MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 3 August 2017

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:

Marine Mammals
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 Peter Howlett 29
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 Rick Morris 04
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.