Sightings Archives: November 2016

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

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.