above the waves in the majestic, calm way that they always adopt.

As we were travelling through the English Channel we passed several large freighters carrying hundreds of containers, they really are quite a sight. We also added to the seabird tally sighting a number of Manx Shearwaters.

Ortac Christine Arnold 2016-06
Ortac with the webcam solar panels visible on the left (Christine Arnold)

Soon we were approaching Les Ortac rock off the coast of Alderney where we were rewarded by a spectacular display of Gannet with both adult and  immature birds swirling around the rock. The birds were fishing in the area near the rock and many hundreds were perched on it. Behind this were Les Etacs which were also covered with Gannets. During my last trip I photographed Les Ortac and on enlarging this image found I could see the solar panels which power the webcams the Alderney Wildlife Trust have placed on the rock. The webcams can be seen at the Teaching Through Nature website.

On approach to St Peter Port we passed the large cruise ship 'Crystal Symphony' anchored just off shore and could see a tender ready to take passengers ashore. When we entered St Peter Port there were many gulls circling around along with Feral Pigeons and Oystercatchers.

Crystal Symphony Christine Arnold 2016-06
Crystal Symphony anchored off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

The return journey was uneventful with few sightings until we were in Poole Harbour where we saw many Common and Sandwich Tern fishing and a Grey wagtail flew over the ship.

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