MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 5 September 2017

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Misty at first then sunny spells with slight drizzle

Summary of sightings:

Dolphin sp. (poss. Bottlenose Dolphin)  7

Manx Shearwater
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull

Terrestrial birds:
Little Egret
Rock Pipit

I boarded Condor Liberation, went straight to collect my leaflets and MARINElife vest then went to the top deck. After the vessel set sail and the announcement was made that I was on board several people came over to me so I could talk about what I was doing and looking out for. Several people had booked specifically for the MARINElife day and were kitted out with binoculars and waterproofs. Birds seen as we passed Brownsea Lagoon and headed out to see included Shag, Cormorant, Little Egret, Great Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gull and I had some interesting conversations about people's background interest in wildlife.

Just after passing Portland in the far distance we saw our first Gannets swooping and soaring low to the water. After crossing the shipping lanes and seeing several cargo vessels and more Gannets I saw a solitary Manx Shearwater flying low over the water.

On approaching Guernsey we went down the Big Russel as the tide was low so we had great views of the surrounding islands; Sark to the east, Herm and Jethou to the west. Just as the boat made its turn towards St Peter Port I spotted a dorsal fin, sadly it was such a quick sighting that I was unable to identify it. Another passenger was also pointing and together we saw a splash as it breached. As we came into St Peter Port the cruise ship Azamara Journey was just setting sail in the direction of Jersey after having been anchored off Guernsey.

Azamara Journey Christine Arnold
The Azamara Journey (Christine Arnold)

I disembarked and went and sat on the beach and looked in a few rockpools for a while before taking a short walk along the coast. As the crossing was later today I was able to enjoy Guernsey in the late afternoon/early evening which was very pleasant as there was a beautiful autumn feel in the air. Wildlife seen included Rock Pipit and many Black-headed Gulls and bees making the most of the season's last nectar.

I reboarded and as we departed the people on the wildlife trip and another couple told me they had seen 7 dolphins leaping out of the water swimming away from the ship back in the direction of Jersey not long before arriving back in St Peter Port. However, I got told they were a different species by both, though the couple that had been on one of the MARINElife-run ID workshops were adamant they were Bottlenose Dolphin. Consequently by this point the public were very excited.

BND Peter Howlett 26
Bottlenose Dolphin - the species likely seen by passengers on board between Jersey and Guernsey
(Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On the return journey north we saw several more large container ships making their way across the Channel along with a magnificent orange and pink sunset. Shortly afterwards a golden-orange moon appeared to the left of the vessel and darkness shortly descended. As it was dark we saw an amazing multitude of different coloured lights on entering Bournemouth bay and Poole Harbour.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for the support and assistance and making this another successful wildlife officer trip.