MARINElife Survey Report: Condor Ferries ‘Commodore Goodwill’ Portsmouth-Jersey 13 November 2019

Steve Boswell and Mike Hopkins Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind W-SW force 4-5, inc. 6 in afternoon with a slight swell throughout, visibility excellent with no glare and no rain recorded all day.

Summary of sightings

Great Northern Diver  Gavia immer 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Gannet  Morus bassanus 9
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 4
Mediterranean Gull  Larus melanocephalus 5
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 12
Guillemot  Uria aalge 31
Razorbill  Alca torda 8

Terrestrial Birds
Skylark  Alauda arvensis 2

It was in May, as I returned to the UK, crossing the Bay of Biscay from Northern Spain that I became aware of MARINElife. I met a couple who were observing and they told me about the charity, its relationship with shipping companies and the work that its volunteers do. On arrival back in the UK I immediately signed up for a training day held at Kimmeridge Bay. This week I completed my first survey crossing from Portsmouth to Jersey, surveying on the return trip.

I'd agreed to meet my team leader in Portsmouth, and at the appointed hour, to my surprise, he turned out to be the gentleman who had originally informed me of MARINElife on the original trip in May!

Boarding formalities were quickly performed and soon we were shown to our cabins. We sailed into the night and after a large dinner and a chat to our fellow passengers we retired early in anticipation of our days surveying to come.

Elizabeth Castle oyks Mike Hopkins 01
Oystercatchers roosting at Elizabeth Castle (Mike Hopkins)

The following day dawned bright and most certainly did not disappoint. Roosting on the beach beside Elizabeth Castle were over 200 Oystercatcher which was quite an impressive sight in the early sunshine. They soon departed in groups to their feeding areas and as the captain skilfully left our berth to the open sea no Oystercatcher were to be seen!

We headed out towards the open sea observing the usual gulls and auks. A few Gannet were still around including a juvenile heading, somewhat belatedly, south. Two Great Northern Diver crossed the bow and then a hint of late migration as we saw two Skylark. It was interesting to see five adult Mediterranean Gull mid-Channel. On this occasion cetaceans were rather more shy, and I shall have to wait until my next survey to observe one. That's the beauty of wildlife, it's not at human beck and call, though of course, it is subject to the immense footprint that our own species make on the world.

Corbiere Mike Hopkins 01
Corbiere lighthouse, Jersey (Mike Hopkin)

Not a moment passed that was not enthralling - the anticipation and excitement of observation, the challenge of a decent photograph, the cartwheeling, darting and arcing of the birds as they played skittishly across the ocean, the opportunity to observe the constant changing rhythm of the sea and the change in weather.

For me the 24 hours really reinforced the importance of the work being conducted by MARINElife and the excellent demonstration of social responsibility of Condor Ferries in allowing the survey to take place. I hugely appreciate the opportunity of being involved and thank the crew and Captain and Steve, my co-observer and mentor, for sharing his knowledge and experience, in a way that was empowering and motivating.

In retirement I very much look forward to contributing fully to the work of MARINElife and playing my part in ensuring that human awareness of wildlife grows, as the challenge of climate change is addressed.