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

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

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

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.


Harbour Porpoise (Rick Morris)
Guillemot (Peter Howlett)