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

Seabirds:
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Gannet
Great Skua
European Shag
Cormorant
Tern sp.

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

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.