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

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.


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