Portsmouth-Jersey survey 22 May
Summary of sightings:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 28
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gull sp. 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 16
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Swift Apus apus 1
Outward: overcast, then sunny with good visibility, wind NNW to NNE 2-4,
sea state 2-4 This survey route used to be on one of Condor Ferries freight vessels but when they offered to take us on the Commodore Clipper instead, we decided to take up the opportunity. The Commodore Clipper takes a mixture of freight, cars and passengers, so we checked in and boarded as normal travellers. To our surprise, the staff recognised us as MARINElife surveyors and greeted us onboard like old friends.
As we had an early start, we enjoyed our breakfast and coffee in the Casquets Brasserie before being shown up to the bridge. We were welcomed by Captain Horsey and his crew, and we set up our survey equipment on the spacious starboard bridge wing. As we left Portsmouth, we had a great view of many Royal Navy ships, HMS Warrior at the Historic Dockyard, the Spinnaker Tower, and the Solent Forts, including the Solent Flyer hovercraft passing ahead.
After passing the Nab Tower, we commenced the survey. It wasn’t long before we had our first bird sighting, a Sandwich Tern flying under the bow, shortly followed by a Great Black-backed Gull. Then as often happens when leaving the mainland, bird sightings reduced so we took the opportunity to take a few photos and video clips to use for future training courses.
We passed the Commodore Goodwill on its voyage from Jersey to Portsmouth, the opposite to what we were doing. Gannet numbers picked up nearing Alderney with one squadron of 14 Gannet seen.
The sun came out as we passed through the Big Russel, a channel running between Herm on the west and Sark on the east. Then, suddenly, two Bottlenose Dolphin ahead of us and then a further two on the port side. It was just a brief view, only just long enough to identify them, then they were gone in a flash, too quick to grab the camera and get a photo.
On our approach to Guernsey, we saw that the cruise ship Regal Princess was ferrying passengers back ready for their departure. After a break, sitting out on deck whilst we were in St Peter Port, we resumed the survey, following the Regal Princess, which was just ahead of us, but on her way to Ireland, not Jersey.
As we departed St Peter Port, bird sightings increased. First, we spotted a Kittiwake and then a Lesser Black-backed Gull sitting amongst the Herring Gull on the water. As it took off from the water, one of its identifying features, its yellow legs, could easily be seen. We also encountered a Fulmar on the water, playing ‘chicken’ as it wouldn’t get out of the way as we sailed quite close to it. Then the rapid wing beat of a solitary bird flying close to the water helped us identify a Guillemot.
On our approach to Jersey, we ended our survey. We had slowed down because the port of St Helier was busy with other ships from the Condor Ferries fleet. We had to wait for the Condor Liberation to vacate a berth as the Condor Voyager was occupying the other berth - A Condor Ferries ‘hat trick!’
We then packed up our survey equipment, thanked Captain Horsey and left the bridge. After enjoying our dinner in the Casquets Brasserie, we returned to our cabins for the overnight crossing back to Portsmouth.
Our thanks go to the support of Condor Ferries, and Captain Horsey and his crew on the Clipper who made this an interesting and enjoyable crossing.
Rick Morris and Glynis Northwood-Long, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)