Dover-Calais

Recent Sightings

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (16 November 2019)

Posted 24 November 2019

Tom Forster, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Outbound: Dry but overcast, very good visibility, South-easterly wind force 2-4, sea state 4 dropping steadily to 2, some glare at times.  Return: Dry but overcast, very good visibility, South-westerly wind force 2-4, sea state 1, no glare.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 9
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Unidentified Seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Common Gull Larus canus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 481
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 65
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Unidentified Auk sp. Alcidae 4
Unidentified Gull sp. Laridae 55
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. Larus 5

I always look forward to late autumn and winter surveys in the Strait of Dover as (when the weather is good enough for good observation) this is when this area is at its liveliest with sometimes huge densities of wintering seabirds and porpoise. Cresting the downs on the A20 and getting my first look down over the strait it looked promising with overcast sky and calm sea; it all looked great.

Gannet Steve McAusland 04

Gannet (Steve McAusland)

Once out of the harbour my hopes were confirmed - in fact, conditions were almost too good, especially surveying alone. Every direction I looked seemed to be thronged with Gannet resting on the water, circling scouting for fish or actively feeding in singles or small groups. The numbers I counted were only a tiny fraction of those present with many more evident outside the 2km bird count range. Normally I would allow the feeding Gannet to guide me to areas to scan for cetaceans but here there was simply too much activity - it was impossible to know where to look. Almost certainly there will have been porpoise present (given the behaviour and what I have seen before here) but with so much activity across such a wide area I had to concentrate on keeping check closer in. One Harbour Porpoise diving very close to the ferry was the reward for my scanning but from the activity there were probably many more around. It was somewhat frustrating seeing so much bird activity and probably missing many distant cetaceans. Various odd splashes looked suspicious, but I could never get onto them fast enough to confirm (and exclude Gannet splashes) at the ranges I was seeing.

Approaching Calais, activity decreased but in the calmer waters around Cap Griz Nez I had a great view of a large male Grey Seal resting at the surface before almost disdainfully looking at the approaching ferry disturbing his rest and diving away.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 07

Harbour Porpoise (Peter Howlett)

The return leg was even better than the outbound trip. The sea had calmed further, shining like polished pewter and against this animals were easy to spot. After another seal near Calais, the Gannet activity resumed and this time by chance most of it was closer to our course allowing me to spot the Harbour Porpoise with many of the feeding groups of Gannet. Some of the views were fantastic with porpoise repeatedly surfacing, racing ahead of the Gannet throngs, presumably chasing fleeing fish. Approaching Dover, activity decreased and when I saw the final Grey Seal of the day and realised I could barely read the rangefinder markings (or data sheets) I had to conclude the light was too dim to continue and finish the survey. A highly enjoyable though very busy survey!

My thanks to Captain and the crew of Côte de Flandres for making me welcome and looking after me throughout the survey.

Tom Forster; Research Surveyor foir MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (19 October 2019)

Posted 02 November 2019

Helen Swift and Paul Radford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outbound: sea state 5, south westerly force 6, visibility - good.  Return: sea state 3-5, south westerly force 5-6, visibility - good.

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Auk sp. Alcidae 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 104
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Gull sp. Laridae 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Larus sp. Larus sp. 35
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 7
Razorbill Alca torda 3

Terrestrial birds
Passerine sp. Passeriformes 3

Heavy rain greeted us at Dover, as we arrived in plenty of time to make it through the rigorous checks at the port.  By the time it came to prepare for boarding, things were looking up, as the sky cleared, and Helen even spotted three late Swallow standing out against the backdrop of the white cliffs.  We were escorted to the bridge by Christine (just one of the many very helpful and friendly staff of the DFDS Cotes Des Flandres), where we were introduced to Cedric Guilbaut; our captain for the outward leg.

We allowed Captain Guilbaut to safely exit the port before beginning the survey from the starboard side of the bridge.  Very little was spotted for the first half hour, with a strong starboard ahead glare adding to the challenge of seeing much apart from the unmistakeably silhouette of Gannet, which made up the majority of the birds seen during the survey.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 07

Little Gull (Peter Howlett)

Things did then pick up, with an increasing number of Gannet and gulls being encountered circling and sitting on the water.  Soon after, Helen spotted two Harbour Porpoise crossing the bow from port to starboard, who proved that a species that is often described as a "slow rolling tyre", can rival the more energetic dolphin species when needing to avoid a 28m wide ferry travelling at 20 knots.

Med Gull Rob Petley-Jones 04

Mediterranean Gull (Rob Petley-Jones)

Another flurry of birds (including Kittiwake and a winter plumage Razorbill) followed, before a large bull Grey Seal was spotted nonchalantly swimming ahead of us.  All our cetaceans had hatched at once, as this would prove to be our last sea mammal spotted during the survey.  However, the changeable weather and steady stream of birds would prove to be more than enough to keep us busy.  During the latter stages of the outward leg we were able to add Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull to the species encountered.  We were even treated to a handful of Little Gull - distinguishable by the dark underwing - who are often seen on this route around this time of year, as they head for their wintering grounds in Western Europe and the Mediterranean.

With the Cotes Des Flandres coming to a standstill outside of Calais, whilst awaiting permission to enter the port, it seemed sensible to draw the outward survey to a close and enjoy the rainbow that greeted us on our approach to France.

The weather in Calais was even worse than on our arrival into Dover, to the point where the view of the town, usually easily visible from the ferry, was momentarily completely shrouded by heavy rain.  The rain continued as our new Captain - Roger Alexandre - got our return leg underway.

It only took about 30 minutes for the clouds to part, the rainbow to reappear, and the birds to come out of hiding.  Gannet, of the full range of ages, were still the predominate species, but other notable sightings included Mediterranean Gull and Kittiwake.  A few passerines were also spotted, but the fact they were propelled by a force 6 South westerly wind meant they zipped past the bridge too quickly to be identified.

Although we did not spot many marine mammals, as always the cross-channel route provided plenty of avian interest for the two hours of survey time to go by in a flash.   The Cotes Des Flandres treated us to one more rainbow as we waited to return to the car; this time in the form of an impressive looking cake.  Regrettably we didn't sample it on this occasion, but it did almost look too good to eat.

As always, we would like to thank both captains and all the crew of the DFDS Cotes Des Flandres, for the significant contribution they made to what was an extremely enjoyable survey.

Helen Swift and Paul Radford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways Dover-Calais (September 2019)

Posted 30 September 2019

The survey was cancelled for logistical reasons

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (17 August 2019)

Posted 24 August 2019

Emma Howe-Andrews and Paul Radford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Conditions:
Dry, Scattered Clouds, Sunny Intervals, Sea State 3-5, Swell 1, Wind Force 4-7, Wind Direction SW-WSW

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Unidentified Seal sp. 1

Seabirds:

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 5

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4

Diver sp. Gaviidae 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 22

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2

Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1

Gull sp. Laridae 17

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 7

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2

Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8
Tern sp. Sternidae 2

We arrived in high spirits on a very busy Saturday morning at the Port of Dover for our survey across the Strait of Dover to Calais, France. Even though the weather was forecast to be unsettled and a little choppy due to the south-westerly winds blowing across the English Channel, we were keen to head out to sea and look for wildlife.

Whilst we waited to board the ship, we discussed the recent sighting of the Humpback Whale during another MARINElife survey that was undertaken in February and which Paul had been part of. We said that it would be amazing if that were to happen again today and one of the joys of conducting sea surveys is that you never know what you could encounter, so fingers crossed!

After a swift and efficient boarding, we headed to Deck 7 to the Guest Information desk and we were met by Christine, who was very friendly and welcoming. Christine escorted us to the bridge, and we were warmly greeted by Captain Des Frennes who made us feel very welcome and we settled into our workstation on the starboard side. The bridge crew are always so friendly and accommodating. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to observe their work. The Cotes des Flandres crew began the manoeuvres to leave the berth and turned the ship towards the mouth of the harbour.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 04Leaving the harbour and starting the survey, the conditions were favourable as it was dry with scattered clouds, a sea state 3 with a slight swell and good visibility to the horizon. As the ship increased speed and moved further out into the strait, the south-westerly winds were blowing at 23 knots and with this the sea state increased from 3 to 5 with an approximate 1.5 metre swell. Sightings of birds were almost immediate, Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Common Scoter, Gannet and a Great Skua, but no cetaceans as we approached the French coastline. We did see a bottling Grey Seal off the port bow that stared up at the Cotes des Flandres as she entered the Port of Calais.

Grey Seal Martin Gillingham 01

It was a quick turnaround in Calais and before we knew it, we were heading back to Dover. The weather had improved slightly for our return journey with a decreased sea state 4, sunny intervals and continuing good visibility. Bird sightings remained steady as we sailed away from the French coastline with Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and a solitary Pomarine Skua moving across the bow. We were unable to determine which species it was, but a seal was seen milling 275 metres ahead of the ship on the starboard side and slipped beneath the waves as we approached.

With fifteen minutes left until we docked and the White Cliffs of Dover clearly visible, a circling Gannet caught our attention 310 metres ahead of the ship and as we observed it, two small triangular dorsal fins broke the surface beneath it. A mother and calf Harbour Porpoise, swimming hastily away from the ship and towards the starboard side. The calf was tiny and looked only a few weeks old as it swam awkwardly at its mother side, both rolling at the surface a few times before disappearing. The Gannet followed them and what a beautiful sight!

The sighting of the two Harbour Porpoise, two seals and plenty of birdlife had left us feeling elated and as the ship entered the Port of Dover, we said a massive thank you to the bridge crew and left them to complete their manoeuvres.

Huge thanks go to Captain Des Frennes, his crew, Christine and the staff of Cotes des Flandres for their kind hospitality, and to DFDS Seaways for their continuing support.

Photos:
Sandwich Tern (Rob Petley-Jones)
Grey Seal (Martin Gillingham)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (15 June 2019)

Posted 23 August 2019

Nuala Campbell and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Conditions:
Sunny; wind SE force 3 sea state 1 good visibility.

Summary of Sightings:

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Gull sp. Laridae 26
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 39
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 29
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9

Saturday June 15 offered reassuringly calm seas, mild breezes and good visibility and a collection of harbourside gulls taking an interest in some dramatically spilled snacks in the aftermath of a minor set- to outside the food court, although that still left an impressive range flocking at the harbour mouth.

Cormorant Peter Howlett 06The first stage of the crossing saw a steady stream and variety of gulls including Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull. As well as a large display of Kittiwake. Nearing the French coast Cormorant appeared over the markers and fishing buoys.

The Cormorant kept a lower profile on the return journey but there was a much stronger showing by Herring Gull and good numbers of Kittiwake considering the short duration of the journey.

We were again reminded of how busy the Channel with a huge array of commercial, freight, fishing and pleasure craft on the water throughout both crossings matched with calm seamanship on board.

The crossing was rounded off with a last-minute flurry of Herring Gull approaching the harbour and circling the boats emerging and returning.

Thanks as ever to the Captain and crew of the Cotes de Flandres and to DFDS for their continued generous support and assistance to Marinelife.

Photos:
Cormorant (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (20 July 2019)

Posted 19 August 2019

Tanya Ferry and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Conditions:
Outbound: Dry, Visibility Moderate improving, Sea State 4-5 Wind SW-WSW force 8
Return: Dry, Visibility good, Sea state 4, Wind WSW force 8

Summary of Sightings:

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 13
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 21
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Gull sp. 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 67
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8

As a trainee I joined the lovely Carol to cross the channel on a sunny but hazy Saturday morning on 20th July in Dover.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 02

 

The wind was up and that meant that the surface of the water was mixed and hid any cetaceans from us.  While it is a short trip we still saw plenty of birds, which is good news for me, in need of practice.

Carol was a font of knowledge and helped build my confidence in the survey methods and the bird identification.

During the turnaround at Calais we discussed Beluga and Blue Whales, shipping and diets!!

Despite the sighting list being a bit short, this being primarily due to many birds still involved in the breeding season, the survey was a great day and I thoroughly recommend for anyone interested in starting to do so.!

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, the captain, officers and crew of the Cotes des Flandres for making us feel so welcome aboard the vessel during our survey.

Photos:
Fulmar (Rob Petley-Jones)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (18 May 2019)

Posted 31 May 2019

Tom Forster and Julie Ackroyd, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Conditions:
Outbound and Return: Dry and very hazy, poor visibility, North North-easterly force 4, sea state 2, minimal glare

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 70
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 16
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Great Skua Stercorarius skua1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Mediterranean Gull
Larus melanocephalus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds:
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Coluba livia 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica1

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 01On 18th May DFDS seaways again played host to a MARINElife research team undertaking a cetacean and seabird survey from Dover to Calais and back. The sailing conditions were superb, with very little glare, which made for really good observation conditions from the bridge. Sightings included a fantastic close up view of a male Grey Seal, who remained on the surface until the ship reached him and then dived under the waves; a Great Skua disputing with a couple of Great Black-backed Gull for possession of a floating dead fish and some great views of gannets. They are such an elegant bird with their streamlined shape and peachy coloured heads. In the adults their black wing tips contrast with the crisp white feathers of their wings and upper body, whilst the younger birds carry black and white 'piano key' markings along the trailing edges of their wings. Because of this it is possible to identify the age of each bird, so that kept the team busy.

Med Gull Peter Howlett 02Plenty of different species of gulls were also visible, Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, approximately 300 Black-headed Gull just inside the entrance to Calais harbour and mid-channel a juvenile Mediterranean Gull which was quite a treat. Depressingly, there was a large variety of flotsam visible during both legs of the transect. This included a jacket, plastic sheeting, a plastic crate, planks of wood and helium balloons, all with potential to harm wildlife through ingestion or collision. You can help to reduce this sea pollution by simply refusing to purchase balloons, or, if you are sailing keep an eye on items on deck and ensure they don't blow away or slide off deck in choppy weather.

As well as being able to survey on the route, it is also fascinating for the MARINElife volunteers to be able to see the work of the bridge up close. Not many people get to see the precision and care which goes into getting you to and from ports, so many thanks to the Captain and crew of Côte des Flandres for their hospitality, it was a terrific trip and we hope to travel with you again soon.

Photos:
Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)
Mediterranean Gull (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (13 April 2019)

Posted 28 April 2019

Carol Farmer-Wright and Paul Radford; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outward: Dry, occasionally sunny; wind NE force 2 sea state 2 good visibility
Return: Dry conditions with northerly wind increasing to force 3, visibility - good

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Unidentified Dolphin Sp. 3

Birds:
Auk Sp. Alcidae 9
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 53
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 23
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 49
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Skua sp. Stercorariidae 1

With our departure from Dover being put back by ten minutes, Carol and I had plenty of time to become acquainted over a cup of coffee, before boarding the ship and being escorted to the bridge by the very welcoming and helpful crew of the Cote des Flandres.  It was whilst boarding that Carol imparted the first of many invaluable tips for a novice cross channel surveyor. Learning the phrase 'allez et retour' to ensure we were parked up for an easy exit on our return to Dover.

The weather in Dover had been wet and windy, but improved noticeably leading up to departure, with the rain abating and the bright sky being punctuated by a good amount of cloud cover.  Adding a northerly wind that only generated a sea state 2, meant that the early signs were good for being able to spot whatever the Channel had to offer.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 03

The time spent waiting to leave the harbour had been well spent with more coffee, and Carol explaining how to distinguish between the various age groups of herring gulls.  However, I would have to wait to put this newly acquired knowledge to the test, as the first seabird encountered once the survey began was an adult Guillemot sitting on the water.  It was a further 10 minutes until bird sightings became more regular, starting with Gannets (including one performing its characteristic dive for food) and then a regular stream of Kittiwake.  A single Sandwich Tern was also spotted, with a handful of Great Black-backed and Herring Gull making an appearance as we neared Calais.

We didn't have to wait long into the survey to see a mammal, with the unmistakeable bobbing head of a grey seal becoming visible on our starboard side, as the Cote des Flandres settled into its predominant course across the Strait of Dover.  Despite this promising start, it wasn't until 15 minutes prior to the outward survey ending that Carol spotted a Harbour Porpoise, taking evasive action just 100m in front of the ferry.

After enjoying a relaxing hour on the bridge, the return leg provided an opportunity for me to hone my gull ID skills with Herring Gull dominating the early sightings.  This was followed by the most action packed 15 minutes of the survey, which started with three sub-surface dolphins disappearing beneath the ferry. The behaviour of these animals - especially as they were swimming towards rather than away from the vessel - suggested they could have been Bottlenose Dolphin, but the sighting was too brief for us to suggest a specific species. This was closely followed by Carol identifying a group of 24 Gannets resting on the water, with her hypothesis that they had recently enjoyed a good feed being given further weight by a number of Guillemots on the water, and the appearance of a Harbour Porpoise in front of us just a few minutes later.

On our approach to the port at Dover, we were able to add more Kittiwake and Herring Gull to our sightings, along with two Common Gull. This only left us to reflect on what had been a thoroughly enjoyable trip, which provided so much to see and record in just over two hours of surveying.

Once again our thanks go to both Captains, officers and crew of the Cotes de Flandres, who made this a very enjoyable crossing.

Photos:
Guillemot (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (16 March 2019)

Posted 25 March 2019

Stephen Hedley and Amanda Jones; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Wind WSW Force 5-6, Sea State 5, visibility - moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Birds:
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 103
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Black Headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 26
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4
Gull sp. 8

We met just outside the port promptly, as advised, more than hour before the scheduled departure. We boarded the ship around three hours later and on arrival onto the bridge we could see that tugs were being used to help ships dock because of the strong cross winds.

Gannet Rob Petley Jones 09Upon leaving shortly afterwards, we spotted 20 Herring Gull close to the harbour wall. Slightly further out Fulmar, Gannet were seen, along with a Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and a Red-throated Diver. Around 15 minutes later we had our first sighting of a Great Skua, sitting on the water, then nonchalantly taking off as we approached. We continued to spy regular numbers of Gannet; easily our most common 
bird of the trip. Just over half an hour into the survey we had a brief glimpse of a lone Harbour Porpoise very close to the ship. This was our only sea mammal sighting of the survey, which wasn't necessarily surprising in view of the sea conditions. On the approach to Calais, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Cormorant and very close to the harbour entrance, two Great Crested Grebe were seen.

Herring Gull Adrian Shephard 03

The turn round in Calais went very smoothly and we were soon on the return leg of the survey. Sightings were similar to the outward leg, the only additional species being Black Headed Gull and Guillemot. A group of 50 Gannet were seen after half an hour at sea. As we approached the Kent coastline, we could see a ferry in front of us that appeared to be motionless. We then heard on the ship's radio that a queuing procedure had been implemented. As a result, we spent an hour waiting at sea, during this time our only sightings were occasional Fulmar skimming the waves skilfully around the ship.

Our thanks go to Captains and crew of the Cotes des Flandres who looked after us on this survey.

Photos:
Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)
Herring Gull (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (16 February 2019)

Posted 24 February 2019

Fergus Cunningham and Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound:Dry and misty with moderate visibility: Sea state 2-3, wind force 3-5 S-SSW

Return:Dry, moderate visibility: Sea state 3-2, wind force 4 W-SW

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Birds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 101
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 32
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 28
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 13
Razorbill Alca torda 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Unidentified Auk sp. Alcidae 19
Unidentiifed Diver sp. Gaviidae 2
Unidentified Wader sp. 4

This was my first survey to be completed for MARINElife as a trainee surveyor and I was delighted to see that the sun was shining, and visibility was relatively good as we approached the port in Dover. Carol and I grabbed a few refreshments before we boarded the 'Cote Des Flandres' and then waited in anticipation for the ferry to depart.

Kittiwake Graham Ekins 08Leaving Dover, the conditions seemed glorious for a Saturday afternoon in late February, the sun was shining with a light breeze in the air. The beaming sun and relatively flat sea didn't lend itself to ideal survey conditions however as the glare bounced straight of the ocean's surface making it difficult to ID some individuals who appeared only as silhouettes as they passed the bridge. As the ferry departed at 10.30am we waved goodbye to a number of Cormorant, Herring Gull and Common Gull who were soaking up the sunshine inside the bay.

Making our way towards Calais the survey started relatively slowly but picked up after half an hour. Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake and Guillemot dominated the survey, whilst Common Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull and a number of Auk were also spotted. In regard to Marine Mammals, a lone Grey seal was identified spy hopping as we neared the port in Calais.

Common Gull Graham Ekins 01After soaking up the sun for an hour and enjoying a light lunch on the bridge, it was time to make the return journey back to Dover. On the return leg the sun was thankfully behind us meaning we weren't battling with the glare on the ocean's surface throughout the survey. The journey back to Dover was again primarily dominated by Gannet, with good sightings of both Herring Gull and Kittiwake as well. On approach to the port in Dover we also recorded sightings of Common Gull, Cormorant and Lesser Black Backed Gull. Similar to the outward journey only one marine mammal was spotted, this time a lone Harbour Porpoise.

The survey was a fantastic experience I plan on completing further surveys in the near future. I would like to thank DFDS Seaways, the captains, their officers and the crew for accommodating us on this trip and making us feel very welcome.

Photos:
Kittiwake (Graham Ekins)
Common Gull (Graham Ekins)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (19 January 2019)

Posted 23 February 2019

Helen Swift and Tom Forster; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound:Dry and partly overcast, very good visibility, South-easterly wind force 4-6, sea state 3-5, some glare.

Return:Dry and partly overcast, very good visibility, South-easterly wind force 4, sea state 2-3, minimal glare.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 202
Common Gull Larus canus 49
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 44
Gannet Morus bassanus 113
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 66
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 79
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis 8
Razorbill Alca torda 136
Unidentified Auk sp. Alcidae 25
Unidentified Gull sp. Laridae 313
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. Larus 226

This felt a very classic winter survey in the Straits of Dover; before the survey began we could see the harbour wall black with roosting Cormorant (at least 390 present) and the harbour mouth a mass of milling gulls of several species defying detailed counting as they swarmed the disturbed waters to pluck up food stirred up by the passing ferries.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 03Starting the formal survey as we left harbour, we went beyond the milling gulls to settle in to the theme of this survey - a constant stream of auks flying or on the water. Interestingly even this early in the year quite a number were now starting to smarten up to into breeding plumage. We saw no large groups instead a constant smattering of Razorbill and Guillemot that kept us constantly busy recording the whole way across.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 04Our most exciting birds of the survey came quickly with 8 Long-tailed Duck flying westwards seen well by Helen (though sadly I could only catch a glimpse of the last of the flock having been trying to count auks). Our first porpoise followed soon after obligingly surfacing beautifully clearly just ahead of the ship to give us and the bridge-crew a great view before slipping back underwater.

As we neared Calais we saw increasing numbers of Gannet, many of them circling to look for food, and became highly suspicious there would be further porpoise about. Sure enough, we soon spotted a group of 3 surfacing. We hoped there might be more given the widespread Gannet activity but didn't see any further despite our searching - as often I wish it were possible to peer beneath the waves to see what else was about.

In the final section in to Calais we once again faced the swirling masses of gulls feeding around the Harbour mouth. As always on these Dover surveys we felt amazed at the variety and density of wildlife in such a small and busy stretch of waters.

Shortly out of Calais we spotted a large dark shape in the water initially thinking it was a cetacean before getting a better view and realising it was a very large bull Grey Seal resting at the surface. Returning was very similar in regard to the bird-life; huge swirl of milling gulls around Calais then a steady stream of auks punctuated by a few Gannet and gulls and two Great Skua heading west.

Our thanks to Captain and the crew of Côte de Flandres for making us welcome and looking after us throughout the survey.

Photos:
Guillemot (Peter Howlett)
Razorbill (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: Dover-Calais (01 December 2018)

Posted 06 December 2018

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (3 November 2018)

Posted 17 November 2018

Helen Swift and Tom Forster; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound:Sea state 5 initially, falling gradually to 1 inshore near Calais, excellent visibility (>20 km), some slight starboard glare during first half of crossing

Return:Sea state 1 near Calais rising to 5 from the mid-channel onwards, excellent visibility (>20 km), some slight port-ahead glare.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 120
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 330
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 41
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 5
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Unidentified Gull sp. 25
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. 22
Unidentified Auk sp. 4

Terrestrial birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 26

Our survey got off to a good start as Helen spotted a Peregrine passing over us as we drove towards passport control at the Dover terminal. The cliffs have always looked promising here for Peregrine, but this is the first time we have seen one here. Sadly, I could not see it as my eyes were on driving but once parked in the waiting area for loading, we scanned the cliffs in the hope of catching further sight of it. We had no further sign and had to satisfy ourselves with a Kestrel hovering over the cliff top but will be keeping our eyes out in future in the port.

Departing Dover, conditions were a stark contrast to our Dunkirk survey a couple of weeks ago; instead of the flat calm of that survey we were greeted by a stiff north wind and consequent sea-state 5 with a moderate swell and some starboard glare. All in all, it looked like it might be lively for seabirds but it seemed unlikely we would see any cetaceans on this survey. As we departed the port we were immediately greeted by a variety of gulls - Herring, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed, soon followed by our first Kittiwake. A surprise sighting was a flock of 25 Starling headed north-west towards Dover, we presume heading over to winter in the UK from France. A minute later we saw a further starling low to the water and heading west, we wondered if this had become detached from the main flock and hope it managed to re-orientate itself and make landfall.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 20About 20 minutes into the survey, Gannet numbers started to rapidly rise suggesting there might be fish in the area. Eleven Gannet were sitting together on the water looking like they had recently fed but none were diving. As we approached the area, Helen spotted dorsal fins rapidly breaking the surface as 3 cetaceans swam away from the Gannets. At first glance she thought dolphins due to the numbers together, rapid swimming and splashy simultaneous surfacing, but on closer inspection as they repeatedly surfaced, we realised these were the usual Harbour Porpoise so often seen on this route. Normally discrete and sedate, these were lively and active in a way we have never seen before, swimming much more purposefully and less 'porpoisefully' than usual - we suspect chasing fish.

 

Frequent Gannet continued and soon we had our second porpoise sighting, spotting two more surfacing ahead of us. Again, these were quite lively and instead of the usual tantalisingly brief glimpse we have so often had, these treated us to prolonged views as they passed by and into the wake, surfacing several times through the waves of the wake itself. It was not exactly dolphin-style playing in the wake, but as near as we ever expect to see in a porpoise. One was noticeably smaller than the other and we think they were a mother and juvenile.

As we neared the French coast the waters calmed markedly and by the time we reached Calais the sea-state had calmed right down to sea-state 1 in very marked contrast to Dover. Another ferry was departing as we came in and a large flock of Black-headed Gull followed it out looking for items stirred up in its wake.

Gannet Rob Petley Jones 09After the usual efficient turnaround in Calais we departed in conditions that exactly mirrored our outward crossing; calm near Calais becoming rapidly livelier as we departed the shelter of the French Coast. The big difference was the Gannet. Whilst outbound we had seen a fair number, on leaving Calais there were many, many more - it is always remarkable how swiftly they can gather and numbers change in one area in such a small space of time. Many of the Gannet were circling high, clearly actively searching for fish and it was not long before we spotted the first of several feeding frenzies, this one sadly too far distant to see if there were any cetaceans with it. So much was happening and so widely that it was difficult to keep pace, we did manage though and were rewarded for our care by spotting 5 Little Gull serenely passing through the milling Gannet. Gannet activity continued to build and soon we had a very large feeding frenzy with about seventy diving in a flock that moved progressively across the path of the ferry. It looked like there had to be cetaceans with them to keep the fish near the surface and soon I spotted three Harbour Porpoise very actively swimming and feeding near the leading edge of the Gannet activity though views were brief.

Further Gannet feeding continued in groups widely scattered over a huge area and our fourth porpoise sighting soon followed with a lone porpoise seen with a group of 11 diving Gannet. This whole period of activity was by far the most active we have ever seen in the Straits of Dover. Given the numbers of Gannet and activity over such a wide area we wonder just how many more porpoise there might have been, especially given that we were spotting them amid the waves of a sea-state 4 rising to 5. The remainder of our crossing back to Dover was lively with gulls including many Kittiwake scudding along amidst the rising winds but by contrast it seemed quite quiet. This was quite a memorable survey for us and as often on this route it is amazing how much there is to see in such a short crossing. Definitely a reminder to us not to be put off by the weather or sea-conditions - you never know what may still be out there.

Our thanks to Captain Maçon and the crew of Côte de Flandres for making us welcome and looking after us throughout the survey.

Photos:
Harbour Porpoise (Peter Howlett)
Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (1 October 2018)

Posted 03 November 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather
Outward - dry, increasing cloud, good visibility: north, north-westerly wind force 4-6.
Return - mainly overcast, good visibility with glare at times: north, north-westerly wind force 6

Marine Mammals
Unidentified Seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Auk Sp. Alcidae 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 31
Common Gull Larus canus 19
Diver sp. Gaviidae 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 109
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 548
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 37
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 10
Razorbill Alca torda 5

Terrestrial Birds
Brent Goose (Dark bellied) Branta bernicla 1101

What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday I was disembarking from a survey to Spain in brilliant sunshine and temperatures of 22 degrees, Saturday the temperature was under 10 degrees and the staff loading the vessels at Dover were wrapped up to keep themselves warm.

Once on board the Cote des Flandres, I was taken to the bridge to prepare for the survey. We left Dover dock at 12.30pm and followed behind another DFDS vessel sailing to Dunkirk. A moving vessel always attracts the gull population, that rest on the outer harbour wall, to follow a wake prospecting for food. Sure enough, around 500 large gulls followed the other vessel and then turned towards us to see if we had churned up any food for them.

Leaving the prospecting gulls behind, the vessel turned to head for Calais. Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, the occasional Common Gull and Kittiwake were seen during the survey with Black-headed Gull appearing as we neared Calais harbour. As the ship turned parallel to the shore a dark mass just above the waves attracted my attention. Looking through my binoculars I identified a large ragged skein of Dark-Bellied Brent Geese. These birds have returned from their breeding areas in the high arctic to the wintering areas of coastal France and Southern England. Many of them will over-winter around the Solent and Chichester harbour, A further four skeins of geese were seen before we entered Calais Harbour.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 12

Little Gull (Peter Howlett)

An hour later the ship set sail for Dover. Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Kittiwake and Great Black-backed Gull accompanied us on our return journey. A quarter of an hour into the return leg I recorded a small group of Little Gull that included two juveniles. These birds were dwarfed by a Kittiwake flying with them just emphasising how little they are. An hour into the return leg I recorded my only marine mammal for the day, a seal was bottling half a mile away, too far away to make positive identification.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 12

Kittiwake (Peter Howlett)

Reaching the outer harbour arm the ship was again visited by the prospecting gulls and at that point I closed the survey down.

I would like to thank both captains, their officers and crew for making me feel so welcome and DFDS Seaways for allowing MARINElife to survey on this very busy route.

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways Dover-Calais (15 September 2018)

Posted 12 September 2018

Survey cancelled for logistic reasons

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (25 August 2018)

Posted 02 September 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright and Imogen Cavadino, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward - partially cloudy, good visibility: west north-west to west south-west wind force 2-5.  Return - good visibility with glare at times: west south-west to westerly wind force 6-4.

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Gull sp. Laridae 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 25
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Larus sp. Larus sp. 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8

After the long, hot days of summer it was quite a surprise to leave my home for Dover with a hint of air frost. As a Bank Holiday weekend I thought the traffic on the roads would be heavier than usual, this was not to be the case. I met Imogen in Dover and we set off for the port. With plenty of time to spare we were able to go to one of the rest areas to have a cup of coffee prior to driving onto the ship.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 03

Sandwich Tern (Peter Howlett)

We were greeted by Christine at the information desk and were taken to the bridge to begin our survey. Sightings were slow, but migration was in evidence as four Great Skua were seen heading south for the winter. Sandwich Tern were also encountered, they had transitioned into non-breeding plumage and were also heading south for warmer climes. As we approached Calais, Black-headed Gull were seen. They had also lost their dark brown plumage on their heads and were now in non-breeding plumage with a predominately white head and the tell-tale black spot behind the ear.

During our crossing we were advised by the officers that Bottlenose Dolphin had been seen earlier in the week near Boulogne, sadly we were not to see them.

BH Gull Carol FarmerWright 01

Black-headed Gull (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Whilst in Calais we went to the ships cafeteria to have lunch and watched the cars being unloaded.

Soon we were back on the bridge and recording Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Gannet and a solitary Fulmar.

Despite favourable seas we did not record any Harbour Porpoise or Seal that tend to frequent Calais harbour.

We left the bridge as we entered Dover harbour and went downstairs to collect our car.

Our thanks go to both captains, their officers and crew for making us feel so welcome and to DFDS Seaways for enabling us to survey on this important route.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Imogen Cavadino; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (30 July 2018)

Posted 07 August 2018

Carol and Andy Farmer-Wright, Research surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outbound sea state 4-2, dry with increasing cloud. Visibility good with occasional glare. Return sea state 3-4, dry with decreasing cloud. Visibility moderate to good with occasional glare

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 28
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 10
Larus sp. Larus sp. 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 15

Initially it was planned to do this survey on Saturday, but the schools breaking up meant that we rescheduled for a day when a car space became available. This turned out to be in our favour as the heatwave that we had been experiencing broke with heavy rain which would not have been conducive to sightings. We rearranged for Monday when the majority of the rain had passed and visibility was much improved. We arrived at Dover in plenty of time to have a cup of coffee before boarding the ship.

Fulmar Peter Howlett 10

Fulmar (Peter Howlett)

Initially we recorded Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Gannet (including a bird born this year) and Fulmar. As we neared the French coast we encountered, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull and a group of European Shag that flew along the coast as we neared Calais. A group of seven small sailing craft had to be negotiated prior to entering the harbour that were passed with consummate skill by the Captain and Officers on board.

We left the bridge as we entered Calais harbour to have some lunch on the ship before surveying on the return crossing to Dover.  As we waited to begin the return survey we had the opportunity to watch many Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull  congregate in the harbour to take advantage of food being churned up by the ships propellers.

Herring Gull Rob Petley-Jones 02

Herring Gull (Rob Petley-Jones)

On the return crossing we encountered may more Gannet than we had seen on the outbound crossing. Their ages varied from birds born this year to full breeding adults.

Sadly no cetaceans or seals were seen during this survey.

Our thanks go to both Captains, Officers and crew of the Cote des Flandres for their hospitality and to DFDS Seaways for enabling MARINElife to survey on this busy route. Special thanks goes to Monika at the booking office for arranging the booking at such short notice.

Carol and Andy Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyors from MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (23 June 2018)

Posted 10 July 2018

Siobhan Ford and Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound: Sea state 2-3, dry, few clouds with good visibility.
Return: Sea state 4-2, few clouds, good visibility, some glare.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
A casual sighting by the captain of a seal was noted prior to commencement of the return survey.

Seabirds:
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 24
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1

It was a beautiful bright morning in Dover, after a disruptive night at a local B&B. I met Carol for my first voyage with MARINElife and a new opportunity to put my marine mammal surveying skills back into action- It had been a while! It was also a privilege to be accompanying Carol on her 100th survey for MARINElife.

We boarded the Cote Des Flandres, where we were welcomed by a friendly team and escorted to the bridge where once out of the harbour, began surveying.

Late June brings with it breeding season for many sea birds. As a result, many species were less present as parenting duties command their attention. As a new comer to bird identification, Carol shared her plethora of identification techniques- I have since been identifying birds en route to work!

Gannet Peter Howlett 12We encountered Herring Gull frequently while leaving Dover as well as a good number of Kittiwake. I was excited to see a variety of age groups of Gannet, with Carol sharing her knowledge of the change in plumage between ages.

After a swift turn around at Calais, the Captain excitedly pointed out a seal in the Harbour. This was not recorded as we were not recording at that time, however, a treat to see a healthy seal.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 02The weather still calm however, the sea state had picked up to a 4 as we headed back to Dover. Keenly observing I spotted what I thought was a Herring Gull, to my delight it was a Fulmar- I found it incredibly interesting looking at the variations of birds sighted and learning ways in which quick identification can be used.

Another excited out cry from the Captain lead myself and Carol to observe some humans- swimming the Channel, an interesting observation and identification!

Before long we were entering Dover harbour and retired from the bridge to collect our car and return to Dover.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, the Captain, Officers and crew who were incredibly friendly and helpful at both marine and human species identification! Thank you for continuing to support our research.

Photos:
Gannet (Peter Howlett)
Fulmar (Rob Petley-Jones)

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (26 May 2018)

Posted 31 May 2018

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (28 April 2018)

Posted 04 May 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright and Helen Swift; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound: Sea state 4-3, wind SW-WSW force 5-6, dry, cloudy with good visibility.
Return: Sea state 3, wind WSE force 5, cloudy, good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Birds:
'Comic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 7
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 16
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 40
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Gull sp. Laridae 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 29
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Larus sp. 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

The morning was cloudy but dry as I met Helen in Dover and we drove to the port to board the Cote des Flandres.

Once the ship had docked, we were directed onboard, taken to the bridge and welcomed by the captain before beginning the survey.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 12

April is one of the peak migration months and the first bird we recorded was a Swallow flying to the UK. Sea migrants were also in evidence as the third bird we encountered was a Manx Shearwater, a bird that had circumnavigated the southern Atlantic Ocean since it left the UK last autumn. We then encountered Gannet, Herring Gull, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich and Commic Tern as we made our way to Calais.

The turnaround in Calais takes less than an hour and we were able to view a pair of Eider in the harbour before we began our return survey.

A pair of Great-crested Grebe were the first birds we saw as we left the harbour. Great-crested Grebe tend to be found around the harbours in winter months and I was surprised that they hadn't started moving to their breeding grounds. Perhaps the recent cold weather had delayed their departure.

Cormorant were also seen on the French side of the Channel but were soon left behind as we moved into the main channel where Gannet and Kittiwake predominated.

It wasn't long before we were entering Dover harbour and retired from the bridge to collect our car and return to Dover.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, the Captain, Officers and crew who were so friendly whilst we were working on the bridge for enabling us to survey on this route.

Photos:
Manx Shearwater (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (3 February 2018)

Posted 05 February 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound: Sea state 2, wind cyclonic NNE-SE force 3-1, dry, cloudy with good visibility.
Return: Sea state 1-3, wind cyclonic ESE-NNW force 2-3, cloudy with occasional rain, visbility good to moderate. 

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8

Seabirds:
Auk sp. 13
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Common Gull Larus canus 13
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 336
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 172
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 110 
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 35
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 97
Larus sp.  1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Razorbull Alca torda 11
Red-throated Diver (Loon) Gavia stellata 1
Skua sp. 2
Goosander Mergus merganser 1

With the weather normally temperamental in the early months of the year, it was a delight to travel down to Dover in a light breeze with gentle rain falling. By midday the rain had stopped leaving a cloudy sky and a calm sea, wonderful conditions for surveying.

cormorant Adrian Shephard 03aOnce the ship had docked, I was directed onboard, visited the information desk and was escorted to the bridge and welcomed by the captain before beginning the survey.

As the shipped passed the harbour outer arm we were confronted by a raft of around 300 Cormorant and a few metres further on another raft of around 100 Gannet. This suggests that a shoal of fish had been in the area shortly beforehand and the birds were resting after eating. The Cote des Flanders disturbed the birds rest, moving through them as we turned towards Calais.

Herring Gull, Kittiwake and auks were also evident as we left the English coast. Tt wasn't until 50 minutes into the survey, as we were approaching the French coast, that Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Common Gull were seen.

Calais Harbour Carol Farmer-Wright 01There were three separate sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a total of eight animals, all swimming slowly. These animals could be clearly seen owing to the calm sea.

The ship arrived in Calais and the rain started again. By the time we were due to depart, the rain had stopped which helped me to spot two Grey Seal within ten minutes of leaving the harbour entrance.

No further marine mammals were recorded. The bird count remained fairly constant throughout the return trip, the frequency only increasing once we neared Dover harbour.

My thanks go to both Captain Desfrennes and Captain Saint Martin, the Officers and crew of the Cote des Flandres for making me so welcome on board the ship and to DFDS for enabling MARINElife to survey on this short, but extremely productive route.

Photos:
Cormorant (Adrian Shephard)
Calais Harbour ramp (Carol Farmer-Wright)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (6 January 2018)

Posted 14 January 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind N to NE force 5-6. Visibility moderate to good. Cloudy and dry. Sea state 2-4.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seal sp. 2

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 92
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 11
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 71
Lesser Black-backed gull Larus fuscus 1 
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 108
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 68
Guillemot Uria aalge 27
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Skua sp. 2
Auk sp. 4
Larus sp. 3

Grey Seal Rick Morris 05First week into a New Year and I drove down the hill to Dover Eastern Docks to complete the first Dover to Calais survey. Low cloud enveloped the hills and there was a light sea mist which cleared as the day wore on. The wind had recently switched from southerly to northerly in the morning. I was seen quickly by French passport control and soon boarded the Cote des Flandres. Arriving at reception I waited until able to be escorted onto the bridge.

We left promptly. Many Herring Gull, Black-backed Gull and Guillemot were waiting for us to depart just beyond the harbour entrance, hoping to pick up morsels of food churned up by the propellers. Soon after leaving the harbour I spotted a Grey Seal watching us as we headed out into the Channel. Kittiwake were soon in evidence and brief glimpses were seen of a Skua and a few winter plumaged Red-throated Diver. As the vessel approached Calais the Captain advised me that he had seen another seal and within ten minutes I spotted a further animal. He advised that seals are regularly seen by the officers in and around the French port.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 01The turn-around takes only an hour in Calais and by 2.45pm we were heading back to the UK. Another seal was spotted in the harbour before the return section of the survey started. Ten to fifteen minutes from departure an aggregation of Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull were seen, some diving into the water to feed, others prospected above the water.

Bird sightings were steady until we were within fifteen minutes of entering Dover port. The gulls that had been resting on the breakwater observed our approach and rushed to join us, looking for food.

With the light failing I left the bridge having thanked the Captain, officers and crew for their hospitality and made my way down to the passenger area.

Photos:
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)
Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (4 November 17)

Posted 12 December 2017

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (2 December 2017)

Posted 12 December 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright and Adrian Shephard; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Sea state 2-3 N-NW

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena9

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 753
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 21
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 15
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 32
Common Gull Larus canus 11
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 106
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus127
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 99
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Auk Sp. 7

Carol surveying Adrian Shephard 01

We arrived in Dover to light winds and overcast conditions - quite literally perfect for marine wildlife observation. We enjoyed a coffee, boarded and were quickly escorted to the bridge for introductions to the captain and his team.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 01We departed in a flurry of gulls and were soon recording Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull and Gannet. Bird sightings were constant for the crossing but around half way, a group of circling Gannet indicated the first of our sightings of Harbour Porpoise.

Sunset at Dover Adrian Shephard 01Gannet numbers increased as we approached the French coast interspersed with Great Skua waiting their chance to chase down other birds for food. A group of Great Black-backed Gull did get their revenge on a Great Skua at one point, chasing and mobbing it as he followed and evasion strategy.

After a swift turn around in Calais, we were back to sea with even better light than outbound. This allowed us to record a number more Harbour Porpoise as well as a more seabirds including a few Guillemot and Razorbill.

We also observed many Kittiwake during the crossing including one poor individual being harried by gulls. We arrived back at Dover with the sun setting the sky alight, what an end to a great trip!

Thank you to the crew of Cote Des Flandres for all their help and interest in our work.

 

Photos:
Carol Surveying (Adrian Shephard)
Great Skua (Peter Howlett)
Sunset at Dover (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (7 October 2017)

Posted 19 October 2017

Tibor Beetles and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Sea state 4-6, W-WSW winds, Visibility poor to fair, heavy cloud cover, minimal glare

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

Grey Seal Halichoerus gypus 1

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 72
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 22
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Auk Sp. 24
Gull Sp. 1

Terrestrial birds at sea:
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 30

The visibility wasn't great on the way to Dover but there was the odd hopeful glimmer in the sky. We boarded quickly and took up our place on the bridge. The survey began with a flurry of Kittiwake and a solitary Gannet, this was rather dramatically upstaged by a flight of thirty westward bound Brent Geese.

Gannet, mostly adults with some late juveniles, continued to appear and two Great Skua were spotted in fairly quick succession. The poor visibility and sea state improved a little and Tibor proved they weren't going to rule out cetacean spotting with two Harbour Porpoise passing to starboard.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 05Gannet and Kittiwake continued to appear, circling and diving, with Great Black-backed Gull now being spotted.

A large, solitary Grey Seal could rather surprisingly be seen surfacing ahead of the boat in mid-channel and a couple of Kittiwake crossing the bow as we approached Calais harbour.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 03After about an hour turnaround in Calais the return journey saw Guillemot and Razorbill and larger numbers of Auk. Followed by a re-appearance of groups of Gannet, adults and older juveniles actively fishing. A second pair of porpoises headed straight for the bow and dived to port.

There were further Auk as we neared Dover and a late appearance by a small group of juvenile Gannet in the last few minutes of the trip.

Despite the fairly discouraging conditions and what seemed likely to be well camouflaged sea life the survey yielded some pleasantly surprising sightings. Thanks to DFDS and captains Marson and Blanchard, one for each leg this time, and all the crew.

 

Photos:
Harbour Porpoise (Rick Morris)
Guillemot (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (23 September 2017)

Posted 28 September 2017

Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Sea state 1-2, high cloud cover, calm to light breeze turning North to South, visibility hazy 10-15km

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5

Grey Seal Halichoerus gypus 2

Seabirds:
Cormornt Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 56
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Tern Species 1
Gull Species 11
Auk Species 1
Diver(Loon) Species 2

I was very pleased to be surveying on the Cote des Flandres as the last survey was back in March and I had not personally completed this route before. Check-in and boarding was very quick, and I was the first car aboard the ferry to enable me to park pointing the right way for my return journey! I was escorted up to the bridge and greeted by the friendly French crew, who shared some stories of whales they'd seen on a Bay of Biscay route, and quite regular sightings of dolphins in the Channel.

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 02Before even leaving the berth and commencing the survey I saw my first marine mammal, a large Grey Seal eating a big fish just a hundred metres from the ferry! Once underway and clear of the harbour entrance, I started the survey and was pleased to record almost perfect environmental conditions - a flat calm grey sea and good cloud cover. Within twenty minutes of leaving Dover I saw my first Harbour Porpoise, its small dorsal clearly showing dark against the calm grey sea.

Cormorant Peter Howlett 01Across the Channel, I saw a few Gannet, a Great Skua and a lone Guillemot in winter plumage rafting on the water. Closer to France there was a light haze but I was pleased to spot another couple of Harbour Porpoise, before a small group of Common Scoter took off from the water and flew right across the bow. As we neared Calais I also recorded Great Black-backed and Black-headed Gull, and Cormorant.

After a speedy turnaround, I again spotted a Grey Seal just outside Calais harbour, bottling high out of the water. There were a few more gulls and cormorants as we left Calais, but not long after leaving I was excited to see two divers, possibly Great Northern, flying quite high in front of the boat following the coastline. Shortly after I also saw my last two Harbour Porpoise of the day, swimming together in the shallow waters.

The wind had dropped further, and the vast majority of the birds sighted were Gannet of varying ages, often rafting on the calm water with a few actively searching for food and a couple diving for fish. Closer to Dover, a variety of gulls appeared, along with a couple of Kittiwake and another lone Guillemot.

Thanks again to Captain Julian and the whole team at DFDS and the Cote des Flandres for letting me survey this short but very productive route and I'd definitely recommend this to other researchers.

Photos:
Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)
Cormorant (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (11 March 2017)

Posted 13 March 2017

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Sea state S: 2-3 with a little mist.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 26

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 114
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Common Gull Larus canus 18
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 10
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 26
Guillemot Uria aalge 9
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Cormornt Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Auk sp. 5
Gull sp. 1

Harbour Porpoise Adrian Shephard 07We headed for Dover with the prospect of calm seas but with a little mist hanging in the air. We were soon aboard Cote Des Flandres and received a very warm welcome at reception and were soon on the bridge ready to depart.

The sea state was good and after a flurry of gulls in Dover Harbour, we were soon scanning the sea for the signs of marine mammals and we didn't have to wait long to be rewarded. A series of Harbour Porpoise were recorded in singles and duos gently surfacing before a couple of more exuberant duos were seen.

Cormorant Adrian Shephard 05Seabirds were at relatively low numbers, often resting on the waters surface in the absence of any wind.  The usual mix of Gannet, Kittiwake and occasion Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull making an appearance.

With Calais in sight, a few additional birds were added to the list as three Great Skua took flight and passed in front of the ship followed by a few Cormorant in front of the port entrance.

After a brief stop in Calais and a welcome coffee from the bridge team, we were back to sea and again recording Harbour Porpoise with a total of 13 recorded in each direction.

Delft Seaways Adrian Shephard 02With the survey nearing completion and Dover in sight, we watched Delft Seaways depart for Dunkirk and then had a flurry of Common Gull sightings before docking and heading ashore.

Our thanks to all those at DFDS Seaways and especially the crew of the Cote Des Flandres.

Photos:
Harbour Porpoise (Adrian Shephard)
Cormorant (Adrian Shephard)
Delft Seaways (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (11 February 2017)

Posted 15 February 2017

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (17 January 2017)

Posted 24 January 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright,, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Sea state 2-3, dry and sunny with variable mist patches. Visibility moderate to good with occasional glare.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 41
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 13
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Common Gull Larus canus 180
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 362
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 69
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 161
Guillemot Uria aalge 97
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Larus sp. 149

Initially it was planned to do this survey on Saturday, but strong winds and tidal surges resulting from the deep low pressure in the Norway basin meant that survey data would not be meaningful. By Tuesday a high pressure system was dominating the southeast of England and conditions were ideal for surveying. The high pressure and light winds resulted in blue skies with fog and mist patches low over the sea.

I drove down to Dover terminal and was one of the first vehicles to board the ship. I made my way to the information desk and was taken to the Bridge.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 03Initially I picked up a variety of gulls including Herring, Black-Headed, Lesser and Great Black-backed. A few Cormorant were also seen. In the Channel Guillemot, Kittiwake, Common Gull and Gannet were seen. A couple of times on the outbound, leg larger groups of mixed birds were in evidence with feeding activity observed.

Half way across the Channel I caught sight of movement close to the port bow. Two Harbour Porpoise were swimming in a relaxed manner away from the ship.

Guillemot and Kittiwake were left behind as the ship approached Calais. Common, Herring and Black-backed Gull left the port to welcome the ship into the harbour, hoping to take advantage of the ships movement to obtain an easy meal.

Common Gull Graham Ekins 03An hour later the ship was heading back to Dover. With only an hour of daylight left many gulls were heading to their evening roosts on the harbour walls. Bird sightings were constant on the return leg and one further sighting of a distant Harbour Porpoise close to the northbound shipping lane ended my mammal observations for the day.

I concluded my survey as the light faded on the approach to Dover.

My thanks go to both Captains, Officers and crew of the Cote des Flandres for their hospitality and to DFDS Seaways for enabling MARINElife to survey on this busy route. Special thanks goes to Monika at the booking office for amending the booking at such short notice.

Photos:
Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)
Common Gull (Graham Ekins)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Calais-Dover (10 December 2016)

Posted 14 December 2016

Diederik D'Hert and Jozefien Decoene, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Both outward and return trip: Overcast with fog and moderate visibility. SW 6.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 2

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 678
Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 254
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 39
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 44
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 47
Guillemot Uria aalge 6
Auk sp. 3
Gull sp. 61
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1

Herring Gull Adrian Shephard 05

After driving our car to the car deck, we were welcomed on the bridge and installed ourselves on the starboard side of the ship.  As soon as we left port, we were accompanied by a delightful mix of sea birds, including Herring, Common, Black-headed, Caspian, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, followed by Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot as we headed further into the Channel.

Despite the strong wind (SSW), the waves were not high. Still a little too high for easy observing of rolling fins of Harbour Porpoise, but small enough to see dolphins passing by. We saw some Gannet diving for food and some foraging Great Skua before docking at the port of Dover.

WB Dolphin Rick Morris 01As we arrived in Dover at noon, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the crew mess and then prepared for the return trip to Calais. After around 30 minutes of observing, we got close to a huge gathering of Gannet, most of them resting on the sea surface. Huge flocks of sea birds often indicate feeding frenzies in which dolphins or porpoises also participate. And indeed, only a couple of minutes later, we were rewarded with splashes coming from a couple of White-beaked Dolphin just in front of us, coming into the bows of the ship, energetically turning to bow ride.  It is always exciting to see these animals so close to the ship.

We concluded our survey on arrival in Calais and thanked the captain and his staff for their hospitality before heading back home.

Photos:
Herring Gull (Adrian Shephard)
White-beaked Dolphin (Rick Morris)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (19 November 2016)

Posted 26 November 2016

Adrian Shephard and Mandy Bright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Sunny with increasing cloud, wind force SW 5-3

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds:
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 267
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 125
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 221
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 40
Unidentified auk sp. 4

Gannet Adrian Shephard 16We met in a car park just outside the port in bright and sunny conditions but with a cold breeze blowing. After enjoying a coffee, we headed aboard and were soon preparing to start our survey. Dover is always a busy port with ships coming and going and we were soon heading through the breakwater and into the Channel which did display many whitecaps.

Seabirds were fairly constant throughout the crossing with Gannet and Herring Gull predominating, often in feeding aggregations. We commented that there were likely porpoises in the area, but the conditions precluded all but a single animal being recorded. An occasional Guillemot was seen flying with determination ahead of the ship and as we approached Calais, we added Cormorant to our tally of species.

GBB Gull Adrian Shephard 06After a brief turn around in Calais, we were back to sea, but conditions had started to deteriorate. The cloud cover was now complete and we experienced light fog and rain as the skies darkened. Good numbers of Great Black-backed Gull and further Gannet were recorded as well as a Common Gull close to Dover itself.

We docked and thanked the captain and bridge team for their support and headed ashore.

Photos:
Gannet(Adrian Shephard)
Great Black-backed Gull (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (15 October 2016)

Posted 03 October 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (17 September 2016)

Posted 13 September 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (20 August 2016)

Posted 18 August 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (18 June 2016)

Posted 22 June 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: Dover to Calais (21 May 2016)

Posted 21 May 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (19 March 2016)

Posted 10 April 2016

Melissa Goulton and John Little, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Overcast, some light rain, wind force 3-7

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds:
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Unidentified auk sp. 9
Unidentifed gull sp. 3

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 04John and I met up prior to our survey, and shared stories about the marine mammals that we had seen when we have been out at sea. As it was the first survey we had both carried out since the beginning of the year, we were keen to begin looking out for marine wildlife.

Cormorant Graham Ekins 03Shortly into our journey we began to see a variety of seabirds; including Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake. The crew chatted to us about the cetaceans they had seen on the Dover-Calais ferry route recently, and kindly brought us coffee whilst we were looking out to sea. As we approached Calais we recorded a couple of Cormorant flying low over the water and, whilst in port, we watched the gulls circling around the ferry looking for food. We were both impressed at how quickly vehicles were unloaded (and reloaded) at Calais, and it was not long before we were back on the return leg of our survey towards Dover.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15About half way towards Dover we recorded our first marine mammal sighting. John noticed the harbour porpoise's fin near the bow of the ferry, and then I saw a slight splash as it headed away. Considering there were quite a few white caps, it was great that we noticed the porpoise. This was the only marine mammal sighting of our survey, but as we travelled closer to Dover we continued to record many seabirds; including Guillemot that were flying fast over the water, and lots of gulls as we entered the Port of Dover.

All in all a great trip, and thanks to all the crew for enabling this survey to run smoothly.
Photos:
Kittiwake (Peter Howlett)
Cormorant (Graham Ekins)
Harbour Porpoise (Peter Howlett)

MARINElife survey report Dover-Calais February 2016

Posted 17 February 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS ‘Malo Seaways’ Dover-Calais (23 January 2016)

Posted 31 January 2016

Adrian Shephard and Sian Ponting, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: SSW-S wind force 4-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 128
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Common Gull Larus canus 57
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 23
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 1
Razorbill Alca torda 33
Guillemot Uria aalge 123
Unidentified quk Sp. 14
Unidentified gull Sp. 62

Gannet Adrian Shephard 10With just over a month since my last survey, I was looking forward to once again joining Malo Seaways to head across to Calais. Whilst this is a short survey, the route can funnel wildlife and therefore be quite busy.

We departed and after a brief flurry of assorted gulls in Dover Harbour, we were soon recording seabirds as we headed out. Despite the mist and fog, sea states were fairly calm.

Herring Gull Adrian Shephard 04The mix of birds was fairly constant, with Gannet and Guillemot the most numerous - some of the Guillemot were already transitioning to their breeding plumage. Kittiwake continued to be seen throughout the crossing with other species like Common and Herring Gull being primarily seen near the two ports.

Around half way across, a group of circling Gannet warranted more detailed observation and a couple of Harbour Porpoise popped up under them; the only marine mammal sighting for the trip.

Razorbill Adrian Shephard 04With Calais in sight, a few Cormorant added to the species list. After a short stop in Calais, we were back to sea with thicker fog for the initial period, however a brief view of a Black-throated Diver added to our species count for the trip.  We also added Razorbill with several groups flying ahead of the ship.

A similar mix of species were seen as we headed back to Dover and with the port entrance in sight, a last minute gull and Gannet frenzy tested our speed-capture of data.

Thank you to all the crew of Malo Seaways for a great survey.

 

MARINElife blog: DFDS ‘Malo Seaways’ Dover-Calais (20 December 2015)

Posted 02 January 2016

Adrian Shephard and Jonny Lawson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: SSW-SW wind force 4-6

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 8
Common Gull Larus canus 31
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 268
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 180
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Guillemot Uria aalge 34
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 160
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 24
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3"Baltic"
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus fuscus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Razorbill Alca torda 5

BT Diver Adrian Shephard 02I met up with Jonny in the port to discuss his first MARINElife survey and after a coffee, we boarded Malo Seaways and headed to the bridge to start the survey. Conditions were quite blustery, which made it challenging to spot marine mammals, but ideal for seabirds.

After a flurry of gulls in the harbour, we started our survey and we soon picked up Guillemot, Gannet and Kittiwake. Other gull species were recorded including Great Black-backed and Herring Gull. As the French coast came into sight, we had a brief glimpse of a couple of Little Gull and the first Black-throated Diver of the trip.

With the harbour at Calais in sight, Jonny spotted a fleeting Harbour Porpoise surfacing and we then saw a Grey Seal not far from the harbour entrance. The captain informed us that seals are often seen around the moorings in the harbour itself especially when fishing vessels are in.

Great Skua Adrian Shephard 06We watched the efficient way the ship was unloaded and reloaded and before we knew it, we were back at sea with another Grey Seal making an appearance off the starboard side of the ship. More species of seabird were recorded including a number of Lesser Black-backed Gull including a dark so-called "Baltic Gull", Great Skua, a few Fulmar and Razorbill.

As we neared Dover, the seabirds were coming thick and fast and we struggled to keep up with the Great Black-backed Gull, Gannet, Common and Herring Gull whirring around in front of the ship bringing an end to a very productive survey with over 700 seabirds being recorded.

Thank you to all the crew of Malo Seaways for a great survey.