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

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.