We nearly didn’t make it to Jersey after the original date was cancelled due to stormy weather. After some rescheduling, we were leaving Poole for Jersey on Wednesday 26 of July, full of instant coffee and optimism. This route included a passage near Alderney and a stop off in Guernsey, before reaching the halfway point in Jersey.
Leaving Poole we passed Old Harry Rock, where there was a lot of avian commotion, around 100 large gulls, joined by an unidentified tern. We looked for fins but didn’t see any in amongst the frenzy. As we settled into the passage the staff mentioned regular sightings of dolphins mid channel and it didn’t take long for the first pod to show up, a group of seven Common Dolphins, including a juvenile.
We were joined by the ship’s engineer; he was a keen birder and told us about the large numbers of Balearic Shearwater that can be seen between Guernsey and Jersey. We completed part of the survey with his help, where we unexpectedly spotted three Sooty Shearwater and plenty of Gannets. The Gannet numbers continued to rise as we passed Alderney and the Gannet colony on Ortac, which made for clear sightings of the various plumages of birds of different ages.
After a stop in Guernsey, the survey continued onward to Jersey. Here we saw the first group of Balearic Shearwater, another pod of Common Dolphins, and an early migrating Swallow. This leg of the journey was shorter, and we soon came into Jersey for lunch.
Leaving Jersey, the rain quickly closed in and reduced our visibility. Casting our eyes to the near water we noticed that the vessel was passing hundreds of small Barrel Jellyfish! We were also able to spot more Gannets, and a few Cormorants and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but little else until the rain cleared. When it did, we spotted the first large group of shearwaters, mainly Balearic but with some Manx mixed in. As we tried to get our metrics for the Balearic data form, we realised we were surrounded by other groups of shearwaters, with around 100 all taking to the sky as the vessel passed through!
As we neared Alderney, Gannet numbers increased again, which included our first juvenile bird. This leg of the journey went much closer to Ortac, and we had some stunning views of the colony, which was, thankfully, bustling with activity.
The rain began to close in again as we reached mid-Channel, but we did see two more pods of Common Dolphins which played in the wake bringing us, and a squealing young girl on the ship, plenty of entertainment and joy.
The final stretch to Poole was rainy with quiet patches, where we saw nothing over, on, or in the water. We considered ending the survey at times but decided to continue. We were pleased with this choice when we saw a Storm Petrel and a flock of seven Common Scoter.
We ended the survey and reached Poole Harbour. As usual, the captain and staff were thanked, and they were delighted to hear about our survey results. Thank you to Giles the captain, Rob the excellent engineer/brilliant birder, and all the other staff on board Condor Liberation.
Maggie Gamble and Rosa Hicks, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Summary of sightings:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 24
Unidentified Dolphin 5
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Common Gull Larus canus 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8
Guillemot Uria aalge 6
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Sooty Shearwater Ardenna grisea 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 32
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 98
Gannet Morus bassanus 78
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Larus sp. 107
Tern sp. 4