MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 03 October 2018

Glynis Northwood-Long; Wildlife Officer for MARINElife
Weather: Sunny with good visibility, sea smooth to slight, wind NW 1-3


Marine Mammals:
None seen

Seabirds:
Cormorant
Herring gull
Black headed gull
Gannet
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Shearwater (sp.)

Terrestrial Birds:
Oystercatcher
Avocet
Spoonbill
Carrion crow
Feral pigeon

Although the weather was forecast to be cloudy all day, it was a nice surprise to arrive at the ferry terminal with the sun shining and a clear blue sky for the final MARINElife wildlife day trip for this year. I met up with Gill, Martin, Peter, Richard, Alan, Howard and Dave, all members of the Poole unit of the Maritime Volunteer service (MVS) who had booked on this special day trip and soon we were boarding the Liberation.

Condor Liberation Glynis Northwood Long

Condor Liberation (Glynis Northwood-Long)

I made my way up to the viewing deck and as we sailed through Poole Harbour, I introduced myself to other passengers taking advantage of such a glorious morning. We chatted about the variety of birds on Brownsea Island lagoon, where Avocet, Spoonbill and Black tailed Godwit can be found at this time of year.  I was also on the lookout for deer that I had seen earlier on the nature reserve's webcam.

We left Poole Harbour, passing Old Harry Rocks and I met with Karen and her young son Jim as I had been in contact with them by email. We chatted about the marine wildlife because on my last trip, I had seen pods of both Bottlenose and Common Dolphin. Although it was a perfect day for sighting, even the sea birds were scarce until we approached Alderney.

Getting closer to Ortac Rock, we could see the Gannet colony with many birds flying around the rock. Several of the Gannet treated the passengers to an aerobatic display as they soared very close to the ship.

We arrived in Guernsey just in time to hear the midday cannon. Whilst the group from MVS decided to catch the bus for a tour of the island or treat themselves to a meal, I opted to stay in the sunshine. I walked along South Esplanade and to the lighthouse at the end of Castle Pier. As I was eating my picnic lunch, I saw a big splash in the water and I thought I caught a glimpse of what might have been a fin. Although I kept watching for several minutes, it didn't reappear.

MVS Volunteers Glynis Northwood Long

MVS Volunteers (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Back on the Liberation, many passengers were up on the viewing deck because it was more like summer than early October as the sun shone for most of the day, with higher temperatures than expected for this time of year. I met up with the MVS group on the viewing deck and took a photo of them for their newsletter. I continued to chat with my fellow passengers, who were hopeful of seeing dolphins. One passenger, James, was on the day trip celebrating his birthday, so I treated him to a slice of delicious fruit cake from the Casquets Bistro (I can highly recommend it!).

Once more, approaching Ortac Rock, the Gannet put on another aerial display, with one flying effortlessly just above the viewing deck. One passenger recorded its speed as 34 mph by using an app on his mobile phone! However, for the remainder of the journey, further sea bird sightings were scarce and no cetaceans were seen.

Even the crew had told me that the 'resident' pod of Dolphin had not been seen since the recent storms.  Later, as we approached the mainland, those passengers out on deck were treated to a spectacular sight of the sun setting behind Anvil Point.

Sunset Glynis Northwood Long

Sunset (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making us welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife. I look forward to our next Wildlife trips with Condor Ferries next year!