MARINElife blog: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 9 May 2018

Jenny Ball and Peter Howlett, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 298
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Gull sp.  1
Auk sp.   1

Terrestrial birds at sea
Swift Apus apus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 3

Jenny and I met up at the International Ferry Terminal and were soon on board the Commodore Goodwill. We had a quick chat with Captain Wjociech Pielich who told us we were welcome on the bridge at any time and advised us that as we were due into St Helier at about 05:45 we might see the sunrise behind the port on our approach - the forecast looking good for our survey on the return leg.

I had seen news that there had been 2500 Arctic Tern past Dungeness during the day and as we made our way out of Portsmouth we passed a feeding flock of gulls and terns alongside the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. We had high hopes that there might be some migrant seabirds on the move in the Channel for our survey.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 05

Sandwich Tern (Peter Howlett)

We were up on the bridge just before we docked in St Helier and, as Captain Pielich predicted, there was a very nice sunrise. We whiled away the two hour stop in St Helier on deck, looking for wildlife. There appeared to be a trickle of Swallow moving north and the odd Swift circled around overhead feeding. There was the usual constant 'kleeping' from the Oystercatcher dotted around Elizabeth Castle and a dozen Common Tern hovering around one of the stacks.

A swift loading saw us depart at 07:50 and we began our survey as soon as we had cleared the Elizabeth Castle breakwater. We kept a sharp eye open for any sign of the Bottlenose Dolphin that can appear around St Helier but there was no sign on this occasion, and the bridge crew hadn't had any recent sightings either.

Swift Peter Howlett

Swift (Peter Howlett)

Conditions were kind and it was a lovely day to be at sea but sadly, apart from the usual rush of Gannet as we passed between Alderney and Cap de la Hague, there were very few birds to be seen. A brief glimpse of a solitary Harbour Porpoise abeam Sark was the only cetacean sighting of the trip too. Although that was an improvement on last month when we didn't have any cetacean sightings at all.

We finished the survey as we turned into the main shipping channel off the SE corner of the Isle of Wight and enjoyed the view from the bridge as we steamed past Southsea and into Portsmouth.


Our thanks to Captain Pielich and his crew for making this a very enjoyable trip and to Condor for their continued support of MARINElife's work.