Steve Boswell and Judith Tatem, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Southerly wind around 20 knots throughout, fine until late afternoon when heavy rain began. Slight swell.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Razorbill Alca torda 14
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Auk sp. Alcidae 1
We met at Portsmouth ferry terminal at 17:30 and reported to the reception desk. By the time we had our high visibility jackets on and identities checked a driver had arrived to take us onto the ferry. We headed to the lorry driver's mess where we were welcomed and shown to our comfortable, spotless cabins. Back in the mess room the menus arrived, and choices were made. We departed on time at 19:30 and with the ferry passing the lights of the Spinnaker tower supper was served. My Thai vegetarian curry was fresh and delicious. The crossing was fairly smooth, and I was lulled to sleep only waking once as we arrived in Guernsey. The following morning after arrival in Jersey, Steve and I enjoyed a cooked breakfast and then headed up to the bridge at 08:00. There was a vessel coming into Saint Helier port at that time so whilst Captain Wojciech Pielich and the crew waited for clearance we took the opportunity to survey the wildlife in the harbour. Most notable birds were over 100 Oystercatcher along with Rock Pipit, Little Egret and Curlew.
Razorbill (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
We departed at 08:30 with a southerly wind blowing behind us, a light grey sky and a sea state between 4-5. We wondered how long we would have before the promised frontal system appeared. This survey was squeezed in a narrow gap between two storms! Early on there was very little marine traffic except a French naval vessel and a rescue vessel, and apart from a few Razorbill it was also quiet on the wildlife front.
As we neared the Alderney Race, we had close views of two Red-throated Diver, two Mediterranean Gull and a Sandwich Tern which is becoming a regular here during the winter. About the same time, as the sea state dropped to 3 for a short while, our patience was rewarded as we glimpsed two Harbour Porpoise slipping past down the starboard bow.
Red-throated Diver (Library photo: Mike Bamford)
Lunchtime brought the first sighting of the storm front heading towards us from the west, the sky slowly turned to an evocative December leaden grey. As we approached the Isle of Wight, we saw our first Gannet sighting of the day! Soon after this it began to drizzle and before long it had transformed into a deluge! The light was fading fast as we saw a couple of Common Gull which followed us in. As we sailed past the Nab Tower, we left the Goodwill bridge, saying many thanks and wishing the Captain and crew a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The last survey on this route for the year had been successfully completed.