Sightings Archives: February 2018

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (3 February 2018)

Posted 05 February 2018

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

Outbound: Sea state 2, wind cyclonic NNE-SE force 3-1, dry, cloudy with good visibility.
Return: Sea state 1-3, wind cyclonic ESE-NNW force 2-3, cloudy with occasional rain, visbility good to moderate. 

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8

Auk sp. 13
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Common Gull Larus canus 13
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 336
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 172
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 110 
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 35
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 97
Larus sp.  1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Razorbull Alca torda 11
Red-throated Diver (Loon) Gavia stellata 1
Skua sp. 2
Goosander Mergus merganser 1

With the weather normally temperamental in the early months of the year, it was a delight to travel down to Dover in a light breeze with gentle rain falling. By midday the rain had stopped leaving a cloudy sky and a calm sea, wonderful conditions for surveying.

cormorant Adrian Shephard 03aOnce the ship had docked, I was directed onboard, visited the information desk and was escorted to the bridge and welcomed by the captain before beginning the survey.

As the shipped passed the harbour outer arm we were confronted by a raft of around 300 Cormorant and a few metres further on another raft of around 100 Gannet. This suggests that a shoal of fish had been in the area shortly beforehand and the birds were resting after eating. The Cote des Flanders disturbed the birds rest, moving through them as we turned towards Calais.

Herring Gull, Kittiwake and auks were also evident as we left the English coast. Tt wasn't until 50 minutes into the survey, as we were approaching the French coast, that Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Common Gull were seen.

Calais Harbour Carol Farmer-Wright 01There were three separate sightings of Harbour Porpoise, a total of eight animals, all swimming slowly. These animals could be clearly seen owing to the calm sea.

The ship arrived in Calais and the rain started again. By the time we were due to depart, the rain had stopped which helped me to spot two Grey Seal within ten minutes of leaving the harbour entrance.

No further marine mammals were recorded. The bird count remained fairly constant throughout the return trip, the frequency only increasing once we neared Dover harbour.

My thanks go to both Captain Desfrennes and Captain Saint Martin, the Officers and crew of the Cote des Flandres for making me so welcome on board the ship and to DFDS for enabling MARINElife to survey on this short, but extremely productive route.

Cormorant (Adrian Shephard)
Calais Harbour ramp (Carol Farmer-Wright)