Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: July 2017

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 19 July 2017

Posted 21 July 2017

MARINElife WLO: Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy and breezy southbound, sunny for the return.

Summary of sightings:

Great Black backed Gull
Herring Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern

Terrestrial birds on Guernsey:
Mediterranean Gull
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Rock Pipit

I collected the leaflets and went out on the top deck to begin speaking with passengers. It was interesting to hear how far people travelled to come on the trip. Some had come from Shropshire and some were more local. Quite a few people were out on deck to appreciate the views over Brownsea Island and the surrounding Studland bay area.

Sandwich and Common Terns were busy fishing in the harbour and taking their catch back to Brownsea lagoon to feed their young. Passengers were interested in the buildings on Brownsea including John Lewis' Brownsea Castle. They were also interested in the birds on 'Stoney island' which included Cormorant drying their wings and Great Black-backed Gull. I spoke to one lady who was a geography teacher from the Midlands so was completely in her element seeing the various landforms of the area!

Pembroke Christine Arnold
There's time on Guenrsey to explore - here Pembroke beach (Christine Arnold)

We sailed past the chain ferry and, shortly after we had passed Portland Bill in the distance, we saw the first Gannet. Which we then saw sporadically flying low over the Channel in different areas. As we travelled across the Channel we passed various tankers, sitting low in the water laden with their cargos.

Approaching Ortac rock we were blessed with seeing hundreds of Gannet, both adult and last year's immature birds fishing and carrying food back to the rock. This was the busiest I have ever seen this rock, it was absolutely alive with birds.

As we entered St Peter Port Harbour more passengers joined me on deck where we were greeted by the noon day firing of the canon which caused great excitement. There were many Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls circling around in the harbour looking for food in the water churned up by our manoeuvres.

After docking we had enough time to take a bus trip to explore the island. During this we saw Swallows, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Mediterranean Gull and Oystercatcher along with Clouded Yellow and Red Admiral butterflies.

Cleaning Liberation Christine Arnold
Cleaning the windows for the return trip (Christine Arnold)

After the trip we walked along the harbour edge and saw a Rock Pipit and on returning to the terminal we were fortunate enough to see a Hummingbird Hawk moth which was feeding from one of the decorative planters.

The sun broke through as we departed Guernsey and the crossing was calm and we saw a similar range of species to the outward journey. A Gannet kept us company for a short time flying alongside the boat at a similar speed giving some wonderful views. On returning into Studland bay Old Harry Rock was bathed in sunshine and people were enjoying the beach and sailing in the harbour -  and the terns were still circling around catching their fish.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 6 July 2017

Posted 11 July 2017

Steve Boswell, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Variable wind with calm seas throughout, very bright glare in the first part of the survey

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 87
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 25
Black- headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 27
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 58
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 6
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 10
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 27

Once on board I reported to reception and was escorted to the bridge to introduce myself to Captain Tim Coutts. We departed early and were soon passing Brownsea Island and Studland Bay.

Sighting of birds were steady as we crossed the Channel but were not seen in big numbers as would be expected at this time of year with most birds still close or at their breeding grounds.

Common Dolphin Graham Ekins 05
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

As we headed towards Alderney I spotted splashing on the waters surface and then the appearance of 4 Dolphins. As we approached more Dolphins appeared and they began to leap out of the water. As we passed them they played in the wake. A total of 12 Common Dolphin, including 2 Juveniles, a lovely sight in the calm sea and on the starboard side with no glare.

A cruise ship was tendering passengers into Guernsey for the day so we had to alter our approach into the harbour slightly. After a short stop we headed for Jersey

On the return journey out from Jersey a group of 15 Shag with 2 Cormorant were seen flying showing the difference in size of these two species. A Balearic Shearwater was seen resting on the sea.

Balearic SW Peter Howlett 03
Balaeric Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

One of the highlights of the trip was sailing passed Ortac with its impressive Gannet colony. A Gannet managed to fly beside the bridge with us for more than ten minutes, amazing as we were travelling at 33 knots.

No more Cetaceans were seen and I concluded the survey as we approached Poole Harbour. Thanking the Captain as he manoeuvred through the many yachts in the harbour entrance I left the bridge to await instructions for embarkation.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor ‘Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 4 July 2017

Posted 08 July 2017

MARINElife WLO: Stephie Millin

Weather: Outward - Cloudy but bright and dry with light winds. Good visibility.
Return - sunny and dry. Good visibility but some glare.

Summary of Sightings

Manx Shearwater
European Shag
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern

Terrestrial Birds
Canada Goose
Little Egret
Carrion Crow

With talk of recent cetacean sightings I was straight up to the viewing deck to get my tired early morning eyes accustomed to the bright light of the day. While waiting to leave Poole harbour a few birds helped me warm up my ID skills with their occasional fly-overs. Plenty of Herring and Black-headed Gulls made an appearance along with a couple of Common and Sandwich Tern and the usual Cormorant sat on the buoy. Conditions were very promising.

Being a bright and almost sunny morning there were plenty of passengers on the viewing deck for our passage through Poole Harbour. The islands of Poole Harbour gave us plenty to see with Oystercatcher, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Little Egret and many species of gulls. Visibility was excellent giving great views over to Old Harry Rocks and speculation was high among passengers for possible dolphin sightings.

Gannet Stephie Millin 01
GAnnet (Stephie Millin)

As our eyes tired and the glare picked up, the prospect of a sighting waned and conversation moved towards what passengers had sighted at other various locations across the UK. I enjoyed listening to the back and forward of sightings one-upmanship but unfortunately had nothing to impress this group of keen eyed spotters.

As our speed increased and the winds picked up it was time for a rest to prepare for sightings on the approach to Guernsey. As Gannet started flying by the windows in ever increasing frequency I headed back up to the viewing deck for the passage past Ortac, Alderney and the Casquets. Despite not being fortunate to spot any cetaceans the Gannet colony put on a wonderful display with several groups flying alongside the ferry for several minutes at a time. A great photo opportunity for the photographers on deck. Guernsey greeted us with beautiful sunshine (as always!) and I disembarked for a wander around the coast.

The return leg was bright and sunny with plenty of glare on the port side so I positioned myself on the other side to have the best chance of some good sightings. The Gannet colony around Ortac was again very impressive with even better light now to view them and photograph them. A couple of immature Gannet with their speckled makings also flew past the ferry. A little further along we were treated to 6 Manx Shearwater as a nice change from Gannet and various gulls.

Old Harry Rocks Stephie Millin 01
Old Harry Rocks (Stephie Millin)

Although no cetaceans were spotted, the wonderful weather coming back into Poole gave us some beautiful photos of Old Harry Rocks and great performances by adrenaline seekers on Jet Skis and two motor powered paragliders overhead.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife.