Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: March 2017

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 11 March 2017

Posted 19 March 2017

Hazel Pittwood and Sarah Hodgson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward - fog clearing to good visibility, wind S force 2, sea state 2
Return - overcast, good visibility, wind S force 2, sea state 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Seabirds
Guillemot Uria aalge 63
Gannet Morus bassanus 37
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 10
Gull sp. 78
Auk sp. 20

There was hardly a breath of wind when we arrived at Poole and we were hopeful of a smooth crossing on board Condor Liberation to Jersey. Once we had boarded we were introduced to Captain Steve Ainscow, who delivered the unfortunate news that due to the fog, we wouldn't be able to carry out our survey until later in the voyage but he was confident that the conditions would soon improve. We made our way onto the outside deck and the visibility was indeed very poor meaning that even nearby Brownsea Island and lagoon were hidden from view. After a short while, once we had left the Dorset coastline behind us, the fog began to clear and we were invited up onto the bridge to begin our survey effort.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 13
Juvenile Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Despite the earlier fog, the viewing conditions were great and with calm seas we soon started to record a variety of seabirds. We encountered several small groups of rafting Guillemot and soaring gulls. A distinctive-looking bird caught our attention and as it came closer we saw it was a juvenile Kittiwake. Nearing the Channel Islands we were excited to spot a couple of fins in the water close to the vessel and as we were both watching a well-timed breach enabled us to identify them as a pair of Common Dolphin, but sadly they quickly disappeared from view.

Due to the low tides our approach to Guernsey was between the islands of Sark and Herm where we came across more gulls, Shag and Cormorant.

Whilst enjoying our short breaks on the outer deck as the Liberation made stops at St. Peter Port and St. Helier, we spotted a couple of butterflies also making the most of the warm spring sunshine.

Gannet Sarah Hodgson 01
Gannet (Sarah Hodgson)

The favourable conditions continued on our way back and we departed Jersey accompanied by a small group of Oystercatcher. Sightings for the return journey were similar with the addition of three lone Fulmar.  Before making landfall again, the fading light marked the end of our survey for the day and we retired to our seats to tally up the sightings.

Once again our thanks go to Captain Steve Ainscow and the crew of Condor Liberation who welcomed us on board and made this a very enjoyable crossing.