It was a privilege to be invited on board when on 7th August 2013 Chris Morris and Sea Fisheries staff undertook a routine fisheries patrol in the 6 – 12 mile fisheries controlled zone off Guernsey’s west coast. Conditions for observing seabirds at sea were excellent with a gentle breeze, slight sea and overcast conditions. Fortunately rain was only light and sporadic, clearing soon after mid-day.
During the day fisheries personnel inspected four vessels - three French Demersal Trawlers (wet fish) and one English Scallop Dredger.
Grand Total of Seabirds Observed:
Lesser Black-backed Gull 480+ (c 20% juveniles)
Northern Fulmar 73+
Herring Gull 56
Northern Gannet 48
Great Black-backed Gull 9
European Storm-petrel 7
Great Skua 5
Balearic Shearwater 3
Manx Shearwater 2
Common Tern 2
Sooty Shearwater 1
GRAND TOTAL = 686 birds
- In the 6 – 12 mile zone offshore from Guernsey's west coast, the commonest seabird in early August was Lesser Black-backed Gull ( 70% of all sightings) - LBBGs outnumbered Herring Gulls in this zone 480:56 (around 8.6:1);
- Many of the LBBGs observed were carrying colour rings fitted in Guernsey or Alderney (but none could be read given the movement on the sea);
- Northern Fulmars were surprisingly common (73+ birds);
- There were comparatively few Northern Gannets (only 48 birds);
- Demersal Trawling provides significant discards for seabird (but the cleanest boat held significantly less birds that boats which spilt more fish on deck and tossed by catch back in the sea very quickly);
- Scallop Dredging provides very little food for seabirds and is of little interest to them; and
- The records of Great Skua, Sooty Shearwater and Common Terns show that autumn passage of northern breeding seabirds is underway.