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:
Great Black-backed Gull
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 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)
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/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold
Weather: Overcast with spells of rain clearing to glorious sunshine, wind NE 3-4
Summary of sightings:
Great Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
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 (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.
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.
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:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
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.
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)
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.