MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long
Outward - Overcast with sunny spells, wind S 1-2, sea state smooth to slight, visibility good.
Return - Sunny with increasing cloud, wind SW 2-3, sea state slight to moderate, visibility good.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise 1
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
This was the only WLO trip in August and so it was great to see plenty of passengers on the upper viewing deck as we departed the port. Whilst chatting to them, I was able to point out the various islands in Poole Harbour including Brownsea Island with its large sheltered lagoon; particularly important for overwintering & summer breeding birds.
Several passengers introduced themselves as having booked on the MARINElife day trip and we kept a keen look out from the rear viewing deck, easily spotting the Little Egret, Oystercatchers, Avocets and terns on the lagoon.
Leaving the harbour, as we passed Old Harry Rocks, I met up with a couple on the MARINElife day trip and who were also soon to attend one of MARINElife's marine mammal and sea bird identification courses. Although conditions were ideal for spotting cetaceans, we didn't see any on this occasion.
Ortac Gannet colony (Glynis Northwood-Long)
Later on, as we approached Alderney, I tell the passengers to look out for the Gannet colony on Ortac. We start to spot Gannet flying by and as we get nearer to Ortac rock we can see Gannet circling all around and many more on their colony on the rock itself, which is a spectacular sight to see.
Approaching Guernsey, the sun came out and it promised to be a lovely afternoon for a stroll. Once we had disembarked the Liberation at St Peter Port, we walked around the harbour and then round to La Vallette for lunch whilst watching people swim in the bathing pools nearby.
I later found out that a couple of my fellow passengers had been lucky enough to see a Peregrine Falcon on one of the cranes in the harbour but by the time I returned, it had gone. It appeared that I was missing out because once back on board the Liberation for the return journey, I was greeted by passengers who had been on the Liberation coming from Jersey and just seen a few cetaceans as they were coming into St Peter Port. From the description they gave, I said that they had probably seen Harbour Porpoise. We were just about to leave the harbour when a passenger pointed and I was able to get a quick glimpse of a fin of a Harbour Porpoise myself.
Late afternoon over the Dorset coast (Glynis Northwood-Long)
We were hopeful of further cetacean sightings, especially when another passenger showed me a video clip of Common Dolphin they had seen near Herm a few days before. However, we had to be satisfied with just seeing the Harbour Porpoise and the impressive sight of the Gannet colony on Ortac rock again, this time in the brilliant sunshine.
As we returned to Poole Bay, we were treated to a dramatic sky over Swanage and Old Harry Rocks as the clouds started to loom around the setting sun. Birds were feeding in the evening light as we approached the harbour where, thanks to Helen and Tom who are avid birders, we spotted Sanderling, Black-tailed Godwit as well as Cormorant and Oystercatcher in the lagoon.
Thanks to Condor Ferries and the friendly crew of the Condor Liberation for their continued support and assistance.
Note: If you are interested in attending one of MARINElife's courses, please look on our website here
Julie Hatcher and Christine Roberts, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Outward - overcast with sunny spells, wind SW 6, visibility good.
Return - overcast with sunny spells wind W 5-6, visibility good.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Manx shearwater Puffinus puffinus 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 119
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 16
Gull sp. 3
Tern sp. 3
Auk sp. 1
The friendly Condor crew escorted us to the bridge once the ferry had cleared Poole Harbour approach and we immediately settled into recording. Despite the challenging conditions at sea we spotted several juvenile and immature Gannet recognisable by the varying amount of colour in their plumage. Towards mid-Channel we passed a number of adult Gannet resting on the water. However sightings were fairly quiet on the voyage across to the Channel Islands.
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
The return voyage was very different though and as we left port on Jersey we noticed a swarm of Barrel Jellyfish in the clear water, all of a similar smallish size. Not far from port we had a brief glimpse of a couple of Harbour Porpoise before they disappeared down the port side of the ship. These were quickly followed by very clear views of Manx Shearwater gliding over the waves in their characteristic flight and as we approached Guernsey we spotted a number of Shag flying low over the sea or diving as the ship drew near.
Ortac Gannet colony (Archive photo: Rick Morris)
Sailing north towards Alderney and its Gannet colony on Ortac, the numbers of Gannet started to increase and we watched one bird dive into the sea, plunging at high speed with wings swept back to catch a fish. We were delighted as we passed Ortac to see the host of birds circling in the air above, their white plumage gleaming in the sunshine, making a spectacular sight. In the middle of the Channel we watched more Manx Shearwater effortlessly shearing over the waves and flying alongside us for quite a few minutes. Our highlight was a European Storm Petrel, looking tiny and delicate as it flitted across the surface of the sea. As we neared Poole we recorded a number of Common Tern and finished our survey as we entered the harbour. We expressed our thanks to Captain Crowe and his crew for their hospitality and facilitating another interesting survey.