MARINElife Wildlife Officer: Terry Bridgwood
Weather: Wind NNW, sea state slight to smooth, fair with good visibility.
Summary of sightings:
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
We travelled to Poole the night before, to catch the Condor Liberation and stayed with a friend. I was the WLO for the trip whilst the very knowledgeable Steve McAusland was the survey trainer with Rachel Keays and Donna Bridgwood the trainees.
Boarding passes were shown and we took our seats on the slinky bus to the ship. Once on-board introductions were made to the cabin manager. I handed over my passenger announcement and in exchange took the MARINElife tabard. We all had breakfast and a cuppa before I went out on deck. The rest of the team had to wait until we were out of the red zone before they were allowed on the bridge to carry out the survey.
On the way through the navigation channel we passed Brownsea Island and the chain ferry at Sandbanks. To our right was Studland bay, one of the most important sites for seahorses in the British Isles. I spotted a tern diving repeatedly trying to ingest a fish that seemed a bit too large for it, however it persevered and it paid off. You could hear the Oystercatchers on the shore and see the Cormorants in their "Batman" like stance on the marker buoys.
En-route to Guernsey I saw some Swallows passing by, strangely heading towards England rather than south. Gannet, Shag, Cormorant, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were also seen (I'm sure I saw a Puffin) but that could be wishful thinking. There was also the lovely sight of Manx Shearwater gliding over the surface of the sea.
For me it's not always about the wildlife you see, or don't see. Once you don the MARINElife tabard people seem to have an excuse to talk to you and it is interacting with the passengers that can be the best part of the trip.
On this occasion I met a lovely gentleman. He was covered head to toe. Long trousers, long sleeved coat, sunglasses, gloves and a floppy hat to top it off. We got talking and he told me he was from Ontario, Canada. An octogenarian (his words), still a practicing physician who cycled to and from work every day and took the 18 flights of stairs to his office. He explained that he was covered up because he had had skin cancer a couple of times in the past. There was I short sleeves and no sunscreen - take heed and take care folks. He explained that he had been born during the 50s and had seen the rise of plastic and the damage that it is doing to our planet, he'd also served on destroyers in the Navy. It was fascinating and a privilege to be able to talk to this gentleman.
It might be that I was so engrossed in talking to passengers that I missed lots of wildlife!
We waved goodbye to the passengers that disembarked at Guernsey and stayed on the Liberation hoping to see some dolphins nearer Jersey, sadly this was not the case. The crew always say to us: 'Did you see the dolphins?' to which we always reply: 'No', then they say: 'you should have been here yesterday'. Perhaps we should leave the day before in future.
The journey back to Poole was quiet with much of the same seabirds being seen on the way back. I think everyone was tired by this time. We docked, disembarked, said our farewells and headed home.
Another thoroughly enjoyable, if not tiring day.