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

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

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

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.

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