MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 22 August 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Julie Hatcher

Weather: Fair and warm, with light winds and calm sea conditions throughout the day.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 12+

Great Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Manx Shearwater
Little Egret
Great Skua

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 Shearwater Rob Petley Jones 01a
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 Mike Bailey 01a
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.