MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 3 April 2018

Peter Howlett and Helen Swift, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 16
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 122
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 18
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 10
Auk sp.   20

Peter and I met at Portsmouth & Southsea station in the early afternoon and made our way to the ferry terminal together. With a couple of hours to kill, we grabbed a coffee and exchanged stories of previous wildlife encounters, and I found out about his recent experience conducting the epic Peltic survey for MARINElife. We boarded the Commodore Goodwill in the early evening and shortly afterwards enjoyed a nice meal, kindly provided by Condor Ferries, while waiting for the ship to depart. At this time of year, it is not possible to survey on the outbound journey, so we retired to our cabins early for a good night's sleep.

We awoke to find the ship moored in St Helier port. A quick survey of the area around Elizabeth Castle revealed a flock of 27 Brent Geese and 180 or so Oystercatcher. The latter creating a black and white blizzard when they were spooked by a Peregrine flying overhead. Following breakfast, we headed up to the bridge ready to carry out the survey on the return leg.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 13

Manx Shearwater (Peter Howlett)

Having surveyed this route the previous month, I was interested to see whether there were any changes in birdlife now that Spring had arrived. While species seen were largely the same as the previous month, there were indeed some differences - most notably, the arrival of Manx Shearwater. Remarkably, these seabirds spend the winter far away from the UK, along the coast of South America and around the Falkland Islands.

Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Skua were also seen in greater numbers on this survey, with some individuals giving us fantastic views as they flew close to the bow. Gannet were, again, seen throughout the journey (albeit in lower numbers this time), with the greatest concentration around the Cherbourg peninsula - as with last month's survey, all of the individuals seen were adults.

Unfortunately, the sea state was not conducive to spotting cetaceans and we didn't see any on this survey. However, the crew of the Goodwill reported that they had seen dolphins around the Minquiers reef in recent weeks and also near St Peter Port, Guernsey from the Commodore Clipper. These are likely to have been the Bottlenose Dolphin, which have been seen in this area on a number of occasions on previous MARINElife surveys.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 23

Great Skua (Peter Howlett)

Once again, we would like to thank Captain Zelazny and the friendly crew of the Commodore Goodwill for their hospitality, and Condor Ferries for kindly providing us with meals and cabins throughout the journey.

Peter Howlett and Helen Swift, Research Surveyors for MARINElife