Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: June 2019

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 17 June 2019

Posted 18 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Amanda Jones

Weather: Outward - sunny and dry, wind SSW 15mph, good visibility.
Return - sunny and dry wind SW 7mph and a spectacular sunset.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Cormorant
Sandwich Tern
Storm Petrel

Island Birds:
House Sparrow
Woodpigeon
Feral Pigeon
Pied Wagtail
Swallow

Upon arrival at Poole Harbour I made my way to check-in and introduced myself as the Wildlife Officer. It was a very busy crossing and I chatted briefly to the queueing passengers (many on a day trip) before boarding. Then I met the crew at the information desk, put on my high-vis and they kindly read out the MARINElife Wildlife Officer announcement once we had set sail.

Many people were on the outer decks for the first hour and I introduced myself and MARINElife, talking about conservation and learning many interesting stories of their travels. A few Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant were seen as we left the harbour. Sandbanks and many boats dominated the harbour edge whilst the lagoon on Brownsea Island was brimming with birdlife.

Plastic pollution was noticeable on the crossing with a few plastic bottles, a balloon and more plastic in the harbour when we arrived at Guernsey. It was reassuring how many people cared about this when speaking to them.

Ortac rock, which is home to the Gannet colony, was busy with most of the birds sitting on the water. We approached Guernsey from east of the islands of Herm and Jethou and close to Sark. The light, which was spectacular today with the sunshine, highlighted all of the coves and crags and a passionate gentleman talked about sailing and exploring around the Channel Islands. A Storm Petrel flitted past before we got closer to Guernsey.

Herring Gull Amanda Jones 01
Herring Gull in St Peter Port (Amanda Jones)

Once in St Peter Port there were many gulls, mainly Herring, scattered around the harbour. We all disembarked and I enjoyed a round trip of the island on the 92 bus. It was my first visit to Guernsey and the glorious day presented it at its best, inspiring me to come back on holiday one day. The forts, light, sandy beaches, craggy rocks, quaint cottages and interesting gardens with palms, chickens, ponies, livestock and fields full of crops were all visible on the journey.

A flock of Woodpigeon were noticeable over Cobo Bay and a few gulls flew or perched en-route. An odd Great Black-backed Gull sat in a crop field with Herring Gulls. One Swallow darted across catching insects and a couple of Pied Wagtail quickly dipped past once back in the harbour. House Sparrows had made their home in the harbour too and as I wandered along to the terminal I approached a gentleman and we engaged in conversation. He suddenly rushed inside a hut and brought out a box which contained a baby hedgehog which was being transported home to Sark as he shared his passion for wildlife.

As we set sail for Poole the crew kindly read out the Wildlife Officer announcement again and people spoke to me on the outer decks. They shared their wildlife experiences from all around the UK; from Anglesey in the northwest of Wales, Aberdeen in the north of Scotland and Norfolk in eastern England and we related on how rich the British coastline is with spectacular wildlife which we must conserve.

Channel sunset Amanda Jones 01
Channel sunset (Amanda Jones)

The Gannets at Ortac were settled on the rock with a few flying but one chose to fly right alongside us whilst the sun set on the opposite side of the boat. I didn't see any cetaceans but as I made my way back to the car I joined with the Condor Ferries Assistance due to my disability and one lady related how a pod of dolphins had been alongside us just before we reached Old Harry Rocks.

Thank you to the Captain and Crew for being most welcoming and helpful.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 11 June 2019

Posted 12 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Overcast with spells of rain clearing to glorious sunshine, wind NE 3-4

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise

Seabirds:
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Black-headed Gull
Cormorant
Shag
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gannet
Shelduck
Little Egret
Spoonbill
Mallard
Gadwall
Rock Pipit
Feral Pigeon
Woodpigeon
House Sparrow

I boarded Condor Liberation, collected my leaflets and vest and made my way to the top deck. Several people approached me to ask about what I was doing for the duration of the journey. Many of the passengers had heard the recent reports of the lone dolphin which has repeatedly been sighted in the Poole bay area and harbour.

There was an incredibly atmospheric sky over and behind Brownsea Island yet in the other direction over Studland area was bright sunshine. This meant that the birds on the lagoon which are white in colour showed up quite spectacularly. I was able to show passengers the 4 Spoonbill on the Tamarisk island within the lagoon, Shelduck, Canada Goose and the brilliant numbers of Sandwich and Common Tern and Black-headed Gull all endeavouring to either sit on nests recently created or rear their young. The terns were also very actively hunting, diving into the water in search of food. We also saw Cormorant and Shag before we headed out into the Channel.

Approaching Alderney the spectacular sight that is the Gannet colony on Ortac rock came into view with probably roughly 50 circling around the top mostly looking to be in adult plumage now.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 20
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

I was overjoyed to see a Harbour Porpoise near Brehon Tower - a small fortress built on a rock in the Little Russel about 1.5 miles out from St Peter Port. It surfaced three times showing its dorsal fin and a bit of its back. It was slow and sturdy, quite a robust looking creature and showed the characteristic roll through the water, low to the surface unlike a more active and faster dolphin species. Fortunately a few of the passengers were able to see it too.

Whilst ashore this time I decided to walk around all the marinas and found various Feral Pigeons which looked iridescent in the light. There were also many Herring Gulls and several Rock Pipits and I was even able to feed a tame House Sparrow at close quarters.

The water was a beautiful turquoise and it was high tide, which together with the sunshine, made it rather dreamy. A face painted on one of the mooring buoys added to the atmosphere and made me laugh too.

St Peter Port mooring buoy Christine Arnold
Face painted on a mooring buoy in St Peter Port (Christine Arnold)

One of Condor's other ferries the Commodore Clipper came and went before the Condor Liberation appeared again and we boarded for the trip back to Poole.

The return journey boasted a beautiful cirrus sky with sunlight dazzling off the water. A variety of tankers and cargo ships were busy plying up and down the shipping lanes in the English Channel.

The terns and gulls over Brownsea lagoon and in Poole harbour were quite raucous and marked a noisy end to another successful and enjoyable trip.

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 9 June 2019

Posted 10 June 2019

Julie Hatcher and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Bright and clear with sunny spells and light northwesterly winds.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Auk sp. 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 14
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 1
CommonTern Sterna hirundo 12
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 89
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 190
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 11
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 26
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 2

It was a lovely clear morning when we boarded the ferry full of anticipation of the trip ahead. Captain Giles Wade welcomed us to the bridge and we prepared our recording forms and binoculars ready for departure as the sun streamed through the windows.

As we left Poole Harbour the Common and Sandwich Tern were busy searching and diving for fish by the harbour entrance and out into Poole Bay. The crossing was very smooth and the sea calm as we headed towards the Channel Islands and we spotted several Fulmar, Guillemot and a couple of Puffin resting on the water. With Alderney just visible ahead we were surprised when a Grey Seal popped its head up briefly before disappearing again. We recorded a few Gannet as we approached their breeding colony just off the Alderney coast, one individual travelling alongside the bridge window for several minutes before heading off to the colony.  A striking cloud formation was sitting directly above Guernsey in an otherwise clear sky and a loose group of around 100 gulls of various ages were resting on the water just outside the harbour at St Peter Port.

BND Julie Hatcher 01
Bottlenose Dolphins near Jersey (Julie Hatcher)

The voyage between the islands to Jersey was equally smooth as we looked out for Balearic Shearwater that we had heard were in the area. Sure enough we were lucky enough to see a dozen or so of these rare birds as well as a few Manx Shearwater. As we approached St. Helier on Jersey a couple of Bottlenose Dolphin breached clear of the water beside the ship, giving us very clear views. Others were ahead and we counted six in total as they played in the wake of the ship.

Once docked in Jersey we were entertained by a resident Oystercatcher that has the habit of watching its own reflection in the windows of the bridge, pacing alongside and posturing at what it believes is a rival bird.

As we headed away from Jersey for the return journey we kept an eye out for the dolphins and shearwaters we had seen previously but it was very quiet, with only a few gulls and Shag to be seen. Passing Alderney we had close views of the Gannet colony and could see crowds of birds sitting on their nests, with a few actively foraging nearby. The wind had dropped even further and towards mid-Channel the surface of the sea was glassy smooth. Spotting a couple of Storm Petrel was a highlight of the day, along with some more Manx Shearwater and a solitary Puffin on the water. To top the day off, as we approached Old Harry Rocks on the Dorset coast, a single Bottlenose Dolphin surfaced a couple of times just ahead of the bow before disappearing again.

Gannet Julie Hatcher 02
Gannet (Julie Hatcher)

As an added bit of excitement we were able to watch the pilot from Poole Harbour transferring between boats as he boarded the ship to guide it into port. This was a very enjoyable survey with calm, clear conditions and some interesting sightings. Thanks to Captain Giles Wade and his crew for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 7 June 2019

Posted 08 June 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Terry Bridgwood

Weather: Cloudy, rain and windy.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Cormorant
Manx Shearwater
Guillemot
Gannet
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Fulmar
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret

I had an early start to get to Poole in time for departure and the journey down did not bode well with overcast skies and rain. Check in was swift and I was soon aboard the Condor Liberation, smiling crew welcoming us aboard. When we started moving I went to the information point, introduced myself to the cabin manager, took a few MARINElife leaflets, donned my WLO vest and headed out on deck.

Whatever the weather I'm always excited to see what wildlife is about and ever hopeful of seeing dolphins, especially as there had been recent sightings of some in and around Poole harbour. Passing Brownsea Island I saw Common and Sandwich Terns, Cormorants, Shags and assorted gulls.

Poole pilot Terry Bridgwood
Poole pilot boat (Terry Bridgwood)

As we passed Old Harry Rock a few people appeared on deck to take photographs. A passenger asked what I was doing and I explained about the work MARINElife does and how Condor Ferries supports the charity. He stayed on deck watching out from the other side of the deck, we agreed we would shout to each other if we saw anything of interest - unfortunately the need didn't arise. Unusually the pilot boat stayed with us out past Old Harry Rock and It turned out that they were rescuing a life raft. Hopefully here was no one on board and it had just been lost at sea.

Crossing the Channel I saw Guillemots and Manx Shearwaters, the latter living up to their name and shearing up and down between the waves. As we approached Ortac rock the number of Gannets increased, although the inclement weather meant there were not as many as usual and as we neared Guernsey a lone Fulmar passed us.

Condor Liberation Terry Bridgwood 01
Condor Liberation at St Peter Port (Terry Bridgwood)

Upon reaching Guernsey I disembarked and had a wander around St Peter Port before returning to have lunch in the port café. Back at the ferry terminal I checked in and waited in the departure lounge. I fell into conversation with a gentleman who told me that he was born on the island but was evacuated during the war and only returned to visit an aunt still living on the island. He recommended Les Roquettes Hotel for food - a bit of a walk out of town but I may check it out on my next visit.

Back on board the Liberation I headed up onto the viewing deck and was joined by the same gentleman as on the way over, we were both excited to see a Little Egret flying overhead just before we departed. Once we had passed Ortac rock I headed below deck to seek shelter from the rain and circulated around the cabin to chat to some of the passengers.

All too soon we were back at Poole and disembarked and went our separate ways.