Portsmouth-Jersey

Recent Sightings

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Jersey-Portsmouth 9 August 2017

Posted 15 August 2017

Steve Boswell and Keith Morgan; Research Surveyors for MARINElifeWeather: Sea state 1-4, rain developing at 13:00, an increasing Northerly wind as the day progressed

Summary of Sightings
Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 205
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Shag Phalacrocorax arisotelis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 72

We boarded the Commodore Goodwill at 6pm for an overnight sail to Jersey and awoke the following morning bright and early for sunrise and a very enjoyable, large English breakfast! After breakfast, we had time to scan the harbour area before heading up on deck where we were greeted by bright sunshine but could see dark clouds and a large rainbow inland. A group of around 160 Oystercatcher were being pushed off the beach by the rising tide and a Sparrowhawk caused a large group of Sandwich Tern to rise from the four rafts they were resting on.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 01

Sandwich Tern (Peter Howlett)

As we left the Jersey harbour the weather out to sea was good with excellent visibility, the rain was on either side of us and we managed to escape it for the first five hours of the sail. Later in the day the sea state increased to a 4, and as the rain started to fall the visibility was considerably reduced.

Despite the rain, our bird sightings were steady throughout the day with Balearic and Manx Shearwater seen together resting on the sea's surface mid Channel. We also spotted a Great Skua sat pecking at a dead fish, totally ignoring the ship as it passed by very closely.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 01

Great Skua (Peter Howlett)

On this occasion, we did not observe any cetaceans and as the rain closed in we concluded our survey ahead of the entrance to Portsmouth harbour.  We thanked Captain Zelazny and his crew before heading down to the lorry deck to await our transport back to the terminal.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Jersey-Portsmouth 5 July 2017

Posted 09 July 2017

Steve Boswell and Keith Morgan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Good visibility and calm seas throughout the survey

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 9
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 273
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5
Common Scoter Malanitta nigra 18
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocehalus 2
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 2

We were met at Portsmouth Ferry Port and were escorted on board the Commodore Goodwill where we were allocated our cabins and given a large evening meal before retiring.

Up early the following morning it was possible to survey for one hour before reaching Jersey. Entering the bridge we were rewarded with a beautiful red sunrise and calm seas. A flock of 18 Common Scoter and a Manx Shearwater was seen amongst the usual sightings.

Common Scoter Rick Morris 01

Common Scoter (Rick Morris)

After breakfast we went on deck to view the harbour area before departure. 30 Swift flew around the castle and around 100 Oystercatcher were on the beach along with 2 Curlew and 2 Little Egret. 2 Mediterranean Gull were seen in the flock of other gulls and at least 30 Common Tern were feeding close by.

We made our way back up to the bridge for the 8.00 am return to Portsmouth. We soon began to see good numbers of Gannet which included an impressive sight of 60 flying low in V formation returning from a fishing trip.

Three hours out from Jersey we sighted a group of Shearwaters sat on the water directly ahead of the ship. As we approached they took off and flew with us for a few minutes. Fantastic views of 7 Balearic Shearwater with 1 Manx Shearwater with them giving a great opportunity to see the difference between the two species.

Balearic sw Joe Cockram

Balearic Shearwater (Joe Cockram)

2 Harbour Porpoise gave good close views as they slowly raised their bodies above the water and then slowly dived. Later, 2 Mediterranean Gull were sighted as we concluded our survey on our approach to Portsmouth and thanked Captain Zelazny and his crew before heading ashore at 16.30.

Steve Boswell and Keith Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Jersey-Portsmouth 7 June 2017

Posted 13 June 2017

Peter Howlett; Research Surveyor from MARINElife
Weather: Scattered clouds, wind W 5-7, backing SW 5-6, sea state 5-6, visibility good

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 42

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 55
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 8
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 169
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 40
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 6
Guillemot Uria aalge 3

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1

I had last undertaken a survey on the Portsmouth-Jersey route last June and on that occasion I had stepped in at the last moment after the scheduled team had to pull out. It was a case of déjà vu as this year the other member of the team for this survey had to pull out at short notice and so I would be doing this one by myself again. Fortunately this route lends itself to solo surveying with the survey only taking place on the north-bound leg which takes just eight hours. On the train from Cardiff to Portsmouth I received a call from Condor to tell me that due to the gales the previous day the Goodwill was going to be running a little late. The delay gave me time to find somewhere to eat in Southsea before heading to the ferry terminal to board the ship and I was soon settled in my cabin and getting an early night ready for a dawn start.

Early morning Brehon tower Peter Howlett

Early morning light over Brehon tower (Peter Howlett)

Dawn saw us approaching St Peter Port in Guernsey, with the sun rising over Herm. The stop in St Peter Port is fairly short and we sailed just before 6:30 and I was able to start surveying as soon as we had cleared the breakwater. There was still a strong westerly breeze blowing so if I was going to see any cetaceans they were going to have to come in close or be very demonstrative - you have to live in hope. There were birds in evidence though and a good number of Manx Shearwater and several Balearic Shearwaters were seen during the short hop to St Helier.

The bridge crew told me they had seen a pod of 40-50 dolphins just off the south coast of Jersey on the sailing the previous day (how many times have I heard that!) and that despite the 40 knot winds at the time. Sadly as we sailed between Corbiere and St Helier there was no sign of them.

The ship spends about two hours in St Helier, however, the raised view from the upper decks of the Commodore Goodwill mean you get a grand view to the south and west of Elizabeth Castle and St Aubin's Bay beyond so there is always something to see to while away the time. On this occasion, due to the delay in the schedule, I got to see the strange amphibious vehicles which take passengers to the castle as well as a couple of the ferries which operate day trips to and from St Malo in France. The most obvious birds were the non-breeding flock of Oystercatchers on the beach by the castle. A few pairs also breed and there was an almost constant background noise from their alarm calls as they defended their nests from marauding Magpies and gulls. The castle is also home to a few pairs of Common Tern and these could be seen flying to and fro a bit further out.

Elizabeth Castle ferry Peter Howlett

The Elizabeth Castle 'ferry' (Peter Howlett)

I was back on the bridge and ready to restart the survey as soon as we had cleared the Elizabeth Castle breakwater, eyes peeled for any sign of yesterday's dolphin pod. This time they didn't disappoint and 20 minutes after leaving St Helier we sailed into a dispersed group of Bottlenose Dolphins. Dispersed that is until they all started powering in towards the ship to bowride, it was difficult to keep track of the animals coming in as they came from all directions ahead of the ship with some putting on a good show with a few acrobatic leaps. They were only with us for a few minutes but there were at least 42 including several calves - what a great start to the return journey - they also happened to be in exactly the same area as the previous day.

BND Peter Howlett 21

Bottlenose Dolphin (Peter Howlett)

Unfortunately, this was to be the only cetacean sighting of the trip, not that I'm complaining when that sighting is 42 bowriding Bottlenose Dolphins. As we made our way north towards Cap de la Hague with Sark off to the west I was kept busy with more sightings of Manx and Balearic Shearwaters. With a global population of c. 4,000 breeding pairs the Balearic Shearwater is Europe's most endangered seabird and has been a target species for MARINElife for some years. The Channel and Bay of St Malo is an important area for them during the summer months so it was good to be recording a few. The Balearics really stand out from  Manx with their duskier underparts - very different to the clean white of the Manx - and their more flappy flight.

Balearic and Manx SW Peter Howlett 01

Balearic (left) and Manx Shearwater (right) Photos: Peter Howlett

I kept my eyes peeled hoping for a sighting of a Storm Petrel - our smallest seabird - I had hoped the strong winds might have pushed a few into the Bay of St Malo but sadly I couldn't find any. The most surprising sighting was of a Little Egret flying west low over the sea, looking very much like it would make landfall on Sark or Guernsey. Ringing recoveries have shown that these birds are not afraid of long sea crossings with sightings of British-bred birds as far afield as the Canaries.

As we passed through the narrow channel between Alderney and Cap de la Hague there was the customary burst of Gannet sightings as birds from the colonies around Alderney fly to and fro from feeding areas further up Channel. After that there were a few more sightings of Manx Shearwater on the southern side of the Channel but once past the traffic separation zone sightings became few and far between - as seems to always be the case.

Another very enjoyable survey on the Commodore Goodwill, the highlight definitely being the large pod of Bottlenose Dolphins but it was also good to see a reasonable number of Balearic Shearwaters. Many thanks to Captain Zelazny and his crew for the customary friendly welcome and to Condor Ferries for supporting the work of MARINElife.

Peter Howlett; Research Surveyor from MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Jersey-Portsmouth 19 May 2017

Posted 25 May 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Sea state 2-4, Winds W to SW force 4-5.  Weather dry and sunny with good visibility

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 6
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 4
Gannet  Morus bassanus 205
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 7
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 8
Guillemot  Uria aalge 6

It was cloudy as I travelled down to Portsmouth for the monthly survey. I was taken to the Commodore Goodwill by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and enjoyed a lovely dinner before heading to my cabin for the overnight crossing to Jersey.

Elizabeth Castle_Carol Farmer Wright

Elizabeth Castle (Carol Farmer-Wright)

I awoke to a clear and sunny day, had breakfast whilst we were docked in St. Helier and was then invited by Captain Pielich to make my way to the bridge to prepare for the survey. He advised me that a couple of cetaceans had been seen the previous day off Bembridge on the approach to Portsmouth Harbour.  I hoped that they still may be around when we returned to Portsmouth that afternoon.We waited in harbour until the Condor Rapide berthed and headed west towards Corbiere lighthouse. Sightings were slow and steady with a few Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gull. More Cormorant rested on the rocks around the coast taking in the early morning sun.As we headed towards the Cherbourg peninsular I started recording groups of Gannet flying in formation across our path, either leaving to forage or returning to the Gannetry's located on Les Etacs and Ortac rock to the west of Alderney.

Condor Rapide

Condor Rapide (Carol Farmer-Wright)

After lunch I resumed surveying as we entered the shipping lanes. In addition to Gannet, I was delighted to see four Manx Shearwater flying low across the waves and recorded a couple of Fulmar and an occasional Guillemot as we approached the Isle of Wight.

The highlight of the day occurred as we approached Ventnor. A large aggregation of 25 or more Gannet were seen circling and feeding relatively close to the shore. Ten minutes after this 2 Harbour Porpoise were recorded close to the ship, swimming slowly as we passed.

I left the bridge as we approached the busy shipping area of the Solent and prepared to leave the Commodore Goodwill.

My thanks go to Captain Wojciech Pielich, his officers and crew for making me feel so welcome aboard the Commodore Goodwill and the shore crew at Portsmouth for taking care of me whilst negotiating the port area.

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Jersey-Portsmouth 5 April 2017

Posted 28 April 2017

Steve Boswell and Keith Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind NE force 3 with excellent visibility throughout the trip

Summary of species recorded:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 8

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 127
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 7
Razorbill Alca torda 6
Auk sp.  12

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

We were escorted aboard the Commodore Goodwill where we were allocated our cabins and then enjoyed our evening meal before retiring.

After a large cooked breakfast we went on deck to see what birds were present in the harbour. We saw 2 Little Egret, a few Oystercatcher displaying loudly, 2 Great Black-backed Gull and 8 Brent Geese lingering before their journey to their breeding grounds.

BND Adrian Shephard 04a
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

We made our way to the bridge and met Captain Zelazny and his crew. The captain informed us that as the ship had entered the harbour at sunrise and he had seen a pod of dolphins. Sure enough 20 minutes after departing we had great views of 8 Bottlenose Dolphin which approached close to the bow.

Gannet were the most numerous bird seen on our route back to Portsmouth, all adults. Two Swallow swept passed the bridge nearly at the end of their long journey. A lovely adult Mediterranean Gull was seen in the entrance to Portsmouth harbour.

Med Gull Martin Gillingham 01a
Mediterranean Gull (Archive photo: Martin Gillingham)

We concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked the Captain and his crew for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 8 March 2017

Posted 25 March 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright and Emma Bell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Wind SW to WSW force 5-6. Visibility poor to moderate. Cloudy with rain or fog. Sea state 5-6 decreasing to 3 as we gained shelter from the Isle of Wight

Seabirds
Gannet  Morus bassanus 36          
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 3            
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 2            
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 4            
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 5            
Guillemot  Uria aalge 3            
Larus sp.              1            
Auk sp   4            

Terrestrial Birds
Passerine sp.       5

Emma and I met at Portsmouth Continental Ferry Terminal on Tuesday evening and were taken to the office to obtain our tickets and driven aboard the Commodore Goodwill. After eating a substantial dinner we chatted with the other passengers on board before heading to our cabins for the outward overnight crossing. This survey was to be slightly different as we headed straight for Jersey and went to Guernsey on the return leg as dawn broke.

LBB Gull Peter Howlett 08

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

We headed to the bridge as soon as we left St. Peter Port. It was raining and visibility was poor as we headed out into the English Channel. At first we sighted Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Bird sightings owing to reduced visibility were slow. Within an hour we were recording Gannet and Kittiwake as we travelled north. The majority of Gannet were adult birds and had moulted into summer plumage, their golden crown indicating that breeding would soon be taking place.

A solitary two year old Gannet was the only sub adult to be recorded on the survey. A few auk were seen, the visibility reducing our chance of positively recording the species involved. A brief glimpse of five small birds heading north suggested that spring was on its way, the flat light again stopped full identification being ascertained.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 07

Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

We concluded our survey as we approached the Bembridge ledges and thanked Captain Rad Zelazny, his officers and crew for their hospitality before heading ashore.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Emma Bell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 8 February 2017

Posted 14 February 2017

Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Overcast with occasional sunny spells, good visibility, sea state 3-5, north easterly wind force 4 then northerly force 3

Seabirds
Gannet  Morus bassanus 191
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull  Larus canus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 4
Guillemot  Uria aalge 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Auk sp. 4

Although I have made many trips with Condor Ferries and MARINElife as a Wildlife Officer, this was my first actual survey, so was a new experience, with Rick as my Team Leader.

On arrival at Portsmouth Ferry Terminal on Tuesday evening, we were greeted by the friendly staff of Condor Ferries and we were escorted aboard. After a delicious 3 course evening meal in the driver's mess, there was time for extra tuition as Rick went through the data entry forms for the survey the following day. We then retired to our respective cabins for the overnight crossing to Jersey.

Rick Surveying_Glynis NL

Surveying (Glynis Northwood-Long)

Next morning after a substantial breakfast, we went onto the bridge and spotted a Great Crested Grebe in the harbour before we departed Jersey. As we sailed away from the island we only saw a few Shag, Herring Gull and Cormorant, so I was broken into my first survey very gently.

However, we soon started to spot squadrons of Gannet, flying between Cap de la Hague and Alderney and over the following 15 minutes, more than 150 Gannet headed towards their gannetries on Ortac and les Etacs for the breeding season. I soon got the hang of filling out the survey forms, under the watchful eye of Rick.

Unfortunately, I missed out on seeing a solitary Great Skua, the pirate of the oceans, as it made an appearance whilst on my lunch break.

Corbiere Lighthouse_Rick Morris

La Corbiere (Rick Morris)

For the remainder of the journey, sightings of Gannet decreased with the occasional glimpse of a few Guillemot and Kittiwake. As we approached the Solent, we encountered various types of gull including Herring, Great Black-Backed, Common and Black Headed Gull.

Sadly we did not see any cetaceans and we concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth. We thanked Captain Rad Zelazny and his crew for their hospitality before heading ashore. We would like to thank Condor Ferries for their support of our surveys.

Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 25 January 2017

Posted 31 January 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright and Mallory Warrington; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Sea state 2-3, Winds SSW to SW force 2.  Weather dry with visibility good to moderate

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 6
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet  Morus bassanus 61
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Common Gull  Larus canus 1
Mediterranean Gull  Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 133
Guillemot  Uria aalge 164
Razorbill  Alca torda 4
Gull sp. 89

I met Mallory at Portsmouth International Ferry Terminal and we were taken to the Commodore Goodwill by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and had a lovely dinner as we left Portsmouth before heading to our cabin for the outward crossing overnight.

We woke as the ship was unloading at St. Helier and had a good breakfast before heading to the bridge to begin surveying.

The morning was clear and bright with light winds. As we headed west towards Corbiere lighthouse we recorded a few Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Many Cormorant rested on the rocks around the coast taking in the early morning sun.

As we headed north, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Gannet and Fulmar were the main species encountered. We passed Sark, 12 miles north of the Jersey coast, and encountered a large aggregation of gulls, Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot feeding over a large area. We looked for fins, but were unable to spot any.

Common Dolphin Adrian Shephard 03

Common Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

It was an hour later that we saw our first cetacean, a solitary Harbour Porpoise five miles from the Cherbourg peninsular.  Our second and final cetacean sighting occurred half an hour later. A gentle disturbance on the water straight ahead drew our attention, this proved to be a small group of Common Dolphin, including one juvenile which on waking, gathered speed to come into the ship to bow ride.

Guillemot Carol Farmer-Wright 02

Guillemot (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Bird sightings of Guillemot, Gannet and Kittiwake remained fairly constant throughout the return survey.

We concluded our survey by the Nab Tower and thanked Captain Pielich, his officers and crew for their hospitality before heading ashore.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Mallory Warrington, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 14 December 2016

Posted 18 December 2016

Steve Boswell; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind SE 3-4, sea state 3-4, good visibility with a slight swell.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Fulmar   Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet  Morus bassanus 55
Cormorant   Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag   Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Common Gull   Larus canus 16
Mediterranean Gull   Larus melanocephalus 5
Herring Gull   Larus argentatus 4
Great-Black backed Gull   Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla 73
Guillemot   Uria aalge 23
Razorbill   Alca torda 53
Auk sp.  35
Gull sp.  16

I was escorted aboard at 18.00 for the 19.30 departure to Jersey. I enjoyed a meal in the drivers café before retiring to my cabin.

Due to lack of daylight survey work can only be done on the homeward leg from Jersey. After a cooked breakfast I went on deck to see a large moon setting and the sun rising at the same time which was quite spectacular. It was high tide and there was quite a big wader roost on the rocks below Elizabeth Castle. This included 320 Oystercatchers, 45 Curlew, 63 Dunlin and a few Turnstone. Also 55 Dark-bellied Brent Geese flew in and landed in the harbour area and a Great Crested Grebe was an also seen.

Turnstone Adrian Shephard 03a
Turnstone (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

On returning inside the ship I was welcomed by Captain Pielich who said it was ok for me to enter the bridge before departure so I was ready to begin the survey as soon as we left St Helier.

Good numbers of auks were seen with Razorbill outnumbering Guillemot. Kittiwake became numerous as we headed towards open sea. As we travelled north towards Alderney Gannet became a more regular sight, all adult birds.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 10a
Gannet (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

Although no cetaceans were seen, I did have one amazing experience. I picked up a Kittiwake sat on the sea beside some food, I was watching it through the binoculars as the ship aproached it when suddenly a large shark surfaced, grabbed the food and swiftly disappeared!  Sadly the view was too brief to work out what sort of shark it was.

I concluded my survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries 'Commodore Goodwill' Portsmouth-Jersey 22nd – 23rd November 2016

Posted 01 December 2016

David Doxford adn Steve Boswell; Research Surveyors from MARINElife
Weather NW to E 2-5.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 16
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 30
Mediterranean Gull  Larus melanocephalus 1
Common Gull  Larus canus 13
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 33
Guillemot  Uria aalge 4
Razorbill  Alca torda 7
Auk sp 13
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 3

In St Helier before going 'on effort':
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea 2
Little Egret  Egretta garzetta 1
Rock Pipit  Anthus petrosus 1
Dunlin  Calidris alpina 50+
Great Black Backed Gull  Larus marinus 1

Steve and I boarded the ship early and we left Portsmouth bound for Guernsey at around 7:45pm.  Given the limited daylight at this time of year we could only survey on the return journey.  We watched from the deck as the bright lights of Portsmouth disappeared astern.  After a meal and a chat to the crew we took to our cabins as the ship sailed southwards through the night.  The ship visited Guernsey and then sailed on to Jersey while we slept.

Leaving Portsmouth_David Doxford

Leaving Portsmouth (David Doxford)

This survey fell in the lull between two storms.  Storm Angus had hit the UK on the 21st producing record winds in Guernsey (84mph) and giving rise to widespread flooding and damage across the South of England.  We were to find that it also seemed to have had an impact on the bird populations.

We emerged on deck at 07:30 the next morning, in St Helier, to find a bright and sunny day with almost perfect conditions for surveying.  As the Commodore Goodwill was still loading, Steve and I took advantage of our viewpoint to "get our eye in" spotting a large flock of Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Grey Heron and Great Black-backed Gull.  Steve also found a lone Rock Pipit flitting along the harbour wall.  The rocks around Elizabeth Castle seemed to be especially attractive for waders.

We made our way to the bridge and started the survey immediately on departure at 08:29.  Bird sightings started with a mix of Cormorant, Shag, Herring Gull and auk species.  Fast moving auks were to prove an identification challenge throughout the day.

Elizabeth Castle_David Doxford

Elizabeth Castle (David Doxford)

Forty minutes into the trip, as we approached Guernsey, we had our sole cetacean sighting of the survey.  Steve saw a Harbour Porpoise surface briefly on our bow and then disappear down the port side.  As is often the case with this species, it made a rapid exit.

As we headed into Alderney Race the wind rose and we saw the occasional Gannet crossing between Alderney and the French coast.  Our visits to the open bridge wing (one of my favourite aspects of the Commodore Goodwill) became shorter and less frequent and we conducted most of our survey from the nice warm bridge!  North of the race we had a period of seeing nothing but Kittiwake; these tough little birds seemed to have come through Storm Angus unscathed.  In fact Kittiwake made up a quarter of our bird sightings for the survey.

Sunset Isle of Wight_David Doxford

Sunset off Isle of Wight (David Doxford)

Sightings fell off in mid-Channel but picked up again as we approached the Isle of Wight.  As we passed Sandown Bay we picked up a bevy of Common Gull who slipstreamed the ferry for several miles.

The tide had given us a good push northwards so we arrived slightly early, just as the sun was setting.  We concluded the survey off Gunwharf Quay and thanked Captain Zelazny and his crew for their hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries 'Commodore Goodwill' Portsmouth-Jersey 25th – 26th October 2016

Posted 27 October 2016

Survey cancelled for operational reasons

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries 'Commodore Goodwill' Portsmouth-Jersey 28th – 29th September 2016

Posted 12 October 2016

Peter Jones, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Weather: Overcast initially with a strong SW wind and a couple of showers. This later cleared for brighter conditions. Sea state remained at 4-5 throughout the day with a noticeable swell.

Species Recorded

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 53
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus Fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Common tern Sterna Hirundo 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Petrel Sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
House Martin Delichon urbica 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 51
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 3

I was rapidly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and promptly left Portsmouth for the overnight outward crossing.

After a hearty breakfast whilst in dock in Jersey, I was invited to the bridge, and began the survey in very overcast conditions. I got off to a good start as a Manx Shearwater weaved past the ship for the first bird of the day. This was followed by a steady trickle of single Gannet, and a Sandwich Tern.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 03

Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

A probable Storm Petrel was just too far to confirm, but other birds were passing quite close: a small flock of Common Tern, and a couple of flocks of Swallow heading south, plus a Meadow Pipit.

Swallow Adrian Shephard

Swallow (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

Late morning, and 2 Sooty Shearwater were a highlight, and straight after lunch 4 tiny black dots on the sea eventually drifted close enough to identify as Storm Petrel as they took flight.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 03

Sooty Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

More groups of Swallow flew south with a single House Martin amongst them. The only Guillemot of the day was seen on the sea south of the Isle of Wight, and this was soon followed by two Razorbill flying past. 

Finally on the approach to the Solent, a smart Adult Winter Mediterranean Gull took flight and circled in front of the ship, providing a nice end to the survey. 

After thanking the crew, I left the ship at Portsmouth

Peter Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

(Registered Charity No. 1110884)

 

 

 

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (23rd – 24th August 2016)

Posted 01 September 2016

David Doxford; Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Weather: Light north-westerly winds, slight seas and a <1m swell. A slight heat haze built up through the day which reduced the visibility to 11-12km by the afternoon.  Cloud cover was 25-50% and mainly high and thin.

Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 31
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 33
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Larus sp 25

We left Portsmouth on time at 7:30pm allowing a short survey period before sunset.  Captain Roger Thomson welcomed me to the bridge and I admired the deft ship-handling necessary to thread through the large number of recreational craft criss-crossing the Solent.  I then took to my cabin as we ploughed southwards through the night.

Sunset_David Doxford

Sunset (David Doxford)

The next morning saw us departing Jersey on a bright and sunny day with almost perfect conditions for surveying. Just after we passed Elizabeth Castle there was a large splash off the port bow.  The bridge crew then helped me spot a group of five Bottlenose Dolphin which appeared from three different directions.  They enjoyed a brief bow ride before departing as quickly as they had come.

Interestingly one of them was distinctly spotted in appearance. They also boasted a juvenile amongst their number - always good to see as it shows that they are thriving and able to breed.

BND Adrian Shephard 04

Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive Photo: Adrian Shephard)

This turned out to be the hottest day of the year and I was pleased that the Commodore Goodwill had an open bridge wing so that I could 'take the breeze' whilst surveying.

Bird sightings peaked in the Alderney Race - this is a kind of Gannet M4 with busy groups of birds flying East-West between their fishing grounds off the French coast and their colony on Les Etacs.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 07

Gannet (Archive Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

North of the Race there were very few sightings until we approached the Isle of Wight where the usual assemblage of gulls greeted us.

As we neared our destination a Spitfire flew low over the ship before peeling off to head east along the coast.  An unusual addition to the log!

I concluded the survey off Gunwharf Quay and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

David Doxford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (19th – 20th July 2016)

Posted 31 July 2016

Julie Hatcher and Jo Collins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Wind W, sea state 4 decreasing to 3, visibility poor to begin with but clear later.

Species Recorded

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 14
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 130
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Gull sp. 6

Terrestrial birds
Swift Apus apus 3

Off-survey sightings in St Helier
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 114
Curlew Numenius arquata 29
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 230
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 34

We were rapidly checked in at Portsmouth International Ferry Terminal and immediately escorted to the Commodore Goodwill by the friendly Condor Ferries staff. We were allocated our cabins and, once settled in, with insufficient time to survey on the outward journey, we watched some of the birdlife in the port whilst departing Portsmouth. We enjoyed our evening meal and then headed to our cabins for the overnight crossing.

Gannet Thomas Fisher 01

Gannet (Archieve Photo: Thomas Fisher)

The vessel arrived at Guernsey in the very early hours. It was a little too early to get up and head to the bridge!  The onward journey took us to Jersey for an arrival just before 06:00. We had a leisurely breakfast and headed to the bridge for the 08:00 departure.  There were many seabirds in the port with Oystercatcher, Swift, terns and gulls already busy looking for food.

After waiting for other vessel traffic to move we headed into the Channel for the return crossing. Once we had passed the islands and headed out to the shipping channel, bird sightings dropped although we did record many sightings of Gannet in groups flying in both directions; to and from their colony.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 12

Manx Shearwater (Archieve Photo: Peter Howlett)

Surprisingly two juvenile gulls were recorded mid-channel. Later on we saw three Swift fly past heading south, which we thought seemed very early. We were happy to be able to record small groups of Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. After that we recorded individual birds rather than groups. As we passed the Isle of Wight, Julie spotted a Gannet on the water feeding on a fish.

Surprisingly two juvenile gulls were recorded mid-channel. Later on we saw three Swift fly past heading south, which we thought seemed very early. We were happy to be able to record small groups of Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. After that we recorded individual birds rather than groups. As we passed the Isle of Wight, Julie spotted a Gannet on the water feeding on a fish.

Herring Gull, Jo Collins

Herring Gull, Jo Collins

We were very surprised to see a lot of insect life including quite a few different butterflies and an occasional bee. Even a ladybird turned up but it could have been on the bridge before we set out to sea. This was a warm and very enjoyable trip with a lot of the surveying being done in the afternoon from the outdoor wing of the bridge.

We concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked Captain Wojciech Pielich and his staff for their kind hospitality before heading ashore.

 

Julie Hatcher and Jo Collins, Research Surveyers for Marinelife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth - Jersey (16th-17th June 2016)

Posted 21 June 2016

Peter Howlett, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Weather: Wind NW-W 3 dec. 2, sea state 3-2, visibility good.

Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 5

Seabirds
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 152
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 72
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 30
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 19
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 13
Auk sp.  2

Terrestrial Birds
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 1

The train journey from Cardiff to Portsmouth seemed like a familiar commute as this was my third survey on this route in four months. We departed on time and, after what seemed like a very short time, arrived in St Peter Port in the early hours of the morning. With it being mid-June it was light enough to get on the bridge and begin the survey shortly after departing St Peter Port at 04:45. Recording the steady trickle of Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull and occasional Gannet kept me occupied.

The reward for the early start came at 05:35 when we were just 15 minutes and 6.5km from St Helier. Three Bottlenose Dolphin appeared a few hundred metres dead ahead of the ship and rapidly disappeared out of sight under the bow; a brief but very welcome sight. The officers on the Goodwill tell me they see dolphins near St Helier on a regular basis but this was the first time in five surveys on this route that I had caught up with them.

BND Peter Howlett 09
Bottlenose Dolphin near St Helier harbour (Photo: Peter Howlett)

The ship spends two hours in St Helier and I usually while away some of the time birding from the top deck. In between photographing gulls drifting past I glimpsed a dorsal fin breaking the surface about 500m away near an outer breakwater. Surely the Bottlenose Dolphin could not be in that close? They were indeed and there were two of them! Over the course of the next 10 minutes or so they gradually worked their way in towards the harbour entrance and at one point were in the harbour ahead of the ship. After that they drifted further out and I eventually lost sight of them as they headed off back out to sea.

I returned to the bridge in time for departure and recommenced the survey once we were clear of the outer breakwater. Captain Pielich told me that for a change the route back would take us around the east side of Jersey and closer in to the French coast. Apparently this is a pretty rare event and undertaken to maintain the Captain's familiarity with the easterly route. The route certainly had the potential to be interesting as the shallower waters of the Bay of St Malo can be home to many Balearic Shearwater in the summer months. Unfortunately June must have been too early for them as it turned out to be very quiet with no shearwaters. The only burst of activity came when we passed close to the mass of rocky islets that make up the Écréhous off the northeast corner of Jersey, where there were a few Shag and Cormorant flying to and from the reef.

As we passed Cap de la Hague there was the usual flurry of Gannet as birds from the Alderney colonies on Ortac and Les Etacs fly up to the northeast to feed. A scattered group of 10 Manx Shearwater added momentary interest. Unfortunately, once into the Channel proper, there was very little bird activity, as seems to be usual for this survey.

Chiffchaff Peter Howlett 01
Belgian-ringed Chiffchaff onboard the Commodore Goodwill mid-Channel (Photo: Peter Howlett)

Just over 40km NNE of Cap de la Hague - virtually mid-Channel - my scanning of the empty sea was interrupted by the appearance of a Chiffchaff on the rail outside the bridge window, less than a metre away from me. I barely had time to register the bird and realise it was ringed before it flitted away and down towards the foredeck and out of sight. When a bird weighing in at a mere 10-11g suddenly pitches up on a ship miles from anywhere it really does emphasise the perilous nature of the journey they make between West Africa (most likely the case for this Chiffchaff) and northern Europe. Half an hour later it suddenly appeared again on the bridge wing outside and I managed to rattle off a few photos. On closer scrutiny it seems this bird was ringed in Belgium but, unfortunately, I was unable to get the full ring number. Goodness knows what it was doing flying across the Channel in mid-June, it really should be nesting somewhere.

As we closed in on the Isle of Wight bird sightings increased ever so slightly with a few Gannet and a handful of auks. Amongst the Gannet were a couple of first summer birds looking a bit faded and bleached after spending the winter in southern Biscay or off the coast of West Africa.

Gannet Peter Howlett 24
Adult and 1st summer Gannet (Photos: Peter Howlett)

A fairly quiet but very enjoyable survey enlivened by the Bottlenose Dolphin and the ringed Chiffchaff. Many thanks to Captain Pielich and the crew of the Commodore Goodwill for the customary friendly welcome and to Condor Ferries for supporting the work of MARINElife.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (24-25th May 2016)

Posted 31 May 2016

Peter Howlett and Steve Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather: Excellent visibility, wind NE force 4-5 dec. 2-3, sea state 5 dec. 2-3

Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena  phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 98
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 5
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 15

Terrestrial Birds
Swift Apus apus 4

After being escorted aboard the Commodore Goodwill for the 19.30 departure to Jersey, we enjoyed a three-course meal before retiring to our cabins ready for an early start the following morning.

With an early sunrise at this time of year we were on the bridge at 05:00 where we were welcomed by Captain Zelazny and his crew. This early start enabled us to survey part of the journey between Guernsey and Jersey, something we can only do for a few months each year. The approach to Jersey produced sightings of Herring Gull, Shag, Fulmar, Gannet, Manx Shearwater and three Swift that were either late migrants or birds feeding out at sea from Jersey.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 16

Manx Shearwater, Photo by Peter Howlett

We enjoyed a cooked breakfast whilst docked in Jersey and whiled away some of the time watching the resident Rock Pipit, Oystercatcher and Shag from the top deck. We returned to the bridge for departure and recommenced the survey as soon as we passed the Elizabeth Castle breakwater.

Sightings were a bit sparse with just the occasional Great Black-backed Gull, Gannet and Shag to record. The only cetacean sighting of the trip happened through chance. Two Herring Gull were sitting on the sea and it was while scrutinizing them to see what age they were that a Harbour Porpoise surfaced right alongside one of the birds. Otherwise the sea conditions were a little choppy for trying to spot cetaceans.

We had the usual rush of Gannet as we passed Cap de la Hague but, as soon as we were into the Channel, bird sightings were few and far between. The highlight as we headed northeast across the Channel was a superb adult Gannet which spent 25 minutes flying effortlessly just in front of the bridge giving us excellent views.

Gannet Peter Howlett 23

Gannet playing in the updraft by the bridge (Photo: Peter Howlett)

As we approached Portsmouth we concluded the survey but nevertheless kept an eye on the birds around us and we were treated to a fly past by a cracking adult Mediterranean Gull.

Thanking Captain Zelazny we then headed ashore on time at 16.30.

Med and BH Gull Peter Howlett

Adult Black-headed Mediterranean Gulls (Photos and: Peter Howlett)

 

Peter Howlett and Steve Boswell Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

Portsmouth to Jersey, April 2016

Posted 30 May 2016

No survey planned this month for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (23rd March 2016)

Posted 30 March 2016

Peter Howlett and Keith Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather: Wind mainly NW force 2 or less, sea state 2 or less, hazy sunshine, clouding over late afternoon.

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 202
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Guillemot Uria aalge 38
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 10
Shearwater sp. 2
Auk sp. 61

Terrestrial birds
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 32

Off-survey sightings in St Helier
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 114
Curlew Numenius arquata 29
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 230
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 34

Weather forecasts were suggesting we would have light winds and sunshine for the day of the survey so hopes were high that this would be a good one.  Things got off to a good start with lovely clear, moonlit skies on the evening departure from Portsmouth, showing the Spinnaker Tower and Portsmouth skyline off to good effect. The light winds and calm seas also made for a very smooth crossing to Jersey.

Portsmouth night Peter Howlett

Portsmouth skyline by night (Peter Howlett)

Dawn saw us just outside St Helier and conditions were still excellent with hazy sunshine and very light winds. The turnaround in St Helier gave time to look out for wildlife from the top deck of the ship, with the nearby Elizabeth Castle always worth scrutinizing. On this occasion the highlight was a winter-plumaged Great Northern Diver and 114 Brent Geese with a fly by Grey Plover adding to the wader diversity.

We made our way to the bridge just as we departed and were welcomed by Captain Zelazny and the deck officers. Conditions were excellent with barely a breath of wind and flat calm seas - surely we would be able to see Harbour Porpoise in these conditions? Things got off to a good start with a nice adult Mediterranean Gull doing a flypast in front of the bridge and we did not have to wait too long for the first cetacean sighting - a Harbour Porpoise off to port.

The Commodore Goodwill makes a great survey platform for many reasons, she is quite small so you are closer to the sea than on bigger vessels and she is not too fast, normally about 17 knots. However, when you have a sunny day with light winds the thing that really sets the Goodwill apart are the open bridge wings. You cannot beat being able to stand outside and feel the warmth from the sun while surveying. It also allows you to use a sense denied you when inside: sound. With spring migration underway there was a steady trickle of Meadow Pipit and the occasional Pied Wagtail going past on their way across the Channel to the UK and it was great to be able to hear their calls as they flitted past.

Pipit and Wagtail Peter Howlett 01

Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit on migration across the Channel (Peter Howlett)

Halfway between Jersey and Cap de la Hague two shearwaters were picked up in the distance to starboard. Unfortunately they were too far off and silhouetted by the morning sun for us to be sure of their identity but the way they were flying suggested Balearic Shearwater. Just south of Cap del Hague we had our best, although very brief, cetacean sighting with three Harbour Porpoise surfacing just ahead of the ship. A first-winter Mediterranean Gull, marking the spot where they were, added to the occasion.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 19

Harbour Porpoise surfacing just ahead of the ship (Peter Howlett)

The deck officers had been telling us about the many Gannet and a sighting of dolphins they had near Cap de la Hague a few days previously but today there were very few Gannet to the east of Alderney and no dolphins either. It was quite clear from the long lines of Gannet flying across from the east that they were all feeding well away from the island.

Once to the north of Cap de la Hague the seabird sightings dropped with only the odd group of auks sitting on the sea to keep us occupied. It was quite frustrating to be travelling across a calm sea and not be able to see any porpoises.

As we moved north the bird sightings dwindled still further and we called a halt to the survey as we entered the navigation channel southeast of the Isle of Wight. This is always an enjoyable route to survey and it will be good to be back again in May - hopefully in similar conditions!

Our thanks to Captain Zelazny and his crew for the warm welcome on board and to Condor for their continued support for MARINElife.

Med Gull Peter Howlett 01

First-winter Mediterranean Gull (Peter Howlett)

 

Peter Howlett and Keith Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (10 February 2016)

Posted 25 February 2016

Maggie Gamble and Jess Grimbley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: North-westerly wind force 4-7. Significant swell but good visibility.

Species Recorded

Seabirds

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Gannet Morus bassanus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 21
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 20
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Auk sp. 7

 

We departed Jersey at 10am, surveying on the way to Guernsey and then, again, on the return to Portsmouth. Due to some stormy weather prior to this survey, which seemed to blow all the birds away, this was a quiet journey with a few Gannet, Kittiwake and auks to entertain us.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 07

Guillemot (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We would like to thank the Condor staff and the Captain of the Commodore Goodwill for their help and warm welcome.

Herring Gull Graham Ekins 05

Herring Gull (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

 

Maggie Gamble and Jess Grimbley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (January 2016)

Posted 11 January 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of the prediction of bad weather conditions at sea.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 17 - 18 December 2015

Posted 02 January 2016

Peter Jones and Mark Beeston, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: South-westerly wind force 4-5. Significant swell, but good visibility.

Summary of sightings
Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 18
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 18
Common Gull Larus canus 17
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Little Gull Larus minutus 2
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 36
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Gull sp. 50

We were rapidly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff and on leaving Portsmouth were treated to a fine meal before heading to our cabins for the outward crossing overnight.

The ship was docked in Jersey as we awoke, and we were invited to the bridge for the survey which commenced on departure from Jersey in fairly overcast conditions.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 09

Gannet (Adrian Shephard)

A winter plumage Mediterranean Gull was seen close to the harbour along with several Shag and Guillemot.

As we headed further out to sea, more Guillemot were seen with a few Kittiwake, Gannet, and Razorbill. An hour into the survey, the only cetacean of the trip was spotted: A Harbour Porpoise seen briefly.

Two winter plumage Little Gull were a nice sight, and as we headed towards the Isle of Wight, with gulls dominating the sightings including Mediterranean Gull and Common Gull amongst the larger number of Herring Gull.

Herring Gull Winter Adrian Shephard 04

Herring Gull (Adrian Shephard)

We concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

 


Peter Jones and Mark Beeston, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey November 2015

Posted 30 November 2015

The survey for this month was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey October 2015

Posted 30 October 2015

The survey for this month was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth-Jersey (15th September 2015)

Posted 23 September 2015

Peter Howlett and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather: Wind SW 5, sunny spells but cloud increasing with occasional light showers later.

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 3
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 41
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 110
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 20
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 23
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2

Mike and I met up at Portsmouth shortly after 5pm and were taken promptly to the Commodore Goodwill by the Condor Ferries staff. The food was up to the usual high standard on the Goodwill with an excellent variety of main course and desserts to choose from in the three-course supper.

Balearic SW Peter Howlett 01

Balearic Shearwater, one of the 41 recorded (Peter Howlett)

At this time of year the ship docks in St Helier, Jersey just after sunrise so surveying is only undertaken on the return leg from Jersey to Portsmouth. This makes for a leisurely start and yet more food, in the form of a cooked breakfast. It was a lovely, sunny, if somewhat breezy, morning. Hopes were high that the winds might have pushed some interesting seabirds into the Channel.

As soon as we had cleared St Helier breakwater we were allowed on to the bridge where we were welcomed by Captain Rad Zelazny and we quickly set up the paperwork to get the survey underway. The great thing about the Commodore Goodwill is that she has open bridge wings and with a following wind (meaning the force 5 wind was reduced to a gentle breeze on the wing) and some warm sunshine it was a pleasure to be able to stand outside to survey for the first few hours.

Things got off to a slow start, with just a handful of Shag passing, but soon picked up once we were north of Jersey and continued until we passed Cap de la Hague. A steady stream of Balearic Shearwater sightings was the highlight, with 41 recorded in all. The seas along the northwest coast of France are a major feeding and moulting area in late summer for this critically endangered species - the world population is a mere 3,000 breeding pairs - so it is always good to record this species on a survey.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 03

Sandwich Tern (Peter Howlett)

It was also great to pick up three Storm Petrel among the Shearwater. Gannet numbers picked up as we neared Alderney and its associated colonies. Sandwich Tern were also a feature of the morning with a steady trickle passing us heading south. Our only cetacean sighting, two Harbour Porpoise, were seen just south of Cap de la Hague.

There was a very noticeable change once we were north of Cap de la Hague when the seabird sightings dried up almost completely. Unfortunately it seems the strong winds overnight had cleared everything out and only a handful of birds were seen across the central area of the Channel. Still all data is useful, even when it is negative. It was not until we neared the Isle of Wight that we picked up a few more Sandwich Tern, with small numbers fishing in the tide race off Sandown Bay. The survey finished just as we turned north at the east end of the Isle of Wight.

Our thanks to Captain Zelazny and his crew for the warm welcome on board and to Condor for their continued support for MARINElife.

 

Peter Howlett and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife


MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 17-18 August 2015

Posted 19 August 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey July 2015

Posted 30 July 2015

The survey for this month was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 30 June 2015

Posted 14 July 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Weather: Moderate north-northeasterly winds, sea state 2-4 sunny.

Summary of sightings

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 46
Gannet Morus bassanus 294
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 51
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 20
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Shearwater sp. 3

I arrived at Portsmouth shortly before 5pm and was taken to the Commodore Goodwill by the Condor Ferries staff. Once on board, Captain Roger Thomson welcomed me to the ship and I made arrangements with him to join the officers on the bridge at dawn the following morning. The ship sailed shortly after 7.30pm and I watched the sun set over the Isle of Wight before retiring to bed.

Sunrise the following morning was just after 5.00 a.m. By that time the ship was midway between Guernsey and Jersey. As the day brightened I began recording Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. Later a group of 20 Manx Shearwater were seen gliding across the sea in front of the ship, each looking for food to take back home to their growing offspring. I left the bridge as the ship neared Elizabeth Castle and went downstairs for an excellent breakfast whilst the ship was docked.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 04b

Gannet (Photo by Carol Farmer-Wright)

On the return journey as the ship rounded Corbiere a fishing vessel appeared accompanied by more than 100 Gannet that were taking advantage of fishermen cleaning their catch. Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were also seen around the Jersey coast together with the occasional Manx Shearwater and Cormorant. As we left Jersey behind, the number of Gannet steadily increased as we neared Alderney. A brief glimpse of three Mediterranean Gull broke the continued Gannet sightings that began to tail off as the ship travelled further into the English Channel.

Whilst on board I spoke with officers Andy and Gerard. They told me that they had seen a whale in mid-Channel less than a week earlier, from the description it sounded like a Humpback Whale. Sadly for me the whale was not to be seen on this survey.

As the ship approached the Isle of Wight a solitary Fulmar was seen, the only one recorded this trip. I left the bridge as we approached Culver Cliff and thanked Captain Thomson, his officers and crew for a very enjoyable survey.

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife survey report: Portsmouth-Jersey 11-12 May 2015

Posted 14 May 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth – Jersey (14th April 2015)

Posted 22 April 2015

Steve Morgan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Sea state: mostly 1-2. Wind: very light Southerly

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10
Unidentified seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 224
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 22
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 40
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 72
Razorbill Alca torda 10
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Unidentified auk sp.  43
Unidentified gull sp. 140
Unidentified diver sp. 4

Terrestrial Birds
Unidentified passerines (at sea) 6

I awoke before dawn on the day of the survey to find myself in St Helier about forty-five minutes before our scheduled departure time and with the first hint of light in the east. Dawn coincided with our departure and I was invited up onto the bridge just as we left the harbour. A mist hung low over the sea though the weather forecast assured us that it would soon burn off. The sea itself was flat calm, which boded well for observing cetaceans.

Gannet Thomas Fisher 01

Gannet (Thomas Fisher)

Things were very quiet on our initial two-hour leg to Guernsey. Birds were scarce except for a few Gannet, small numbers of gulls and two Red-throated Diver. At Guernsey I took the opportunity to have a sumptuous breakfast in readiness for the long crossing of the English Channel.It was not until we had swung east of Alderney that things began to liven up. First I spotted a very distant Harbour Porpoise, a couple of surfaces at around a thousand metres that severely tested my eyesight! Then, half an hour later and this time at much closer range, a second Harbour Porpoise that initially had me wondering what I was looking at. There was an indistinct grey object lying on the surface at about 250 metres that I assumed was either a seal resting on its back or simply a piece of debris. Then it righted itself and rolled forwards revealing a small stubby black dorsal fin. It was a Harbour Porpoise which had been "logging" on the surface and which, on our imminent approach, had woken up. I have seen other cetaceans log in this way but very seldom porpoises.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 02

Harbour Porpoise (Rick Morris)

More Harbour Porpoise followed in mid-Channel, including a nice group of three animals who made a series of perfectly synchronised surfaces. I also came across a seal wrestling with an enormous fish. Its meal was almost as long as itself and the long, slender body suggested it might be a Conger or a Ling. The seal was totally engrossed in ripping huge mouthfuls of flesh from it and seemed oblivious to the fact that we were rapidly bearing down on it! At the last moment it abandoned its prize and swam to port. Whether it was a Common or a Grey Seal was hard to tell; most of its features were obscured by the colossal fish it was trying to devour.

There were good numbers of auks in the Channel, mostly Guillemots, and, later in the afternoon, two Sandwich Tern flew past. But the most impressive result on the bird front was the very large numbers of Gannet. I saw several big groups heading westwards towards the northern tip of Alderney, one cohort containing fifty or so birds. Presumably they were off to visit an area of high fish concentrations. There were also a number of passerines, all going eastwards towards France, probably migrants which had flown northwards across Spain and now found themselves unintentionally out at sea.

As we finally neared the Isle of Wight activity declined. The occasional Gannet could still be seen but all cetacean activity had ceased which is hardly a surprise given the busy shipping lanes that criss-cross the whole area to the east of the island and the Solent. In Portsmouth there were a few Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull. I also recorded three Kittiwake, the only ones of the trip.

It had been a very productive day with flat seas and blue skies. The early mist had slowly dissipated, as the forecast had promised, and consequently conditions had been near perfect. My thanks go to Captain Thompson and his crew who could not have been more helpful and to the other staff on board who provided superb service and some excellent meals.

Steve Morgan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey March 2015

Posted 30 March 2015

The survey for this month was cancelled for operational reasons.

Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth – Jersey (3rd February 2015)

Posted 09 February 2015

Peter Jones and Sean Graham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather: Good visibility throughout, with a sea state of 3-4, and very little swell.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) 1 plus 2 probable

Seabirds
Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) 1
Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) 2
Red-throated Diver (Gavia Stellata) 6
Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) 3
Gannet (Morus bassanus) 98
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) 22
Great Skua (Stercorarius skua) 2
Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) 1
Common Gull (Larus canus) 46
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) 3
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 4
Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) 79
Guillemot (Uria aalge)144
Razorbill (Alca torda) 2
Auk sp.  11
Gull sp. 1

We met at the ferry terminal in Portsmouth and were speedily escorted onto the ship. After a very nice meal, we headed to our cabins for the overnight crossing to Jersey.

After breakfast the following morning, we were invited onto the Bridge and began our survey as we departed Jersey in reasonably calm conditions.

Initial sightings close to the coast were dominated by Shag, Common Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Once we headed further out to sea sightings included Fulmar, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill, our first Gannet sighting of the day and a single male Common Scoter.

Shag Graham Ekins 02

Shag (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

Guillemot, Kittiwake, and Gannet continued to dominate the sightings with nice views of six winter plumaged Red-throated Diver.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 04

Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A Harbour Porpoise was seen very briefly as it surfaced right in front of the ship and, an hour later, another brief sighting of two animals which were probably Harbour Porpoise.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15

Harbour porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Bird sightings continued with a Great Skua, and a sizeable raft of Guillemot and Kittiwake which were being harassed by a second Great Skua.

We approached the Isle of Wight with further sightings of Kittiwake, Gannet and Guillemot, before our final highlight of two Black-throated Diver, and a flock of 29 Common Gull

We concluded our survey on arrival back in Portsmouth and thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading ashore.

 

Peter Jones and Sean Graham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth – Jersey (27th January 2015)

Posted 07 February 2015

Julia Benson and Hannah Ramsey-Smith, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather: Cloudy with some sunshine and good visibility. Westerly wind, force 2-5 and sea state 2-5.

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 40
Razorbill Alca torda 11
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 38
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 9
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Auk sp. 49
Gull sp. 6
Tern sp. 1

We were welcomed onto the ship and made our way to the drivers' lounge. As it was too dark to survey we had time to relax, have a delicious meal and retire to our cabins for the overnight crossing to Guernsey and Jersey.

The following morning, after a good breakfast, we were shown to the bridge where we were warmly welcomed by Captain Rad Zelazny and his crew. They were very helpful and friendly, showing us where we could obtain the data necessary for completing our data sheets. We departed from Jersey just after 9am and began our survey. Our first sightings were of a Great Black-backed Gull and a Cormorant.

Cormorant Adrian Shephard 03

Cormorant (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

Throughout the surveying period we saw many small groups of Guillemot and Razorbill, and the occasional Gannet with a few of them actively feeding.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 05

Guillemot (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We also saw Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull and Mediterranean Gull. As we approached the Isle of Wight, a Great Crested Grebe crossed our path ahead of the ship, later followed by two groups of four and another individual.

Med Gull Mike Bamford 01

Mediterranean Gull (Archive photo: Mike Bamford)

As we approached Nab Tower we concluded our survey. It was a very enjoyable trip with good sea conditions and a very friendly crew. Thank you to Captain Rad Zelazny and his crew.

 

Julia Benson and Hannah Ramsey-Smith, Research Surveyors for MARINElife


MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill)

Posted 21 December 2014

Nick Adams and Jessica Mead, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: NW 2-3, mostly cloudy but dry, affording good viewing.

Species Sighted

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 22
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 26
Guillemot Uria aalge 8
Auk sp 1

Terrestrial Birds (In Jersey Harbour)
Brent goose Branta bernicla 85
Dunlin Calidris alpina 125
Knot Calidris canutus 20
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 200
Rock pipit Anthus petrosus 2
Pied wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Curlew Numenius arquata 5
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 3

We were rapidly escorted aboard by the friendly Condor Ferries staff who had also phoned us before boarding to check that we knew what time the evening meal was: what fantastic service! We left Portsmouth and, after our meal, headed to our cabins for the outward crossing overnight.

We arrived in Jersey just before sunrise which gave us the opportunity to check the harbour for waders. We were in luck as the tide was rising fast which meant the birds were heading to their high tide roost sites. We saw Dunlin, Knot, Turnstone and Curlew.

Cormorant Nick Adams

Cormorant (Photo: Nick Adams)

We headed to the bridge as the ship prepared to leave the harbour and were immediately greeted by Shag in the harbour entrance as well as a number of Herring and Great Black-backed Gull. We had our only cetacean sighting soon after of a group of three Harbour Porpoise.

Herring Gull Nick Adams

Herring Gull (Photo: Nick Adams)

Bird sightings continued at a steady pace for the rest of the crossing to Portsmouth with an immature Arctic Skua chasing a Kittiwake being the highlight. We saw a couple of snowy-white adult winter Mediterranean Gull and decent numbers of Kittiwake and Gannet.

We concluded our survey as we approach the Isle of Wight. We would like to thank the captain and his crew and staff for their hospitality and help during our survey.

Nick Adams and Jessica Mead, Research Surveyors for MARINElife


MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth – Jersey (24th November 2014)

Posted 03 December 2014

Adrian Shephard and Kevin Bainbridge, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather

Overcast and mostly raining, occasionally clearing to improve visibility from poor to moderate.  East to East North Easterly wind force 2-6 and sea state 2-4.

Species

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 7
Gannet  Morus bassanus 19
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 84
Guillemot Urea aalge 14
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Puffin Fratercula artica 2
Auk sp. 9
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Artic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 26
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 13
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 37
Greylag Goose Anser anser 21
Goose Sp. 4
Dunlin Calidris alpina 150+

Terrestrial Birds
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 2
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis 1
Blackbird Turdus merula 1
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 7

We were welcomed onto the ship and, since it was too dark to survey on the way to Jersey, we were shown to the staff lounge and canteen where we had a delicious 3 course meal and met the friendly crew.

The following morning we were shown to the bridge by Captain Roger Thomson who then kindly familiarised us with the ship's set up.  We departed at 8.30am and started bird watching. Our first bird was a kingfisher sitting on one of the harbour walls. In and around the harbour were 37 Brent Geese, 100+ Dunlin and 2 Lapwing.

Brent Geese Adrian Shephard 01a

Brent geese (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

Despite the overcast and rainy conditions, visibility was reasonable with some good views to the horizon; as a result of this, a good number of species were seen.  As the ship left the harbour we picked up a Harbour Porpoise around 700m out from the ship moving to the right. We saw it, briefly, twice.  Moving out into the bay, we saw lots of Kittiwake followed by a Dark Phase Artic Skua chasing the gulls.  Two more Dark Phase Artic Skua were seen later in the day.

A couple of hours out to sea, a Blackbird was seen heading for the ship.  It tried to land but then decided to head out to sea.

Mediterranean Gull Adrian Shephard 03a

Mediterranean Gull (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

The next few hours were spent mainly counting Kittiwake, Gannet and the odd auk species with 2 Puffin, in winter plumage, spotted sitting on the water.  Later into the journey just off the St Catherine's on the Isle of Wight, 2 more Harbour Porpoise were seen.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15

Harbour porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we were approaching Portsmouth and it was starting to get dark, good numbers of Kittiwake were seen on the open sea.  Lastly, we docked in Portsmouth and bid farewell to the Captain and crew.

 

Adrian Shephard and Kevin Bainbridge, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife survey report: Condor Ferries (Commodore Goodwill) Portsmouth – Jersey (30th September 2014)

Posted 03 October 2014

Peter Hutchinson and Julie Hatcher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: South south-westerly winds force 4 with sea state 2 and mostly good visibility dropping a little in mid-Channel but clearing again as we approached Portsmouth.

Seabirds

Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 85
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 10
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Gull sp 1

Terrestrial Birds

Swallow  Hirundo rustica 116
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 8
Snipe Gallinago gallinago 1
Passerines 52

We were welcomed aboard the ferry at around 6pm for the 7.30pm sailing from Portsmouth. Unfortunately it was too dark to survey on the way over to Jersey so we enjoyed a comfortable evening and delicious three-course meal kindly provided by Condor Ferries, before retiring to our cabins for the overnight journey. Following a hearty breakfast the next morning, we were escorted to the bridge on leaving the port where we received a warm welcome from Captain Rad Zelazny and his crew.

Calm seas and warm sunny weather made for excellent conditions as we began our survey and we started by seeing Gannet and a Manx Shearwater as we travelled north through the Channel Islands. A regular stream of Swallow, Willow Warbler and other small songbirds passed us as they headed south on their migration, sometimes in groups of 5 or 6 and occasionally solitary individuals. With the bridge door open we often heard them calling before we spotted them and it made a lovely accompaniment to the journey.

Gannet P Hutchinson

Gannet, Photo by Pete Hutchinson

As we approached the middle of the Channel we encountered more Gannet including a few sporting juvenile plumage, some resting on the water and some actively diving. A couple of Great Skua and several terns added to the bird interest, as did a solitary Snipe flying south on migration.

Julie surveying by P Huthinson sm

Julie surveyeing, Photo by Pete Hutchinson

The weather stayed fair and unseasonably warm for the entire journey and the crew kept us supplied with tea and biscuits and helped us spot and identify the birds we encountered. As we approached Portsmouth we concluded our survey and felt privileged to be allowed to stay on the bridge as we docked. This gave us a wonderful view of the city, Spinnaker Tower and the historic dockyard as we passed. All in all a very enjoyable trip, made more so by the friendliness of the crew and their interest in what we were seeing.

We thanked the Captain and his staff for their warm hospitality and then headed ashore.

 

Peter Hutchinson and Julie Hatcher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife blog report: Condor Ferries 'Commodore Goodwill' 19 August 2014

Posted 24 August 2014

Susannah Fleiss and Jessica Mead, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: North-westerly wind of force 3; sea state 2-3. Excellent visibility throughout.

Seabirds
Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 52
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 442
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 20
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 16
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 51
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradi 4
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Gull sp. 205
Auk sp. 1

Total birds seen 819

Other
Ocean Sunfish Mola mola 1

We met at the terminal at 6.20pm and were promptly driven onto the 'Commodore Goodwill'. We enjoyed dinner, kindly provided by Condor Ferries, and the warm atmosphere of the passengers' mess-room.

Sooty Shearwater

The following day, we awoke early to breakfast whilst in port at Jersey. We then went on the top deck and saw Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Curlew on the shore. Shortly after departing, we entered the bridge. Captain Rad Zelazny gave us a warm welcome and we settled into the survey. The visibility was excellent, the sea state a low 2-3, and we were certainly not disappointed by the sightings to come!

As we travelled North through the Channel Islands, we passed many Manx Shearwater dipping over the waves. We saw various gull species: Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. A shearwater without the characteristic white underside of the Manx Shearwater passed very near to the bow: a Sooty Shearwater. Gannet were frequently in sight. We came across a flock of 20 Scoter resting on the water, which we were very pleased to see.

Sooty Shearwater (Archive Photo: MARINElife)

Common tern 03 Graham Ekins

We passed huge numbers of Gannet flying southwest, in flocks of up to 60 at a time. We were lucky enough to see several of these in beautiful V-formation as they passed close to the bridge, having watched their approach from several kilometres away. These flocks accounted for the fantastic total of 442 which we saw on the trip.

Nearer Alderney, we were delighted to see an Ocean Sunfish floating at the surface. This was another highlight of the trip. It is uncommon to see them 'basking' so far north, so we felt rather lucky.

As we continued north, we passed many more Gannet, an Arctic Skua and a Great Shearwater. We came across several terns, mostly 'Commic' but also a Sandwich Tern.

We thoroughly enjoyed the survey, made special not only by a number of interesting sightings, but also by the particularly warm welcome and friendliness of the crew. Many thanks to Captain Rad Zelazny and all of the crew for an excellent trip.

Common Tern (Photo: Graham Ekins)

Susannah Fleiss and Jessica Mead, Research Surveyors for MARINElife


MARINElife survey report: Portsmouth-Jersey July 2014

Posted 28 July 2014

This survey had to be cancelled for operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 23-24 June 2014

Posted 03 July 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Julia Benson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Light winds, sea state 1-2, sunny.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5

Seabirds

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 27
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 93
Gannet Morus bassanus 196
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Guillemot Urea aalge 8
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Gull sp. 1
Larus sp. 7

Terrestrial Birds

Swift Apus apus 2

We arrived at Portsmouth shortly before 6pm and were taken to the Commodore Goodwill by the Condor Ferries staff. Once on board Captain Roger Thomson welcomed us to the ship and gave us a short familiarisation of the bridge and we made arrangements with him to join the officers on the bridge at dawn the following morning. The ship sailed shortly after 7pm and we watched the sun set over the Isle of Wight before retiring to bed.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harbour Porpoise (Archive Photo by Peter Howlett)

We awoke at 3.30am and joined the bridge half an hour later to await the sunrise. A crescent moon together with Venus was clear in the sky as we left Guernsey's St. Peter Port heading towards Jersey. As the day brightened we began recording Gannet, Guillemot, Great Black-backed Gull and Manx Shearwater. As we neared Jersey's Corbiere lighthouse Gannet were seen prospecting but they were too far away to check for fins in the water. We left the bridge as the ship neared Elizabeth Castle and went downstairs for an excellent breakfast.

Manx Shearwater Carol Farmer Wright 04

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manx Shearwater (Photo by Carol Farmerm - Wright)

Two hours later we were back on the bridge as the ship left St Helier heading for Portsmouth. As we rounded Corbiere we again saw birds, mainly Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull resting on the water. In amongst them we spotted two Harbour Porpoise swimming slowly away from the ship. We continued northwards and encountered rafts of Manx Shearwater. Shortly after this we started to record groups of Gannet flying in formation looking for food to take back to the breeding colonies off Alderney or along the French coast. Again we were delighted to see three Harbour Porpoise, two adults and a juvenile that surfaced briefly then dived to avoid the vessel. The rest of the survey was punctuated with views of Gannet and Herring Gull.

We left the bridge as we approached Culver Cliff and thanked Captain Thomson, his officers and crew for a very enjoyable survey.

 

Carol Farmer-Wright and Julia Benson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

 

MARINElife survey report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth – Jersey, 19th-20th May 2014

Posted 24 May 2014

Rick Morris and Simon Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather: Overcast with southerly wind, force 3, sea state 3.

Seabirds

Gannet Morus bassanus 29
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 12
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 21
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Razorbill Alca torda 2

Terrestrial Birds

Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

After arriving at the terminal, we were promptly driven onto the 'Commodore Goodwill'. After settling in, we sat down to enjoy a great three course meal which was generously provided by Condor Ferries. Captain Roger Thomson came to introduce himself and to explain the ship's procedures. He told us that after breakfast the next day he would take us up to the bridge.

Gannet Rick Morris 08

Gannet (Photo by Rick Morris)

In the morning, Simon popped up to the top outer deck, where he saw Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Shag, Black-headed Gull and Chiffchaff. After breakfast, we went up to the bridge to commence our survey. Conditions were overcast with a sea state of 3, but, thankfully, no rain. The crew informed us that they had seen around 30 dolphins the day before as they headed out of the bay, but alas we did not see any cetaceans on the crossing. Seabird numbers were quite low throughout, with sporadic sightings of nine seabird species and a solitary Swallow.

Captain Thomas

Captain Thomas (Photo by Rick Morris)

Even though the crossing was quiet, the route has good potential and the 'Commodore Goodwill' is an excellent ship to survey from. The Solent was busy on our return and upon reaching the Nab tower, we concluded our survey. Our thanks to Captain Thomson and his crew for their help and to Condor Ferries for supporting MARINElife.

 

Rick Morris and Simon Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

 

MARINElife survey report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth – Jersey, 28th-29th April 2014

Posted 01 May 2014

Peter Howlett and Peter Hutchinson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather

Overcast with rain to start, clearing to hazy sunshine. Wind mainly NW force 2 or less, sea state 2 at start but 0-1 for bulk of survey.

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10

Seabirds

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Gannet Morus bassanus 89
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 32
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 7
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Auk sp. 40

Terrestrial Birds

Swallow Hirundo rustica 26
Wagtail sp. Motacilla sp. 1

 

Photo: Manx Shearwater, by Peter Howlett

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 07

Check in at the Portsmouth ferry terminal was so swift we barely had a chance to appreciate the rather fine surroundings (a first visit for me since the completion of the new terminal and a marked contrast from conditions when checking in for the Pride of Bilbao). As soon as we were on board our dinner order was taken and we were shown to our cabin. Dinner was excellent and after a short conversation with fellow passengers transporting horses back to Jersey we turned in hopeful that the forecast of light winds would be accurate.

Things got off to a slow start with small numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull, the odd Shag and a few auks. Things weren't helped by Captain Thomson cheerily telling us they had seen a large group of dolphins just outside St Helier the previous Friday - sadly there was no sign of them this morning. The rain eased off pretty quickly and light and sea conditions were nigh on perfect for cetacean surveying but it was almost two hours into the survey before we finally recorded a Harbour Porpoise and then almost another two hours until the next!

Abreast of Alderney there were slightly more Gannets to be recorded but otherwise bird numbers were disappointingly low given the seemingly ideal conditions and time of year, a handful of Manx Shearwater and Puffin being the highlights. There weren't even many migrant landbirds, just the odd group of Swallow winging their way past the ship.

 

Photo: Swallow, by Peter Howlett

Swallow Peter Howlett 01

Things looked up between 45 and 60km north of Cherbourg as we recorded five Harbour Porpoise in the space of 30 minutes but apart from one much later sighting of two animals that was it. Birds were also seemed to be few and far between. It was quite frustrating to have six hours of sea state 0 or 1 with good light and not be able to see anything at all - I guess it indicates there aren't too many cetaceans in this part of the Channel at the moment!

Despite the meagre sightings the survey was hugely enjoyable. The Commodore Goodwill is a wonderful ship to survey from with a compact bridge and open bridge wings to view from. Throw in a tremendously friendly and helpful Captain and crew and you have a recipe for great surveying. So a big thank you to Captain Thomson and his crew for making us so welcome and looking after us and to Condor Ferries for supporting the work of MARINElife.

 

Photo: Harbour Porpoise, by Peter Howlett

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 03

 

Peter Howlett and Peter Hutchinson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife