MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 9 July 2018

Rachel Davies, Tim Bradley and Kate Bradley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Clear sky with few clouds, wind SE 3/4, sea state 2.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 126
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
CormorantPhalacrocorax carbo 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 92
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 38
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 16
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 36
Razorbill  Alca torda 1
Larus sp. Larus sp. 7
Gull sp. Laridae 65
Tern sp. 8

Terrestrial Birds
Crow Corvus corone 1
Feral pigeon  Columba livia 1

The three of us met at the terminal for this training survey, kindly supported by Condor Ferries, and proceeded to the boarding gate to take the short bus trip on to our survey vessel, the Liberation.  Once on board we introduced ourselves to the service manager and I explained the procedure for gaining access to the bridge. We also met up with the MARINElife Wildlife Officers for the day, Terry and Donna Bridgewood, on their way up to the decks. While waiting for the vessel to depart and later within the red zone, we took the opportunity for a cup of coffee and to run through our plan for the day in a full team briefing. This included health and safety, bridge protocols and also our roles and protocols for the survey.

Bradleys surveying Rachel Davies
Tim & Kate Bradly on the bridge surveying (Rachel Davies)

Once up on the bridge we ran through the bridge protocols once again along with the instruments used for recording, to ensure all were clear and confident before commencing the survey. While clear skies, with very few clouds made for a lovely sunny day, it did mean a certain amount of glare on the water, making conditions a little trickier, but with no swell and sea state averaging 2, we were feeling confident that if there were cetaceans to be seen on route, we'd see them. Seabirds were fairly low in volume with a large number of those recorded resting on the surface, likely contributed to by the little wind for a helping uplift. However, the variety of species did not disappoint with 17 different species recorded, including Black-headed and Mediterranean Gull, terns and a pretty light phase Fulmar. Sadly, but worth note, of the 12 items of flotsam recorded on this survey, 8 were discarded balloons.

BH Gull Peter Howlett 04
Black-headed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Despite feeling hopeful, we unfortunately did not encounter the resident Bottlenose Dolphin population, of which a pod of around 30 had been observed by the crew and passengers the day before just off the coast of Guernsey.  But we were treated to excellent views of the Gannet colonies on Ortac Rock and Les Etacs.

We stayed on board for a spot of lunch in Jersey and re-commenced the survey immediately as we left Saint Helier harbour. It wasn't too long before we were rewarded with a lovely sighting of a Harbour Porpoise feeding, before disappearing under the water as the vessel approached.

After the brief stop on Guernsey, we again re-commenced the survey as we left port. While no further cetaceans were seen on this survey, we continued to record a diversity of seabirds, the most frequent being Gannets, particularly in the area surrounding Ortac Rock.

Poole Harbour Rachel Davies
Poole harbour (Rachel Davies)

We enjoyed sightings of terns, as well as Kittiwake and Black-headed Gull as we passed Old Harry Rocks. Approaching the start of the red zone, we concluded our survey, giving thanks to the crew, and enjoyed a beautiful evening view as we travelled through Poole harbour to port.

We thank Condor Ferries for supporting the ongoing training and we extend our thanks to the Captain and crew for making us welcome.