MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (6 January 2018)

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind N to NE force 5-6. Visibility moderate to good. Cloudy and dry. Sea state 2-4.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seal sp. 2

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 92
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 11
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 71
Lesser Black-backed gull Larus fuscus 1 
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 108
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 68
Guillemot Uria aalge 27
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Skua sp. 2
Auk sp. 4
Larus sp. 3

Grey Seal Rick Morris 05First week into a New Year and I drove down the hill to Dover Eastern Docks to complete the first Dover to Calais survey. Low cloud enveloped the hills and there was a light sea mist which cleared as the day wore on. The wind had recently switched from southerly to northerly in the morning. I was seen quickly by French passport control and soon boarded the Cote des Flandres. Arriving at reception I waited until able to be escorted onto the bridge.

We left promptly. Many Herring Gull, Black-backed Gull and Guillemot were waiting for us to depart just beyond the harbour entrance, hoping to pick up morsels of food churned up by the propellers. Soon after leaving the harbour I spotted a Grey Seal watching us as we headed out into the Channel. Kittiwake were soon in evidence and brief glimpses were seen of a Skua and a few winter plumaged Red-throated Diver. As the vessel approached Calais the Captain advised me that he had seen another seal and within ten minutes I spotted a further animal. He advised that seals are regularly seen by the officers in and around the French port.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 01The turn-around takes only an hour in Calais and by 2.45pm we were heading back to the UK. Another seal was spotted in the harbour before the return section of the survey started. Ten to fifteen minutes from departure an aggregation of Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull were seen, some diving into the water to feed, others prospected above the water.

Bird sightings were steady until we were within fifteen minutes of entering Dover port. The gulls that had been resting on the breakwater observed our approach and rushed to join us, looking for food.

With the light failing I left the bridge having thanked the Captain, officers and crew for their hospitality and made my way down to the passenger area.

Grey Seal (Rick Morris)
Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)