MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways “Côte des Flandres” Dover-Calais (28 April 2018)

Carol Farmer-Wright and Helen Swift; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Outbound: Sea state 4-3, wind SW-WSW force 5-6, dry, cloudy with good visibility.
Return: Sea state 3, wind WSE force 5, cloudy, good visibility.

Summary of sightings:

'Comic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 7
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 16
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 40
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Gull sp. Laridae 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 29
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Larus sp. 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

The morning was cloudy but dry as I met Helen in Dover and we drove to the port to board the Cote des Flandres.

Once the ship had docked, we were directed onboard, taken to the bridge and welcomed by the captain before beginning the survey.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 12

April is one of the peak migration months and the first bird we recorded was a Swallow flying to the UK. Sea migrants were also in evidence as the third bird we encountered was a Manx Shearwater, a bird that had circumnavigated the southern Atlantic Ocean since it left the UK last autumn. We then encountered Gannet, Herring Gull, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Sandwich and Commic Tern as we made our way to Calais.

The turnaround in Calais takes less than an hour and we were able to view a pair of Eider in the harbour before we began our return survey.

A pair of Great-crested Grebe were the first birds we saw as we left the harbour. Great-crested Grebe tend to be found around the harbours in winter months and I was surprised that they hadn't started moving to their breeding grounds. Perhaps the recent cold weather had delayed their departure.

Cormorant were also seen on the French side of the Channel but were soon left behind as we moved into the main channel where Gannet and Kittiwake predominated.

It wasn't long before we were entering Dover harbour and retired from the bridge to collect our car and return to Dover.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, the Captain, Officers and crew who were so friendly whilst we were working on the bridge for enabling us to survey on this route.

Manx Shearwater (Peter Howlett)