Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: July 2016

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

Posted 31 July 2016

Chris Gleed-Owen, Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Weather:
Outward: Some squally showers, visibility mainly good, strong breeze, quite choppy
Return: sunny spells, visibility good, moderate breeze

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Gannet
Fulmar
Sandwich Tern
Cormorant
Oystercatcher
Auk sp.

I was pleased to make my second solo daytrip as Wildlife Officer (WLO) for MARINElife in partnership with Condor Ferries. As usual, the role provides a point of contact for the public, answering questions, and raising awareness of cetaceans and seabirds during the crossing.

We departed Poole at 0915 in overcast conditions, with the usual range of gulls, Oystercatchers, terns and geese in the air and on Brownsea Island lagoon. It was nice to meet a father and son, both keen birders, who had come on the wildlife daytrip. We hadn't long left Poole Harbour when we saw our first Manx Shearwater, and an adult and juvenile Gannet.

Gannet Chris Gleed-Owen 01
Gannet (Chris Gleed-Owen)

There was a strong breeze throughout the crossing, with quite a choppy sea and a light swell, making observation with binoculars difficult. Just to make things more challenging there were also occasional squally showers, with visibility sometimes dropping below 500m but we saw quite a few Gannet and at least 10 more Manx Shearwater. A dozen or so passengers asked questions, and one lady from Aberystwyth was keen to know how to volunteer for MARINElife.

Passing the Casquets and Ortac Rock provided the usual Gannet spectacle. Further on, the increasing gulls heralded our approach to Guernsey, but still no cetaceans. However, speaking later to the father, it transpired his teenage son is pretty sure he saw a cetacean, most likely a Minke Whale, about half an hour before St Peter Port.

The three hours in St Peter Port passed quickly - on a gift-shopping foray for my family as usual - then it was back on board the Condor Liberation. We left 15 minutes early (and arrived in Poole 15 minutes earlier than scheduled). The return journey had a good breeze still but weather was intermittently sunny, the sea was distinctly flatter, and visibility was good.

There were more Gannet throughout the return leg and at least 10 Manx Shearwater in total. Some of the sightings were courtesy of the father and son team, while I was engaged in conversation with interested passengers. You can't be everywhere at once, and the extra eyes were useful.

Condor Liberation Chris Gleed-Owen 02
Late afternoon sun approaching Poole Harbour (Chris Gleed-Owen)

We saw a few Lesser Black-backed Gull out to sea and a distant Fulmar. The evening sun cast a beautiful light on Old Harry and the Purbeck coast. As we entered Poole Harbour we were greeted by the usual suspects, including a few garrulous Sandwich Tern emitting their scratchy call overhead.

Unfortunately, there were no cetaceans today, although I'm glad one passenger had a possible sighting. Still, it was a good day and I enjoyed watching the waves with bated breath for the entire journey (bar one cup of tea on the outbound).

Many thanks to Condor Ferries for their hospitality once again. If you'd like to come on one of the 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 Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 18 July 2016

Posted 21 July 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Sarah Hodgson

Weather: Sunny and clear with a gentle breeze, sea state 1-3.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Bottlenose Dolphin 10

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

Other birds:
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Canada Goose

Poole was bathed in glorious sunshine when I arrived at the port to board Condor Liberation.  After a swift check in and boarding, and having applied some sunscreen, I made my way to the outside viewing deck ready for our imminent departure. There was a lot of activity on the water, with many small boats making the most of the beautiful weather. Brownsea Lagoon was a hive of activity too, with a wide variety of seabirds and waders. As we made our way out of the harbour, I took the opportunity to chat to passengers about the wildlife that might be encountered during the crossing and the work of MARINElife.

Ortac Sarah Hodgson 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Sarah Hodgson)

Viewing conditions were fantastic, with clear skies and calm seas. Several passengers were equipped with binoculars, so there were plenty of eyes on the water. Occasional Gannet were spotted as we headed across the Channel, as well as a couple of Guillemot rafting on the surface. The numbers of Gannet increased as we approached Alderney and the colony on Ortac Rock.

Due to the tides, our route to Guernsey was between the islands of Sark and Herm and more passengers gathered on deck to admire the views. On our final approach into St Peter Port suddenly a small group of Bottlenose Dolphin appeared just ahead of the ship. As we passed, the dolphins delighted the passengers with their acrobatics, leaping completely clear of the water at times. Sadly our journey had to continue and the dolphins disappeared behind us and into the distance, but had left the passengers with a memorable experience.

BND Peter Howlett 14
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a few hours exploring the coastline around St. Peter Port on foot and an obligatory ice cream, it was soon time to depart Guernsey for our return crossing to Poole. Whilst the viewing conditions remained excellent, the wind had picked up slightly. Nevertheless, it was smooth sailing and we managed to spot a couple of other seabird species that had eluded us on the outward crossing. A lone Fulmar and a Manx Shearwater were seen in quick succession, gliding effortlessly above the water.

Before long, the Dorset coastline came into view and as we passed Old Harry Rocks, which looked stunning in the early evening light, the boat slowed for the approach into Poole.

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 13 July 2016

Posted 17 July 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny with light sea breeze, sea state 2-3

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
annet
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Manx Shearwater
Shag
Cormorant

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Shelduck
Mallard
Feral Pigeon
Rock Pipit

It was a beautiful, sunny morning as I boarded Condor Liberation. I  went to the information point to collect the MARINElife equipment and then made my way out onto the deck where I was quickly approached by many enthusiastic passengers. One family were teachers and were keen for their children to look at the photos in the leaflet to prepare for what they might see during the crossing. Another couple had booked specifically for the MARINElife day trip. Others were going on their holidays.

Whilst handing out many leaflets I was able to point out various birds on Brownsea lagoon including Little Egret, Cormorant, Canada Goose, Oystercatcher and Sandwich Tern. Passengers were also very interested in the names of places whilst looking at the landscapes of the Poole harbour area. There were also many Sandwich Terns fishing around the Studland bay area along with Great Black-backed Gulls resting on buoys and Cormorants and Shags flying to and fro or sat on the sea.

Magellan Christine Arnold
The cruise ship Magellan off St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

Just as we travelled past Swanage we saw the first Gannet and we were able to make out the Barfleur ahead of us as it made its way to Cherbourg. As usual with this trip we saw many cargo vessels in the Channel - at one point I could see six at once. Passengers are always very interested in these and often wonder what types of items are inside the containers.

During the crossing we saw many Gannets and on approaching Guernsey the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull numbers increased. Onn this trip we travelled down the Big Russell channel east of Herm and Jethou before swinging back around and into St Peter Port. In doing so we passed the cruise liner 'Magellan' which was unloading passengers into tenders for a day trip on Guernsey.

After spending a pleasant few hours looking around the island I reboarded for the return journey. Shortly after leaving the harbour we were fortunate enough to have a very good sighting of a group of seven Manx Shearwater as they passed close by the ship.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 11
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We had brilliant views of Ortac rock with what looked like hundreds of Gannets circling the top which was bathed in glorious sunshine. The Channel crossing produced many more Gannet and Manx Shearwaters and as we approached Poole Harbour I was joined by increasing numbers of  passengers. Again, many terns were fishing and returning to Brownsea Island to feed their young.

As we docked the cruise liner 'Corinthian' was just leaving being pulled out by the tug boat. Many thanks to the Condor staff for their kindness and help whilst I was on board Condor Liberation.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 7 July 2016

Posted 11 July 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO: Rick Morris

Weather cloudy with sunny spells, wind southwesterly 1-3, sea state: 2-3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal 1

 

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

 

Terrestrial birds:
Oystercatcher
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Shelduck
Mallard
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

Arriving in Poole at 05:30, I made my way to the check-in for some MARINElife leaflets and was met by the ever friendly staff at the counter. After just a few minutes I was through the boarding gate and taken to the 'Condor Liberation' via bus transfer. After equipping myself with camera and binoculars I made my up to the viewing deck ready for our 06:30 departure where I was greeted by a curious Herring Gull.

Les Casquets Rick Morris 01
Les Casquets Lighthouse (Rick Morris)

We left out berth under grey skies and as we passed Brownsea Island I pointed out to some passengers some of the birds in and around the Lagoon including a few Little Egret. Leaving the calmness of the Harbour and passing Old Harry Rocks the sea state picked up to a force 3, but I remained hopeful of some cetacean sightings, alas this wasn't to be, but I did spot some rafting Guillemot, a single Fulmar, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-back Gull and had regular sightings of Gannet on route. Then around the halfway point, flying in-line, 6 distant Common Scoter were seen heading south.

We passed Alderney in between the Casquets Lighthouse and Ortac Rock, which is still home to a large breeding colony of Gannet, this delighted some first time travellers on the route as they had never seen Gannet this close up.

Gannet Rick Morris 09
Gannet (Rick Morris)

Around a mile off Sark in a now flat sea, I spotted a lone Grey Seal which was watching us as we passed by shortly followed by a single Puffin. Just before arriving in Guernsey I spotted a distant Grey Heron flying toward the island. A mixed group of 50+ Herring and Lesser Black-back Gull were feeding around 1000m off the harbour and the hope was there may also be a Harbour Porpoise or two, but none were present.

I disembarked in glorious sunshine and decided to take a walk past the marina and along the coast towards the underground war museum. Here I climbed the steps up to Clarence Battery to take in some stunning views.

A walk back to port via the town soon found me back on top of the Liberation for the journey home. We enjoyed blue skies and flat seas to Alderney and here good views of Gannet, Guillemot, Shag and gulls were seen by all on the viewing deck.

Common Scoter Rick Morris 02
Common Scoter (Rick Morris)

The rest of the trip was fairly quiet with the sea picking up to 3-4 until reaching the shelter of Poole Harbour, although we did get a few sightings of Guillemot approaching the Jurassic Coast. Birds seen in the harbour and around Brownsea were fairly much the same as the outbound trip concluding this week's wildlife trip and so I made my way down, said my thanks and made my way home feeling satisfied that although no cetaceans were seen, a good variety of birds were, and I got to get plenty of passengers interested in MARINElife's work and of the diversity of wildlife to be found on the crossing.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries and all the staff for the help and supporting these trips.