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