Alan Sumnall and Nicola Simpson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: sea state 2-3, foggy at first, clearing to sunshine with slight haze, visibility good
Summary of sightings:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 46
Gannet Morus bassanus 129
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 44
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 155
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 99
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 30
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Our survey began with initial frustration as it was very foggy in Poole to the extent that we were not allowed up onto the bridge initially. The crew of the Condor Liberation, especially Captain Steve Ainscow, were very helpful at this time and assured us that they would call us once conditions improved. We departed Poole ahead of schedule and after an hour we found Captain Steve walking promptly towards us with a big smile on his face; conditions had improved and we were invited up onto the bridge. The visibility steadily increased during the first half an hour of surveying until we were treated to fantastic viewing conditions.
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
It turned out to be a beautiful day with a smooth crossing. We saw seabirds throughout the survey; Guillemot and Razorbill in small groups, Great Black-backed Gull, but predominantly Gannet. We also had excellent views of single Great Skua and a small flock of Fulmar. Although it was a smooth crossing, there was enough wind to cause small whitecaps on the water making spotting Harbour Porpoise challenging. The sun also created glare in the starboard-ahead position which further hampered our cetacean spotting. However, we were eventually treated to a small pod of Common Dolphin but they disappeared as the Liberation approached them.
Upon arriving in St Peter Port, Guernsey, there were good numbers of Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls, along with the odd Shag and Cormorant. Similar birds were to be seen upon arrival into St Helier, Jersey. The return journey was very similar, although light levels cut our survey short.
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
With less than an hour of light left a flock of Gannet were spotted diving ahead. Checking through binoculars revealed dolphins underneath - a large pod of Common Dolphin! Unlike earlier, this time as the ferry approached the dolphins approached us and were bow-riding, jumping out of the water; they appeared to be having as much fun as we were! There were three distinctive groups moving in unison in one larger pod. A fantastic way to end the day with the dolphins displaying right next to us. Captain Steve came over afterwards and said he had never seen anything like that before and that it was worth our effort…it certainly was!
We returned to Poole, ahead of schedule as we had left. Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of Condor Liberation for making our day enjoyable and productive.