MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey Wednesday 16 August 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather:
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:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise 1

Seabirds:
Common Tern
Sandwich Tern
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Gannet
Cormorant
Shag
Fulmar
Manx Shearwater

Terrestrial birds:
Little Egret
Oystercatcher
Black-tailed Godwit
Avocet
Sanderling
Peregrine Falcon

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 Glynis Northwood-Long 2017
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.

Dorset coast Glynis Northwood Long 01
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