Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: July 2019

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 24 July 2019

Posted 28 July 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny and slight sea breeze, sea state 2

Summary of sightings:

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

It was a wonderfully warm, sunny day as I boarded Condor Liberation. It was the first day of the school holidays so there were lots of children and families aboard as well as two large scout groups and five coach loads of holiday-makers. As it was so warm and still people were sunbathing on deck enjoying drinks with their friends all set out on picnic blankets - I had never seen so many people on deck - I struggled to get near the outer fence it was so popular out there!

The harbour was alive with pleasure boats and other people enjoying the water and people were already enjoying Shell bay beach. Brownsea lagoon was just waking up with Cormorant, Shelduck, Black-tailed Godwit and seven Spoonbill. The Common Terns were still feeding their young on sand eels with many of the youngsters now fledged.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 12
Common Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Just past Old Harry rock we started seeing the first Gannet and in the main shipping channel there was the usual array of commercial ships to be seen, including several large tankers. I was chatting away to passengers about the wildlife and giving out leaflets and just before Ortac rock a Gannet flew alongside the vessel. It was a fantastic and close sight and perfect for pointing out to passengers. I recognised one man who had been on the day trip before and had enjoyed it so much he was back for another day trip.

On arrival in Guernsey we passed Saga's newest cruise ship ­­- the Spirit Of Discovery - anchored offshore. I disembarked and walked around the harbour. There was lots of the old time music being played outside the restaurants which was rather idyllic, giving the atmosphere a real historic theme.

Spirit of Discovery Christine Arnold
Spirit of Discovery (Christine Arnold)

People were queueing up to embark the little tenders that were ferrying passengers to and from the cruise ship. People genuinely seemed happy to be enjoying the beautiful weather in Guernsey. Lots of people were swimming or sunbathing today.

I was delighted to see several Rock Pipits. One seemed to be calling a lot so I looked more closely and watched the parent bird fly down and feed it which was rather endearing. I found a place to sit in the shade then went up on to the terminal roof to get a better look out over Guernsey and the water whilst watching the Liberation come back in.

Once back on board I chatted with various day trippers about the wildlife and the time they had had in Guernsey. People had some funny and lovely stories to tell. On the journey back Ortac rock was absolutely alive with Gannets with the sun shining down on them showing off their stunning white feathers.

As we were slowing down to berth we could see the 4 yellow boats tied up that had brought passengers to Brownsea Island for the open air theatre evening performance of Shakespeare's Richard III.

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

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 13 July 2019

Posted 21 July 2019

Kevin Waterfall and Paul Bamford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind N-NE force 2-5 throughout the day occasionally 6.  Sea state 1-3 decreasing to mirror calm as we approached Poole. Cloud cover was light with a little haze on the horizon.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 1042
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 33
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 28
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 56
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 22
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 4
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Guillemot  Uria aalge 3
Gull sp. 266

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 30
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 8
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 4
Swift Apus apus 2
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus 1

We met at 07:30 at the Poole foot passenger terminal where we joined fellow passengers in going aboard the Condor Liberation. Captain Steve Ainscow and his officers soon welcomed us to the bridge from where we were able to see a few remaining breeding birds on Brownsea Island lagoon as we passed.  A few Sandwich Terns were noted feeding in the harbour however bird activity was relatively quiet.

As we passed the chain ferry at the entrance to Poole Harbour we saw a pair of Mediterranean Gulls feeding along with the odd Herring Gull and more Sandwich Terns before heading off into light seas with excellent visibility.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 07
Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Once clear of land we encountered out first Gannets which for the next 2 hours occasionally drifted by the ferry.  After a very smooth crossing we started to record more Gannets as we were approaching Alderney with its spectacular Gannet colony, and sure enough the distinctive, white-topped rock of Ortac was still covered in birds with many swirling around the cliff tops.

We had a short stop in Guernsey, St. Peter Port looked lovely in the sunshine and being a weekend there were a lot of small yachts making the most of the fine weather. It was a short crossing to Jersey with a variety of gulls keeping us company as we made our way to St. Helier.

In Jersey we had time to scan the harbour area, where a few Swift were flying around the ship plus the odd Oystercatcher on the beach below Elizabeth Castle, before we sailed on time back towards Guernsey and Poole.  Around the coastline we saw a few Shag and a similar selection of gulls as on the way in, the weather was fine and the sea very calm.

Ortac Kevin Waterfall 01
Ortac Gannet colony (Kevin Waterfall)

After departing Guernsey with beautiful calm seas and a little glare straight ahead we were optimistic that we might encounter a recently sighted pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. However, after discussing this with the crew it seems, that unfortunately, they had not been seen over the last 3 weeks.  The rest of the crossing was relatively quiet with a blustery wind and smooth sea, we did spot a couple of Manx Shearwaters as we approached Poole and several Guillemots to welcome us back towards the Dorset coast.

As we approached Poole, we thanked Captain Ainscow and his crew for looking after us and upon arrival we were swiftly taken to the terminal.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 2 July 2019

Posted 06 July 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Christine Arnold

Weather: Sunny with light winds

Summary of sightings:

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

It was a beautiful sunny day as I boarded Condor Liberation. There were loads of passengers on the viewing deck several of which were on their way to visit family in Guernsey. The ship left later than I am used to which meant the wildlife was well awake and getting on with their daily life.

We saw many Sandwich and Common Terns flying around the Brownsea lagoon and surrounding areas repeatedly flying back to their nests to feed young. Lots of the chicks are now hatched and are growing well. We also saw Cormorant, Herring Gull, Carrion Crow and Shelduck on the lagoon. The sailing vessel Gallant ws a lovely sight moored in Studland Bay.

SV Gallant Christine Arnold
Sailing vessel Gallant in Studland Bay (Christine Arnold)

I chatted with passengers about the wildlife and was asked many questions and engaged in some good conversations. One chap was even relocating to go and live on Jersey. The sun continued to shine as we sailed along and the English Channel was busy with lots of yachts and cargo vessels. The Ortac Gannet colony was a hive of activity with the majority of birds looking to be in adult plumage at present.

On arrival in Guernsey we docked in a different berth to usual so that put a different perspective in viewing sunny Guernsey. It was very warm and I disembarked and walked round to the bathing pools near the aquarium. The sea looked turquoise and everyone was very happy. Birds seen during my walk included several Herring Gull along with Feral Pigeon, Rock Pipit and Oystercatcher. I was surprised at how quickly the tide came in. I did a walk of about 700 metres along a beach and about 20 mins later the rockpools and beach were completely covered.

It was busy in the marina with many people enjoying going on the pleasure boats to Herm and Sark, as well as people going out in their own small boats. The plant boxes were absolutely full of beautiful different coloured flowers which set the image of an ideal picture postcard scene with the backdrop of turquoise water, it was simply magical.

One of Condor's other ferries, the Commodore Clipper, was in St Peter Port and I watched it load up with lorries and then watched as it manoeuvred out of the harbour which was quite a sight. After this I headed up to the roof terrace on the terminal where I watched the Feral Pigeons and heard the chorus of Herring Gull calling. I was also able to watch as the Condor Liberation returned from Jersey.

Purbeck sunset Christine Arnold 01
Pubeck sunset framed by a window on the Liberation (Christine Arnold)

On the return journey the visibility was fantastic, so clear that buildings on the French coast could be seen and the Casquettes rock lighthouse was also very clear. Passengers happily reminisced about their holidays and were keen to hear about the wildlife. I did see a splash in the water but was unable to determine what had made it. As we came into Poole Harbour Brownsea was still very busy and the terns continued to drop like bullets into the water. To round off the trip we were treated  to a fantastic pink and orange sunset.

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