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