MARINElife blog: DFDS ‘Malo Seaways’ Dover-Calais (22 November 2015)

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jo Collins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Outward: Dry, good visibility: north-westerly wind force 3-5.
Return: Dry, good visibility: north-westerly wind force 6-7.

Summary of sightings:

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 10
Common Gull Larus canus 23
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 23
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 39
Gannet Morus bassanus 164
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 105
Guillemot Uria aalge 14
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 4
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Mixed gull 27
Larus sp. 13
Auk sp. 2
Medium gull sp. 7

Terrestrial birds:
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 23

Cormorant Peter Howlett 01The jet stream had provided very lively weather in the Channel over the past week, so imagine our delight as we arrived in Dover to see a calm sea before us. We entered the port and awaited the arrival of the Malo Seaways. A fortnight ago, when travelling to Dunkirk, the air temperature was 20 degrees centigrade, today it was only just above freezing; far more appropriate for this time of year.

Once on board we proceeded to the information desk and were taken to the bridge to prepare for our survey. Visibility was good and as we left the outer breakwater we began recording Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Gannet. Ten minutes into our crossing a lone Red-throated Diver passed close to the ship. Soon our attention was drawn to a group of migrating Starling heading for the Kent coast, their journey to land almost complete. Gannet and Kittiwake were the main birds recorded in mid channel, these gave way to Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull as we neared the French coast together with a couple of sightings of Little Gull and Common Scoter.

Gannet Mike Bamford 01On arrival at Calais, we had a short break before returning to the bridge for the home leg of our survey. At this time of year sunset is at 4pm so we would not be able to survey the whole of the return leg. As we left the breakwater in Calais Little Gull, Kittiwake, Common Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were seen. A mixed group of gull were recorded following a ferry into Calais, hoping for a meal to be churned up by the ship's propellers. The return trip was again dominated by Great Black-backed Gull and Gannet; some of the latter were seen diving for fish. Dusk approached rapidly and we left the bridge having had a very rewarding survey.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 07


We would like to thank DFDS Seaways, Captains Ludovic Thily and Fabrice Defrennes, their officers and crew for their hospitality which made this survey so enjoyable.

Cormorant (Peter Howlett)
Gannet (Mike Bamford)
Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)