Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: September 2016

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 24 September 2016

Posted 26 September 2016

Jon Butterfield and Kate Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Out: wind southerly 5, visibility good, some glare There was some glare at times.
Return: wind southerly 3-4, visibility good, some glare but reducing.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
No marine mammals recorded

Gannet Morus bassanus 258
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 48
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 60
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 27
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Tern sp. 7
Gull sp. 256

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 12
Curlew Numenius arquata 17
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 5
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 6
Passerine sp. 1

On arrival at the ferry terminal we were swiftly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and, leaving Poole right on schedule, we headed to the bridge to start our survey. Crossing Poole Harbour we had a good view of Brownsea Island from our excellent survey position on the bridge and were treated to Shelduck, Oystercatcher and several Curlew as we made our way out in to the Channel.

Dorset coast Jon Butterfield
Old Harry rocks, Dorset (Jon Butterfield)

Passing a scenic coastline of white cliffs and stacks we began to sight seabird species; Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull were visible, as well as a large aggregation of well over 100 gulls following a fishing vessel. The trip began quietly but as we approached Alderney we had an increasing number of Gannet sightings and it was exciting to pass close by the to the Gannet colony at Ortac rock.

The crew informed us that the day before they had been followed by a pod of Common Dolphin on the same route and were able to show us some video footage. We were on high alert for any cetaceans as we left Guernsey and headed towards St. Helier but the strong glare made observation quite challenging. Despite this we had a steady number of birds to keep us busy.

We stopped for an hour's turn around in Jersey, enjoying lunch on the ship with great views of the port. Then we were heading back out again and keen to spot some more marine life. It was oddly quiet on this leg of the journey, despite improved sea conditions but we soaked up the gorgeous Jersey coastline and recorded Cormorants, Herring and Lesser Back-backed Gull and Kittiwake.

Part way back to Guernsey we had some excitement as the crew spotted a dolphin breaching. We were based on the starboard side of the bridge and the sighting was to port so unfortunately we were not able to record it. We were sorry not to have sighted it but pleased to know there were dolphin nearby!

Ortac Jon Butterfield 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Jon Butterfield)

The remainder of the trip was characterised by large numbers of Gannet, with adults and juveniles showing well again as we returned by Ortac. Watching Gannets dive is always an impressive sight and we enjoyed seeing 100s swirl around the colony.

We concluded our survey on arrival back in to Poole Harbour and thanked Captain Aniscow and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 September 2016

Posted 23 September 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy then sunny, light winds

Summary of sightings:

Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull

Terrestrial birds
Brent Goose
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Feral pigeon

Excitedly I boarded Condor Liberation and collected the MARINElife leaflets and vest. We departed early as everyone was on board and ready to leave. After we had watched the safety video I joined fellow passengers on deck and began handing out leaflets and talking about MARINElife and the wildlife we were likely to see.

As we passed Stoney island in Poole harbour we saw a Grey Heron and Curlew resting on it and there were Cormorants perched on the various marker buoys. We had great views of Studland and Old Harry rocks. Chatting to the passengers it seemed that many were off on their holidays going to the Channel Islands.

Noonday gun Christine Arnold 02
Preparing the Noonday gun in Castle Cornet (Christine Arnold)

Crossing the Channel we passed several container ships and began to see Gannet as we approached the Ortac Gannet colony. I even saw a Gannet flying with something in its beak being pursued by another Gannet! The sun emerged and cast beautiful light over Alderney and Guernsey. As we arrived in Guernsey much earlier than normal I was able to take photos of the firing of the noon-day cannon from Castle Cornet.

It was a lovely day and I was able to take advantage of the nearby bathing pool where the shrimps nibbled my feet. Oystercatchers and Herring gulls were calling whilst landing out on the rocks and a Buzzard called overhead.

I reboarded Condor Liberation and handed out more leaflets. It was wonderful to hear the passengers talking about their wildlife encounters on their holidays. Fellow passengers were absolutely delighted to see the spectacle of Ortac rock. They were amazed by how many Gannets there were and even borrowed my binoculars to take a better look. As it was such a clear day we were able to view the Gannet colony on Les Étacs rocks off the southwest tip of Alderney too.

Poole Harbour Christine Arnold 01
Late afternoon sun over Dorset (Christine Arnold)

On approaching Studland and Swanage bay there was a beautiful sunset with rays clearly visible. Just before we travelled past the chain ferry I saw three Brent Geese at the end of Shell Bay beach.

On Brownsea Lagoon hundreds of Cormorants were perched and settling for the night along with at least 23 Spoonbills. Some of these were flapping about in the tamarisk bushes and some were standing in the water. Great Black-backedand Herring Gulls circled around Condor as she approached her mooring area. This was the perfect end to another successful trip.

Brownsea Lagoon Christine Arnold 01
Brownsea Lagoon (Christine Arnold)

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

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 14 September 2016

Posted 16 September 2016

Alan Altoft: Wildlife Officer for MARINElife

Sunny patches, dry with fair winds. Fair visibility, sea state ranging from 3-5 throughout day

Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals:
None seen

Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
European Shag


Perfectly on schedule the Liberation smoothly slipped away from its moorings and began what always feels like a leisurely crossing of Poole harbour.

After we had all watched a safety briefing film the crew opened up the top deck.  No one had specifically joined the boat on a MARINElife ticket but a couple came up saying they had intended to and would next time.  Another couple of keen ornithologists also came along to introduce themselves. They all lived locally so I had a good chance to learn more about the wild life around the harbour and along the coast from Old Harry to Swanage.  It is always encouraging to see such enthusiasm.

The morning weather and light were good, though once out into the open water the waves were cresting.  Even with several people watching out for signs of marine mammals no sightings were made.  Unfortunately, this was true of the return journey as well.

The Liberation took a broader route around the islands approaching Guernsey at low tide, which gave a chance to see new headlands and scenery.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 02

Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

The time in Guernsey was spent pleasantly on the north bay watching the tide roll in and the activity of the local birds as the waters stirred up the sand and pool life.  It was unusual to be able to sit so close to three Little Egret going about their feeding.

The return journey was again blessed with good weather, although the waves were white-capped and the winds fairly strong.  There was quite a lot of interest in looking for wildlife from those of us on the top deck, and a local islander gave several accounts of the seal and Bottlenose Dolphin activity around the island.

Gannet Rick Morris 07

Gannet (Rick Morris)

The Gannet activity at Ortac was entrancing and one of the highlights of the trip was an adult Gannet slip-streaming behind the bridge, this for several minutes with this giant of a bird only feet from us.  We could see every slight flexing of feathers and wing line, every adjustment of the head angle and the keen eye of the bird.  All the bird's grace and power that lay behind the apparent ease of the flight and spectacular soaring were evident as it edged in to the prevailing wind.

Overall an enjoyable mix of wildlife, the elements and people sharing knowledge and discussing MARINElife research and marine conservation in general.

A good day and thanks to the friendly crew

If you like the sound of joining one of our trips down to Guernsey from Poole, then you can book online at http://www.condorferries.co.uk/day-trips/view-marinelife-day-trips. What's more, Condor Ferries will kindly donate £5 of the cost of your ticket to MARINElife!

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 8 September 2016

Posted 13 September 2016

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Outward: Overcast with wind W-SW 4-6, sea state moderate with good visibility
Inbound: Sunny with wind W 4-5, sea state moderate to slight with good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans: No sightings

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

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
House Martin
Carrion Crow
Feral Pigeon

This trip as a Wildlife Officer on the Liberation was definitely different from any other that I have been on, with a few unusual sightings of the 'winged' variety!

On arrival at the ferry terminal, I was greeted by the friendly staff at the Condor check-in desk. I quickly boarded the Liberation and at the Information Desk, I was told that there were people booked on the WLO trip already onboard. I went out onto the viewing deck and following the announcement that a Wildlife Officer was on board, Steve and Elaine introduced themselves to me.

Shield bug Glynis Northwood-Long 2016
Western Conifer Seed Bug (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed through Poole Harbour, I found out they were keen birders and was glad of their assistance in spotting the different bird species on the lagoon at Brownsea Island. Steve then spotted an unusual 'stowaway' insect crawling around on deck. It was a type of shield bug unknown to us, so we took several photos and I later identified it as a Western Conifer Seed Bug (native to North America, first introduced into the UK in 2007).

After passing Old Harry Rocks, we saw House Martin and Swallow heading back to land, as the windy conditions increased. Quite a few passengers were keen to find out what we were looking for and I was able to explain more about MARINElife. Unfortunately no cetaceans were seen on this journey and although sightings of seabirds became sparse, once we were approaching Alderney, they were rewarded with the spectacular sight of the Gannet colony on Ortac rock.

Breitling and Red Arrows Northwood-Long and Swinney
Breitling wingwalkers (Glynis Northwood-Long) and the Red Arrows (Steve Swinney)

We were treated to another spectacular sight as we entered St Peter Port harbour as the Brietling Wingwalkers flew overhead as part of the Guernsey Air Show. Steve, Elaine and I quickly disembarked and watched more of the aerial display from the Esplanade, including the Wildcats display team. We then hurried along to Castle pier, after hearing over the tannoy that the Red Arrows would soon be arriving. We watched the 'Reds' put on stunning display over the sea, with Castle Cornet in the foreground. After that, we continued along the pier to the lighthouse where we sat and had our lunch until it was time to return to the ferry terminal.

Back on the Liberation on the return journey, the sunny conditions meant that quite a few people remained on the viewing deck, eager to spot dolphins or seals. Unfortunately we didn't see any cetaceans but they became keen spotters of the many Gannet as we approached Ortac and also throughout the return journey.

Ortac Glynis Northwood-Long 2016
Ortac Gannet colony (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we sailed back into Poole the setting sun over the Harbour brought an enjoyable trip to an end. I'd also like to say thanks to Steve and Elaine for their company and help during the day. If you would like to take advantage of Condor Ferries special WLO day trip offer, as they did, please click here for more information.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome onboard and for their support to MARINElife.