Weymouth or Poole-Channel Islands

Sightings Archives: September 2019

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey 21 September 2019

Posted 22 September 2019

Julie Hatcher and Mallory Warrington Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound - fine and sunny with a brisk E-SE breeze.
Inbound - overcast with intermittent light rain on occasion and a light E breeze.

Summary of sightings:

Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 127
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 35
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Gannet Morus bassanus 252
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 60
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Skua sp. 1
Gull sp. 89
Auk sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Swift Apus apus 12

We boarded the ferry in fine, clear conditions and made ourselves comfortable for our departure through Poole Harbour and out past Old Harry Rock and the Purbeck cliffs. On leaving the Dorset coast we were welcomed to the bridge by Captain Stephen Crowe and his crew to begin our survey.

With a brisk easterly breeze blowing and the sun shining, we headed out into the Channel but, apart from the odd auk sightings were thin on the ground until we approached Alderney. There we started recording quite a few Gannet, including a good number of juvenile birds from this year's broods with their characteristic dark plumage.

Balearic SW Peter Howlett 05
Balearic Shearwater (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After a brief stop at Guernsey we set sail towards Jersey and not far out of St. Peter Port harbour we came across a large flock of seabirds milling around. Among them were over 100 Gannet, Kittiwake and 50 or so Balearic Shearwater. This kind of seabird activity is often a sign of dolphins feeding below but although we scanned the sea we didn't spot any cetaceans on this occasion.

As we left Jersey for our return voyage we were kept busy recording Cormorant both surfacing from dives and flying out on fishing excursions. As we approached Guernsey we came across more Balearic Shearwater, this time not so concentrated but in groups flying across in front of the ship. By the time we left Guernsey behind the breeze had dropped but the sky had become overcast. A large Barrel Jellyfish was spotted drifting close to the ship and more adult and juvenile Gannet were recorded around Alderney and as the ship passed their colony on Ortac.

Cormorant Julie Hatcher 01
Cormorant (Julie Hatcher)

After an enjoyable day but with the cloud and approaching dusk making it quite dark we ended our survey as we neared the Dorset coastline. Many thanks to the Captain and crew of the Condor Liberation for their hospitality.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Guernsey 19 September 2019

Posted 20 September 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Kevin Waterfall

Weather: Sunny and dry with an easterly wind, sea state 3 outbound and 4 on return until nearing Poole when it dropped to 2 with good visibility but some glare

Summary of sightings

Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Great Skua
European Shag
Tern sp.

Terrestrial birds:
Mute Swan
Little Egret
Carrion Crow
Pied Wagtail
Feral Pigeon
Greylag Goose
House Martin

This was my first Guernsey day trip as WLO although I have been a surveyor on the route before. We had glorious sunshine and the tide was quite low as we pulled away early from the quayside and moved out past Brownsea Island and it lagoon. The lagoon was busy as usual with lots of Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant and Oystercatcher. A small group of Avocet were busy swinging their heads side to side as they gathered breakfast from the bed of the lagoon and there were many other smaller waders busy feeding.

There were Greylag Geese near the chain ferry slipway and a couple of terns flying over as we went past the hotel and large houses on the Sandbanks side of the Poole Harbour mouth. Old Harry Rock showed up brilliant white as we passed by and travelled out into the Channel.

I had lots of conversations with passengers up on deck about the wildlife of Poole Harbour, about MARINElife and what the organisation does, as well as what we might see on our crossing. It was particularly interesting to see both House Martin and Swallow heading south and flying low over the water. One passenger returning to Jersey said that yesterday there were 2,000 swallows recorded passing the observatory on the island.

Gannet Peter Howlett 042
Juvenile Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Approaching Ortac Rock near Alderney the number of Gannet increased, including a large number of this year's birds in their all dark plumage, though still with the elegant profile of the adult birds. The waters around the islands and rocks approaching Guernsey are quite turbulent with cross-currents, though you couldn't feel it on the ferry. The number and variety of gulls increased as we approached Guernsey, especially as there were a few small fishing boats around.

As we entered the harbour of St. Peter Port the ships officers skilfully manoeuvred the ferry into the dock and we were quickly tied up such that vehicles and passengers were soon disembarking.

Being my first time ashore in Guernsey I explored by walking the full length of the harbour to the aquarium and the military museum that are set into rock tunnels that were used for storage by German troops during World War II. They overlook the sea water swimming pools and have a view of the port and Castle Cornet. A Little Egret obviously found the area to be good for foraging also.

Castle Cornet from Clarence battery Kevin Waterfall
Castle Cornet and the bathing pools (Kevin Waterfall)

The return trip was equally sunny but a bit windier and so those passengers that stayed outside found the sheltered spot on the top deck. A lot of passengers had had a busy time ashore so were relaxing inside.

We didn't see any cetaceans or seals on this trip but talking with the crew they often do see them on the crossing. One passenger has a friend who takes boat trips out from the islands and can guarantee to see at least dolphins each time.

As we approached the Dorset Coastline the sea state dropped and we had a very smooth approach and a Great Skua accompanied us towards the harbour.

Many thanks to Condor Ferries, Captain Steve Crowe and the crew of Condor Liberation for welcoming me aboard and for their support of MARINElife.

MARINElife Wildlife Officer Report: Condor Ferries ‘Condor Liberation’ Poole-Jersey/Guernsey 5 September 2019

Posted 05 September 2019

MARINElife/Guernsey WLO Glynis Northwood-Long

Weather: Sunny with good visibility, sea state moderate, wind NW 5-6, 3-4 later.

Summary of sightings

Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Tern (sp.)

Terrestrial birds:
Little Egret
Carrion Crow
Feral pigeon

This wildlife trip was different to the others I had been on with MARINElife because this time the Liberation's route from Poole was direct to Jersey. As I was accompanied by my brother and his wife, we hoped that the longer journey would provide more opportunities of seeing cetaceans especially the Bottlenose Dolphin often seen around St Helier.

Once on the Liberation we made our way up to the viewing deck. I introduced myself to other passengers taking advantage of such a glorious morning out on deck. As we sailed through Poole Harbour, there weren't that many birds on Brownsea Island lagoon although a line of noisy Oystercatcher did fly past.

Poole harbour and Old Harry rock Glynis Northwood_Long 2019
Across Brownsea lagoon toward Old Harry rock (Glynis Northwood-Long)

As we left the harbour sailing out into Poole Bay, the sun highlighted Old Harry Rocks. This gave the passengers a great photo opportunity. Although it was a perfect day for sightings, apart from a flock of tern and a few Gannets, further seabirds were scarce.

Once the Liberation was tied up alongside in St Helier, I spotted a Herring Gull cheekily approaching passengers on deck and wondered if, coincidentally, it was the same juvenile gull that I had encountered in the same place when I did my last Poole-Jersey survey.

After the short leg from Jersey to Guernsey, passengers were up on the viewing deck and I continued to chat with my fellow passengers. Several were interested in finding out more about MARINElife and will hopefully be joining one of our ID courses next month. Ortac rock, just west of Alderney, was still home to several hundred Gannet, not as many as in the height of the breeding season but still a spectacular sight. Many were circling the rock and a few were flying effortlessly just above the viewing deck. After Ortac we also had a good view of the Casquets rock and lighthouse against the sunlit sea.

Casquests rock Glynis Northwood_Long 2019
Casquets rock and lighthouse (Glynis Northwood-Long)

For the remainder of the journey, further sightings were scarce and no cetaceans were seen. However, we were treated to a spectacular sunset before darkness fell and we approached the mainland.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and Captain Stephen Crowe and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife.