Steve Boswell Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Warm and sunny with light easterly winds and sea state 2-3, strong glare was a problem on the southern leg.
Summary of sightings:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 21
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 8
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 442
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 625
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 85
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 15
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3
The 09.15 crossing was fully booked with many passengers in the departure lounge when I arrived an hour before departure. We managed to leave on time and as we passed Old Harrys Rocks at 09.40, I was able to access the bridge and begin surveying.
Bottlenose Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
After one and a half hours into the survey and with only three birds noted during this time expectations were suddenly raised when a group of Common Dolphin appeared ahead and eight swam close by down the starboard side. Fifteen minutes later over 450 Gannet were amassed and feeding and with them 15 Bottlenose Dolphin which were getting involved in the feeding frenzy. A few Balearic Shearwater were noted as we approached Guernsey.
Manx and Balearic Shearwaters (Library photo: Tom Brereton)
Hot and sunny now with passengers alighting for a Guernsey day trip, I had my lunch in readiness for the short Jersey leg. As we headed out of the harbour the glare was troublesome. About half-way across I saw a close congregation of birds loafing in front of the ship. As we approached, they reluctantly took off and revealed themselves as 120 Balearic Shearwater, an impressive sight. This area has become an important site between July and October for post breeding birds after heading north from their breeding grounds in the Mediterranean. This was the start of a number of similar loafing groups totalling 442 for the survey. A few Manx Shearwater were also seen with them.
No Auks, Kittiwake and only 2 Fulmar were seen on what can only be described as a survey of all or nothing.
Thanks were given to Captain Steve Ainscow before I headed back home after what was a thoroughly enjoyable survey.
MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher
Weather: Fair and warm, with light winds and calm sea conditions throughout the day.
Summary of sightings:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12+
Great Black-backed Gull
It was an early start and the rising sun was spectacular over Poole harbour as we set sail on a fine, calm morning. As the ferry glided smoothly past Brownsea Island, a flock of Cormorants were roosting in the lagoon and a couple of yellow-footed Little Egrets were patrolling the shoreline for an early morning snack. We sailed by Old Harry Rock and, as the Purbeck cliffs disappeared in the distance, the sea was flat calm, the winds light and the sun was shining.
Manx Shearwaters (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)
Around the mid-Channel a few solitary Gannets were flying or resting on the water. Several fishing boats were out, one with a large flock of mixed Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls looking like a swarm of bees buzzing above. We were soon in sight of Alderney, the most northerly of the Channel Islands, and passed the Gannet colony where the white birds could be clearly seen flying above the rock and perched on it. Not long afterwards we passed a group of 50 or so Manx Shearwaters which had been resting on the water but took flight as the ship approached. Before long we were entering St Peter Port and disembarking with time to explore the town.
After a glorious warm and sunny morning in St Peter Port we boarded the ferry for the return crossing. The outer deck was packed with people and the sea glassy smooth as we headed north and past Alderney and the Gannet colony once more. This time there were many long lines of birds heading out to sea on foraging trips and the blue sea was dotted with white birds as others rested on the water. Quite a few of the passing Gannets had the darker plumage marking them out as juveniles. Just north of Alderney we startled another flock of 50+ Manx Shearwaters, possibly the same group that we had seen on the outward voyage.
Common Dolphin (Library photo: Mike Bailey)
With Alderney in the distance behind we approached a flock of Gannets rafting on the water. This can be an indication of dolphins in the area. Sure enough, a close scan in their vicinity revealed some splashes as 10 or more Common Dolphin were busy feeding at the surface, which delighted all the people out enjoying the sunshine on the upper deck.
As we continued on towards Dorset we spotted a couple of Fulmar and the dark shape of a Great Skua and then another couple of dolphins played briefly in the waves from the wake at the back of the ship. Before long we were slowing down as we approached the harbour entrance at Poole having had a delightful day out. As always, many thanks go to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for their interest, support and assistance.
MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Amanda Jones
Outward - dray and sunny, wind WNW 15mph, good visibility
Return - dry and sunny, wind WNW 10mph, good visibility
Summary of Sightings
Great Black-backed Gull
After check-in the staff kindly provided me with MARINElife leaflets and made me welcome as I headed off to board the Condor Liberation. The ferry was busy and I introduced myself to the crew at the Information desk and collected my high-vis vest.
On deck many passengers were viewing Poole Harbour and I talked to them about the wildlife, conservation, Brownsea Island and its lagoon and the beauty of our UK shores. People were keen to share their stories and I learned about their travels and how so many care about our environment. Many took particular interest in avoiding single use plastic, the anti-litter signs on the lower deck from Condor Ferries proving to be a hit. Some of the passengers I spoke to were concerned about climate change and were interested to learn about the work MARINElife does around the UK.
Celebrity Silhoutte anchored off St Peter Port (Amanda Jones)
As we left a lone Great Black-backed Gull was perched on one of the buoys with Shags for company. The lagoon was bustling with waders, gulls, Cormorants and terns. Then a Sandwich Tern near to the boat made a spectacular dive to catch a fish.
Once out of the harbour the sea state was about 4 with some swell and we headed between westerly clear skies and a huge, thunderstorm to the east. As we continued funnel clouds could be seen in the storm cloud but our trip remained dry with sunny warmth.
As we arrived in Guernsey we passed the cruise liner Celebrity Silhouette anchored off St Peter Port. Once docked I took a walk round St Peter Port in the sunshine and then enjoyed a waffle near the harbour which a small bumblebee took a great deal of interest in. A few House Sparrows flew past and feral pigeons sunbathed in the memorial seating area. After chatting to a group of French tourists who were waiting for their guide on the blue bus, I headed back to the ferry.
In Poole, at sea and in Guernsey a few white butterflies could be seen and Herring Gulls were present in both harbours. The trip back saw many Manx Shearwaters, a close Fulmar stayed alongside us for some time and the Gannets at Ortac rock were busy circling and settling.
Poole harbour (Amanda Jones)
We were followed into Poole by the Britany ferry Barfleur having seen the Condor Clipper successfully manoeuvre into dock at Guernsey whilst we waited to board Liberation for our return trip. The slowly setting sun was beautiful on our way into Poole and there was a feeding frenzy in the water outside the lagoon with terns and gulls diving and circling over their dinner.
Thank you to the Captain and crew of the Liberation for being most welcoming and helpful.