MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways "Cote des Flandres" Dover-Calais (18 May 2019)

Tom Forster and Julie Ackroyd, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Conditions:
Outbound and Return: Dry and very hazy, poor visibility, North North-easterly force 4, sea state 2, minimal glare

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 70
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 16
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Great Skua Stercorarius skua1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Mediterranean Gull
Larus melanocephalus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds:
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Coluba livia 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica1

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 01On 18th May DFDS seaways again played host to a MARINElife research team undertaking a cetacean and seabird survey from Dover to Calais and back. The sailing conditions were superb, with very little glare, which made for really good observation conditions from the bridge. Sightings included a fantastic close up view of a male Grey Seal, who remained on the surface until the ship reached him and then dived under the waves; a Great Skua disputing with a couple of Great Black-backed Gull for possession of a floating dead fish and some great views of gannets. They are such an elegant bird with their streamlined shape and peachy coloured heads. In the adults their black wing tips contrast with the crisp white feathers of their wings and upper body, whilst the younger birds carry black and white 'piano key' markings along the trailing edges of their wings. Because of this it is possible to identify the age of each bird, so that kept the team busy.

Med Gull Peter Howlett 02Plenty of different species of gulls were also visible, Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, approximately 300 Black-headed Gull just inside the entrance to Calais harbour and mid-channel a juvenile Mediterranean Gull which was quite a treat. Depressingly, there was a large variety of flotsam visible during both legs of the transect. This included a jacket, plastic sheeting, a plastic crate, planks of wood and helium balloons, all with potential to harm wildlife through ingestion or collision. You can help to reduce this sea pollution by simply refusing to purchase balloons, or, if you are sailing keep an eye on items on deck and ensure they don't blow away or slide off deck in choppy weather.

As well as being able to survey on the route, it is also fascinating for the MARINElife volunteers to be able to see the work of the bridge up close. Not many people get to see the precision and care which goes into getting you to and from ports, so many thanks to the Captain and crew of Côte des Flandres for their hospitality, it was a terrific trip and we hope to travel with you again soon.

Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)
Mediterranean Gull (Peter Howlett)