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

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:
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

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

Terrestrial birds seen at sea:
Heron
House Martin
Swallow
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.