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

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