Sightings Archives: April 2014

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


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


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