MARINElife blog report: Condor Ferries 'Commodore Goodwill' 19 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.

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

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