MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (16 February 2019)

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

Outbound:Dry and misty with moderate visibility: Sea state 2-3, wind force 3-5 S-SSW

Return:Dry, moderate visibility: Sea state 3-2, wind force 4 W-SW

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 101
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 32
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 28
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 13
Razorbill Alca torda 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Unidentified Auk sp. Alcidae 19
Unidentiifed Diver sp. Gaviidae 2
Unidentified Wader sp. 4

This was my first survey to be completed for MARINElife as a trainee surveyor and I was delighted to see that the sun was shining, and visibility was relatively good as we approached the port in Dover. Carol and I grabbed a few refreshments before we boarded the 'Cote Des Flandres' and then waited in anticipation for the ferry to depart.

Kittiwake Graham Ekins 08Leaving Dover, the conditions seemed glorious for a Saturday afternoon in late February, the sun was shining with a light breeze in the air. The beaming sun and relatively flat sea didn't lend itself to ideal survey conditions however as the glare bounced straight of the ocean's surface making it difficult to ID some individuals who appeared only as silhouettes as they passed the bridge. As the ferry departed at 10.30am we waved goodbye to a number of Cormorant, Herring Gull and Common Gull who were soaking up the sunshine inside the bay.

Making our way towards Calais the survey started relatively slowly but picked up after half an hour. Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Kittiwake and Guillemot dominated the survey, whilst Common Gull, Greater Black Backed Gull and a number of Auk were also spotted. In regard to Marine Mammals, a lone Grey seal was identified spy hopping as we neared the port in Calais.

Common Gull Graham Ekins 01After soaking up the sun for an hour and enjoying a light lunch on the bridge, it was time to make the return journey back to Dover. On the return leg the sun was thankfully behind us meaning we weren't battling with the glare on the ocean's surface throughout the survey. The journey back to Dover was again primarily dominated by Gannet, with good sightings of both Herring Gull and Kittiwake as well. On approach to the port in Dover we also recorded sightings of Common Gull, Cormorant and Lesser Black Backed Gull. Similar to the outward journey only one marine mammal was spotted, this time a lone Harbour Porpoise.

The survey was a fantastic experience I plan on completing further surveys in the near future. I would like to thank DFDS Seaways, the captains, their officers and the crew for accommodating us on this trip and making us feel very welcome.

Kittiwake (Graham Ekins)
Common Gull (Graham Ekins)