Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: December 2016

MARINElife blog Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 10 December 2016

Posted 17 December 2016

David Doxford and Christine Arnold, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind N-NE force 3-4, visibility initially poor but improving near Alderney.

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 7

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 23
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 24
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 17
Grey Phalarope  Phalaropus fulicarius 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 1
Razorbill  Alca torda 6
Auk sp.   1
Shearwater sp.   1

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 9
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 100s

We boarded the Condor Liberation and were greeted by the friendly crew along with Captain Tim Coutts. We began surveying shortly after leaving because we were able to go and set up our survey gear pretty much as soon as the ship had set sail. In Poole harbour we saw Cormorant and Shag both flying and resting on the buoys. We were able to start surveying shortly after leaving Poole harbour.

The weather was initially quite misty but visibility improved as we headed south towards Alderney. Crossing the shipping lanes in the Channel we saw the usual variety cargo ships including some big tankers. Liberation is a 'fast ferry' and we realised just how fast while recording effort data during the survey - at some points we were travelling at over 37 knots.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 08
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

During the crossing we saw Herring and Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a very late Manx Shearwater and Shag flying low to the water. We passed a very empty looking Gannet colony on Ortac rock, perhaps not surprising given the time of year although there were a good number of Gannets flying over the water in the vicinity.

On this trip our approach to St Peter Port took us straight down the Little Russel and we came off-effort just as the ship approached St Peter Port. When we came into St Peter Port we saw a large flock of Herring Gull flying round a fishing boat, waiting expectantly for any stray fish.

After a swift turnaround we were back on-effort shortly after departing St Peter Port to survey between Guernsey and Jersey. On approaching the Elizabeth Castle outside St Helier we came off-effort again. There were about 40 Oystercatcher and a similar number of Brent Geese resting on the rocks around the castle. Whilst the boat was docked in Jersey we made the most of the lovely food served from the Casquettes Bistro.

Corbiere lighthouse Christine Arnold 01a
La Corbiere Lighthouse, southwest Jersey (Christine Arnold)

After departing Jersey we restarted the survey as soon as we had cleared Elizabeth Castle. In the stretch of water between Jersey and Guernsey we were lucky enough to see seven Common Dolphin jumping out of the water - one right in front of us, 3 to the side and 3 behind. They were so close we could clearly see their markings ­- it was absolutely amazing and one of my best wildlife sightings ever. We also saw 2 Grey Phalarope flying past, another excellent sighting, a single Guillemot and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Feeling incredibly rewarded and excited we came off effort as the ship approached St Peter Port.

Whilst in St Peter Port Dave spotted the island's ambulance boat which could have been mine as it's named Flying Christine 3! On leaving Guernsey we returned to the bridge but did not go back on effort as dusk was quickly descending upon the English Channel. Instead we returned back to the deck and entered our data into the electronic database whilst enjoying the comfort of the Ocean Plus lounge.

Flying Christine 3 Christine Arnold 01a
The St John's Ambulance boat Flying Christine 3 in St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

Eventually we viewed land from all the illuminations on the Bournemouth Sea front. We then docked and thanked the crew for their interesting company, friendly hospitality and service. This was one of the best surveys I have ever done from the sheer range of species seen.

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