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