Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: August 2018

MARINElife Training Survey Report: Condor Ferries Liberation Poole-Jersey 21 August 2018

Posted 27 August 2018

Stephen Boswell, Judith Tatem, Kimberly Roll-Baldwin

Weather: Partially cloudy with fog patches in mid-Channel and full sun on the Channel Islands, wind southwest, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 9
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 23
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 169
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 139
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 47
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5

We met at the Condor Ferries terminal and had a few minutes to look through the recording paperwork. Boarding was called and we were soon through the gate and on the short bus trip to the Liberation, our survey vessel. The ship departed ahead of schedule and Brownsea Island soon slipped past. Once we were clear of the harbour and out of the red zone we were escorted to the bridge where we were welcomed by Captain Stephen Crow.

Judith Tatem and Kim Roll-Baldwin surveying Steve Boswell
Judith and Kim surveying (Steve Boswell)

Training began with an introduction to the ship's instruments and our first records of the voyage. The clouds started to clear and the sea state was almost perfect for cetacean watching.  From the bridge we could see the MARINElife Wildlife Officer, Christine Arnold, hard at work on the upper deck. About an hour out of port a bank of fog appeared and for a short while the visibility deteriorated. Fortune, however, was with us as we cleared the fog before reaching the Alderney race and our first sighting of a Balearic Shearwater. Shortly after this we sighted a mixed group of 19 shearwaters including thirteen Balearic.  It was good to see them with Manx Shearwater to be able to study the differences between the two.

As we sailed along the Jersey coast the Captain spotted a pod of six dolphins which unfortunately for us were seen on the port side. The Island of Jersey was bathed in sunshine, so we were delighted to be able to sit outside the crew mess whilst eating our lunch. On both legs of the journey between Guernsey and Jersey there was a bloom of Moon Jellyfish slipping past the ship.

Harbour Porpoise Martin Kitching 01
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Martin Kitching)

As we approached Ortac it was shimmering white in the sunshine and there were lots of Gannets streaming back to their nests with food for their young. Shortly after this three Harbour Porpoise passed by down the starboard side with four Herring Gull in attendance. We then sailed back through the fog bank only to pop out for a gloriously sunny evening's return through Poole Harbour.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their welcome and assistance during the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 21 August 2018

Posted 22 August 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Cloudy with sunny spells, sea state 2 outward and return 2/3

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin 6

Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Great black-backed Gull

Terrestrial birds
Greylag Goose
Little Egret
Feral Pigeon
House Sparrow
Carrion Crow

I boarded Condor Liberation and went on deck where the passengers who were on the MARINElife day trip made themselves known to me. We watched the Barfleur slowly edge away from its berth before we were able to depart. Many of the passengers were on holiday travelling to the Channel islands or St Malo and were interested to have a leaflet and hear about the local area. This sailing was also being used to train MARINElife surveyors and team leader Steve made himself known to me and introduced me to the two trainees accompanying him.

As we passed Brownsea Lagoon we were able to see 3 Spoonbill on the tamarisk island. The passengers were interested to know the history of when Bonham Christie owned the island years ago. There were Cormorant perched on Stoney Island and the various marker buoys. There was a lovely low light on Studland beach and the surrounding areas this morning.

Ortac Gannet colony was particularly splendid and sparked great interest from passengers who always ask about the small islets surrounding the Channel Islands. The Gannets were circling the top and fishing nearby giving great photo opportunities.

As we made the turn into Guernsey harbour a young boy shouted that he had seen the dolphins, quickly many passengers came to look. There were three in the distance and two came nearer with one swimming right alongside the vessel . Passengers could clearly see its grey back with the water lapping around the majestic animal.

Little Egret Peter Howlett 03
Little Egret on Guernsey (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

I was joined by several of the passengers from the Liberation for the bus journey round the island. The flower baskets were spectacular with many bees pollinating them. We saw a flock of Greylag Geese feeding in a field alongside a herd of Guernsey cows. There were Little Egret and Carrion Crow on the beaches and the tide was low exposing the terrific rock formations.

After the bus trip I gained some local information from one of the shop owners and bought a souvenir in the shop. I saw House Sparrow and Rock Pipit on the walk to the terminal and heard and saw the Feral Pigeons on the terminal roof.

BND Christine Arnold 02
Bottlenose Dolphin outside St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

After reboarding Condor we saw dolphins in the distance. As we left the harbour we saw a pod of six Bottlenose Dolphin playing around a pleasure boat, 5 were in a long line in front and one was right by its side.  Many passengers including young children were overjoyed at the experience. Outside the harbour wall was a large flock of 100 or so Herring Gull.

After passing Ortac rock I made the most of the lovely food and treated myself to a honeycomb ice cream. The passengers told me how wildlife rich Alderney is too. Some of the passengers told me they had seen many jellyfish in the Jersey/St Malo area although they were unsure of the species.

There was a low, late summer sunset behind Brownsea island where an Oystercatcher flew past and there were loads of Cormorant resting within the lagoon. Small sailing boats were yet again enjoying the calm harbour waters and a drone also flew over us, presumably filming our approach into Poole harbour.

Thanks to the staff for their help and support during this crossing.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 18 August 2018

Posted 19 August 2018

Maggie Gamble and Amanda Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outward - mostly overcast, wind WSW force 4-5, good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
None seen

Gannet Morus bassanus 125

Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 41
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Little Egret Egretta garzetta

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 224
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 9

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 9
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 1
Larus sp. Larus sp. 7
Gull sp. Laridae 65
Tern sp. 8

We accessed the bridge as we passed Old Harry Rocks to commence our survey. Conditions were quite good but rather overcast.  We had enough marine birds to keep us occupied and passing Alderney the number of Gannets increased due to the breeding colony on Ortac.

Approaching Guernsey the bridge crew told us about the great views they'd had recently of the Bottlenose Dolphin feeding on the shoals of fish around the entrance to the harbour. Apparently they particularly seemed to enjoy the powerful water jets that the Liberation uses to manoeuvre into tight spaces. Unfortunately, on our survey the fish had gone and so had the dolphins! The brief turnaround in Guernsey gave chance to head down for a very welcome lunch before heading on our way to Jersey.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 06a
Balearic Shearwater (Library photo: Tom Brereton)

The leg to Jersey was enlivened by sightings of 'Manx Shearwaters' which we soon realised were slightly too large, slower in flight and somewhat pot-bellied in appearance and were in fact Europe's most vulnerable seabird - Balearic Shearwaters. After breeding most of the population moves up into the waters off southwest Britain to feed in mid to late summer.

Castle Cornet Maggie Gamble 01
Castle Cornet (Maggie Gamble)

Approaching Guernsey Harbour on the return leg we bought the sunshine with us and we were hopeful that the slacker state of the tide might bring the fish and the dolphins in. No such luck and even the chance of a jacuzzi wasn't enough to tempt them in. From the bridge we had good views of Castle Cornet, the 800 year old castle standing at the mouth of the harbour. Leaving Guernsey after another quick turn-around we shortly passed the Condor ferry Commodore Clipper heading in the opposite direction. This time as we approached Alderney the Gannet colony on Ortac was illuminated with sunlight and the white frosting of Gannets and guano was brightly visible. It was a good run back to Poole but no cetaceans were sighted on this survey.

Thanks once again to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their welcome and assistance during the crossing.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 16 August 2018

Posted 17 August 2018

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Outbound - wet with a blustery southwesterly wind and poor visibility. Inbound - overcast to start but clearing bright with patchy cloud as we headed north with lighter westerly winds.

Summary of sightings:

Bottlenose Dolphin  Tursiops truncatus 6

Manx Shearwater
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Common Tern

The outer deck was deserted except for a few keen wildlife spotters gathered in the shelter of the upper deck on a wet morning as we left Poole harbour. Most passengers sensibly remained inside with good views through the ship's windows. Some Common Terns, Cormorants and Great Black-backed Gulls were in evidence as we passed Brownsea Island and sailed out into Poole Bay. Wet and misty conditions made wildlife watching challenging but we started to see a few Gannets and a couple of Manx Shearwaters as we reached mid-Channel and travelled on past Alderney to Guernsey. Approaching St. Peter Port we recorded several Shag and a variety of gulls, including Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed.

BND Peter Howlett 18
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The weather had brightened up for our return trip to Poole and the upper deck was packed as we departed St. Peter Port. As we departed a group of Bottlenose Dolphin were immediately spotted around a large cruise ship anchored just outside the port. The clouds dispersed and the warm sun emerged on the journey north and with clear visibility we were able to watch a good number of Gannet and Manx Shearwater. As we approached the middle of the Channel we spotted several groups of around 30 birds sitting on the water, including Gannet, Fulmar and terns. We also observed several Kittiwake on the crossing.

Fulmar Julie Hatcher 01
Fulmar (Library photo: Julie Hatcher)

Arriving in Dorset under blue skies, the upper deck became busy with people admiring the stunning coastline of Old Harry Rocks and Studland Bay. The lagoon on Brownsea Island was packed with roosting Cormorants, Little Egrets and Oystercatchers while Common Terns dived for fish in Poole Harbour.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their interest, support and assistance.