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WLO report: Poole-Guernsey 3 July

This was the first Wildlife Officer trip on the Condor Ferry Liberation from Poole to Guernsey since 2019, the check-in was very quick at the Poole terminal and we were soon being called to board the Liberation. I introduced myself to the information team on the ferry and they helpfully broadcast that there was a MARINElife Wildlife Officer on board. By that time, I was already on the top deck and chatting to passengers before our departure.

The departure from Poole is always delightful, as the ferry passes the Dorset Wildlife Trust Brownsea Island lagoon: where there were distant views of the breeding Black-headed Gulls, Common and Sandwich Terns. Next, we passed through the Poole Harbour mouth and past the immensely beautiful Studland Peninsula, followed by Old Harry Rock, before heading out to sea. There was a significant southwest wind and I switched to the port side of the ship for the rest of the journey, along with a few other passengers who stayed on the top deck. There were nearby rain squalls as we left the Dorset coast, but we were lucky, and the top deck stayed dry.

Common Dolphin (Library photo: Steve Smith)

As the ship headed out to sea, there were a few Razorbills and Guillemots from the nearby breeding colony at Durlston and the adjacent Purbeck coastline. Surprisingly, the only other seabird was a lone Gannet. About fifteen miles out from the Purbeck coastline, a party of five Swifts headed north, presumably a post-breeding dispersal.

Thirty minutes before we reached Alderney, I picked up a pod of three Common Dolphin jumping out of the water as they attempted to reach the Liberation, unfortunately, they didn’t close the distance before we passed them. Another two Common Dolphin repeated the manoeuvre a few minutes later and presumably they were part of the same extended pod. It was good to be able to point them out to the hardy passengers who were still on the deck.

As we got closer to Alderney, we started to encounter feeding Gannets from the Gannet colony on Ortac Rock, which had about four hundred Gannets sitting on it.

There was a Mediterranean Gull feeding outside of Guernsey’s picturesque St Peter Port harbour. I joined the day tripping passengers for a look around the town. Some headed off to the shops and restaurants, but I had an enjoyable time exploring the historic Castle Cornet and its three museums. There was plenty of interesting history to see in the two hours I was there, before a gentle walk back past the harbour to the ferry terminal.

After another quick check-in, I was back onto the top deck and engaging with the passengers before the prompt departure. The weather had improved for the return journey, except for the wind, but it was reasonably sheltered on the starboard side.

Balearic Shearwater (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The birds picked up as well with a Balearic Shearwater tracking alongside the ship for a few minutes, followed by two more distant Manx Shearwater and some feeding Gannet from the Ortac Rock. It was good to engage with the passengers who remained on the top deck and explain the migrations of these two species of shearwaters and other seabirds that occur along this route during the year.

As we passed through Studland Bay, the local Marines were putting on a training session in the bay to entertain the passengers. It provided a good end to an enjoyable day which had allowed plenty of passenger engagement.

Thanks to Condor Ferries and the crew of the Condor Liberation for making me welcome on board and for their support to MARINElife.

Steve Smith, Wildlife Officer for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)



Outward – wind SW 4-5, cloudy conditions with nearby rain squalls, good visibility

Return – wind SW 4-5, a mixture of cloudy and sunny conditions

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin 5




Manx Shearwater

Balearic Shearwater



Black-headed Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull





Poole Harbour Birds  



Black-headed Gull

Herring Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Common Tern

Sandwich Tern


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