Dover-Dunkirk

Recent Sightings

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways Ferry ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 3 June 2017

Posted 08 June 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright and Hazel Munt, Research Surveyors for MARINElife(Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: Dry and sunny, sea state 2-4. Return: Sunny but windier, sea state 4-5.

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 10
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 30
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 16
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 18
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 6
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 38
Larus sp.  1
Skua sp.  1
Gull sp.  1

I met up with Hazel in Dover and drove to the port. We had our documentation processed and boarded the Dover Seaways. Once on board we went to the information desk and were taken to a deck area to begin our survey.

We left Dover with the sun beating down on us. We watched the gulls feeding in the harbour in the ships wake. With the breakwater behind us we started recording Herring Gull, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gannet, and Kittiwake. Once we had passed Calais, a solitary Skua was seen, unfortunately the glare, distance, and the fact that the bird was resting on the water could not lead to a positive identification. A few minutes later we saw our first Sandwich Tern. This species of tern likes sand dunes and quiet beaches to nest on. The coast between Calais and Dunkirk provides an ideal habitat for them to breed. As we neared Dunkirk, Common Tern became the more dominant bird species seen. A single Cormorant closed the outbound section of our survey as we entered Dunkirk harbour.

BH Gull Carol FarmerWright 02
Black-headed Gulls in Dunkirk harbour (Carol Farmer-Wright)

In Dunkirk harbour, prior to the start of the return survey we observed many Black-headed Gull feeding in the ship's wake. The wind speed had now increased and observations became more difficult. We recorded, Common Tern, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, and Gannet before heading inside to compile our sightings.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, the Captain, officers and crew of the Dover Seaways for making this survey possible.

MARINElife Report: DFDS ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover to Dunkirk 6 May 2017

Posted 12 May 2017

Tibor Beetles and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:  NE/NNE winds, sea state 4-5, low visibility due to mist and light glare throughout

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 24
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 24
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Unidentified Gull sp. 64
Unidentified Tern sp. 10
Unidentified Auk sp. 5

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2
Swift Apus apus 1
Unidentified Wader sp. 4

We were met with the usual friendly efficiency and booked onboard to enjoy a brief lunch with some particularly good cheese in the crew mess as the Dunkerque Seaways made its final preparations to leave harbour. We began the survey immediately on leaving Dover in slightly overcast conditions with a moderate sea state and reduced visibility due to a constant mist.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 09
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A single Kittiwake was the first sighting giving way to a range of gulls, particularly several immature Herring Gull. These were followed by several Gannet, singly and in small groups of a range of ages, notably groups of immatures on the water. More Kittiwake appeared and in mid-Channel a couple of Swallow. Crew members mentioned seeing Cormorant earlier in the day and they duly arrived shortly before the French coast.

A Harbour Porpoise surfaced in the bow wave as we prepared to enter Dunkirk, swimming off to starboard as the Seaways passed the first harbour wall with a small group of tern crossing the bow.

A brief turnaround in Dunkirk and the return journey began with a mass of gulls and another passage of terns. Further into the Channel numerous individual Kittiwake appeared and a single Guillemot was spotted on the water along with numerous airborne waders and a single Swift.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 01a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Nearing Dover, a pair of Harbour Porpoise swam into the bow wave and kept pace with the boat lingering a while on the starboard side. This gave an excellent view of the smaller of the two in the final stages of the survey.

Thanks as ever to Captain Jason Mills and the rest of the DFDS crew and staff for all their help in making these surveys possible.

MARINElife Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 29 April 2017

Posted 06 May 2017

Tibor Beetles and Kelly Chaplin, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: Sunny, wind NNE , sea state 1-2, some mist/haze
Return: Cloudy, wind NNE, sea state 1-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 15
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 25
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 30
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 25
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 2
Unidentified Tern sp. 93
Unidentified Gull sp. 14
Unidentified Auk sp. 29
Unidentified Goose sp. 3

The forecast predicted bright sunshine throughout the day. After an efficient boarding, we were escorted to the bridge of the Delft Seaways by the helpful staff and were introduced to the friendly Captain and his crew.

As we left Dover, the waters were calm with a sea state 2 and the sky was almost perfectly clear, with very little cloud and bright sunshine.

Shortly after departing we observed Herring Gull and Kittiwake, followed by Gannet, terns, Great Skua and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 09
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Our first marine mammal sighting came only 50 minutes into the crossing with a Grey Seal being spotted, just as the crew were telling us they often see seals during the crossing! We also saw another Grey Seal 1 hour and 20 minutes after the first sighting.

Seabirds of several different species remained relatively constant throughout the crossing with Herring Gull, terns and auks predominating.

After a brief stop in Dunkirk, we headed back out into the Channel with a sea state 2 and an increase in cloud cover. It wasn't long before we saw several Guillemot, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull, including some juveniles.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 06
Guillemot (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Sightings of seabirds continued aplenty, with further Herring Gull, Oystercatcher and Great Black-backed Gull being spotted.

A massive thank you to Captain Poisson, the crew and staff of DFDS Delft Seaways who took an interest in the survey and were kind enough to tell us about their own previous sightings.

Thank you to DFDS seaways for their continued support and for making this survey possible.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways' Dover-Dunkirk 25 March 2017

Posted 07 April 2017

Mandy Bright and Joshua Stafford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Wind NE 4-7, sea state 4-5,sunny, visibility good, sunny

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Gannet Morus bassanus 55
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 6
Great Back-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Guillemot Uria aalge 27
Auk Sp. 3

With the shipping forecast predicting sunshine and strong winds for our journey across to Dunkirk, we arrived at the Port of Dover in high spirits for our survey with DFDS Seaways.

After a speedy check in and efficient boarding, we were escorted to the bridge by the friendly and helpful guest services staff, who introduced us to the Captain and his crew. We were made to feel very welcome and we observed their preparations for departure, which is always fascinating to watch.

Kittiwake Graham Ekins 02a
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

We left Dover and headed out into a sea state 4, with strong NNE winds, an almost clear sky and good visibility. Despite the strong wind we remained hopeful of seeing the wonderful wildlife that inhabits the Strait of Dover.

It wasn't long before we observed the first of many seabirds along the route, almost as soon as we exited the harbour we were recorded two Herring Gull and a small flock of six Bar-tailed Godwit flying towards the shoreline. However, due to the earlier high winds the usual accompaniment of gulls circling the ferry were nowhere to be seen.

As we approached mid-Channel, we had recorded a number of individual Gannet, flying, resting and feeding, along with numerous Kittiwake which were using the strong winds to glide and swoop low over the surrounding waves.

Towards the end of the outbound route, as we approached Dunkirk harbour we recorded a small group of twelve Common Scoter consisting of six males and females flying across the bow.

Common Scoter Adrian Shephard 03
Common Scoter (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

After a quick break and an efficient turnaround, the Delft Seaways left her berth and began the journey back to Dover in a sea state 5, which quickly dropped down to a 4. The return trip brought sightings of Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot.

Huge thanks go to the Captain and crew and the staff of DFDS Delft Seaways who took a great interest in our work and for making it a very enjoyable and memorable crossing, and thanks to DFDS for their continuing support.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkerque Survey 25 February 2017

Posted 27 February 2017

Emma Howe-Andrews and Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: SW 8, sea state 6-7, cloudy, visibility good

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 14

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 37
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Back-backed Gull Larus marinus 20
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 7
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Gull sp. 31
Auk sp.  3

With the effects of Storm Doris still lingering, we arrived at the port to see a choppy Strait of Dover, but this didn't dampen our spirits and we looked forward to our survey with DFDS to Dunkirk.

Making our way through the Strait of Dover in a sea state 6, cloudy skies and with visibility at times ranging from good to poor, it wasn't long before the first birds were seen, Gannet, Great Back-backed Gull, Herring Gull sweeping majestically across the waves.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 14
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Things remained a little quiet on our journey to Dunkirk, but after a quick and efficient turn around, it was on the return journey that our first cetacean sighting came, a solitary Harbour Porpoise, 800 metres off the starboard bow ploughing through the waves. Fantastic!

The sightings came in quick succession after this, with three Harbour Porpoise which included a juvenile, 150 metres off the starboard bow and moving quickly away from the ship before disappearing. The best sighting of the day was when a group of five Harbour Porpoise were seen directly ahead of the ship and as they approached, we could clearly see some of the animals sub-surface. The animals crossed the bow and travelled down the side of the vessel, rapidly swimming and creating lots of white water as they went.

Between sightings, we had further encounters with birds, which included a Great Skua, Kittiwake, rafting Razorbill and Fulmar.  The last two sightings of the day came as we approached Dover with a further five Harbour Porpoise, one group of two and then another group of three ahead of the ship.  What a great survey!

Razorbill Graham Ekins 01
Razorbill (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

Huge thanks go to Captain Steve, his crew and the staff of DFDS Dover Seaways who took a great interest in our work and for making it a very enjoyable and memorable crossing, and thanks to DFDS for their continuing support.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 28 January 2017

Posted 31 January 2017

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: Sea state 3 with SE winds, cloudy. Return: Sea state 3-4 winds SE, cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 2
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 34

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver  Gavia stellata 7
Black-throated Diver  Gavia arctica 6
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 5
Diver Sp.  10
Gannet  Morus bassanus 105
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 61
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 10
Common Gull  Larus canus 10
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 23
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 39
Gull Sp.  5
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 59
Razorbill Alca torda 14
Guillemot  Uria aalge 43
Auk Sp.  9

We drove down to Dover and after a coffee, headed aboard and up to the bridge to start the survey. We chatted with the captain who said there had been lots of Cormorant around and pointed out the breakwater which was literally covered in them in all directions - more than 500 was a conservative estimate and there yet more just outside the harbour flying to and fro.

Dover breakwater Adrian Shephard 2017-01
Cormorant on Dover breakwater (Adrian Shephard)

Seabirds kept us busy with Gannet, an assortment of Diver species which are winter visitors to the Channel and Great Black-backed Gull. It wasn't long before we started to observe Harbour Porpoise slowly surfacing as singles or duos. Kittiwake were also frequent sightings in the central portion of the crossing.

Harbour Porpoise Adrian Shephard 06
Harbour Porpoise (Adrian Shephard)

As we approached Dunkirk, we saw a couple of Great Skua resting on the sea and with the port in sight, numbers of Common Gull increased.

We took the opportunity to grab some soup and coffee during the turnaround, but it wasn't long before we were back to sea and spotting more birds. A nice group of 4 Great Skua briefly took flight as the ship approached and busy Razorbill and Guillemot flew rapidly back and forth.

As we headed for Dover, Dunkerque Seaways sister, Delft Seaways passed us on route to Dunkirk and shortly after another flurry of Harbour Porpoise sightings with a loose aggregation of 8 individuals seen.

All too soon the light faded and with Dover harbour in sight, we thanked Captain Russell and his team and headed back to the car.

Delft Seaways Adrian Shephard 01
Delft Seaways (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 10 December 2016

Posted 16 December 2016

Joshua Stafford and Carol Farmer-Wright , Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outbound: Sea state 4-3 with SW winds, foggy and cloudy.
Return: Sea state 3-4 winds SW to WSW, foggy and cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin  Tursiops truncatus 5
White-beaked Dolphin  Lagenorhynchus albirostris 1
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 9
Common or Harbour Seal  Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 6
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 303
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 9
Common Gull  Larus canus 13
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 51
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 16
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 74
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 59
Guillemot  Uria aalge 18

 

We met up in the morning at Dover and boarded at around 10:00 getting straight up to the bridge. The survey started with sea state 4 as we left the harbour, with fog reducing visibility to around 1000 metres all day.

We initially recorded numerous gulls close to the port; however the first mammal sighting of the day was a Common Seal who watched the ship pass, he was followed quickly after by a pair of adult Harbour Porpoise which were seen surfacing about half way through the crossing by which time the sea sate had dropped to around 3.

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 03
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

Shortly after this sighting, there was another sighting of adult Harbour Porpoise followed by two more sightings on the final leg of the journey heading to Dunkirk.

The initially foggy conditions did not did not seem to affect the Lesser or Great Black-backed Gull, Gannet, Guillemot or Kittiwake which were often observed sitting or flying over the waves, with some of the Gannet recorded diving to hunt. By the time we reached Dunkirk we had seen every age category of Gannet possible, with some completely dark juveniles recorded which is suggestive of late breeding. Another highlight of the outward trip were the Great Skua's, which were recorded flying low over the waves, on the approach to Dunkirk we witnessed a kleptoparasitic incident where a Great Skua mugged another bird of its lunch, however it dropped the morsel into the water. It made a second pass to try and pick up for tasty bite but had to break off as we promptly sailed over its dinner.

Great Skua Mark Darlaston 01b
Great Skua (Archive photo: Mark Darlaston)

After a lovely lunch onboard the ship we started back for Dover, the wind had dropped after the hour stop in Dunkirk and the return journey proved to be just as eventful as the outward bound, within around 20 minutes of departing a group of 6 Common Scoter were recorded flying over the sea, two adult Harbour Porpoise passed within 300m of the ferry bringing our grand total up at this point to 8 animals.

After a Gannet and gull filled hour passed our next mammal sightings came in a great flurry, two adult Harbour Porpoise were recorded passing within 150 m of the vessel followed by 5 Bottlenose Dolphin and an adult White-Beaked Dolphin all within the space of 5 minutes, which suggest we may have passed a bait ball. The final leg of the journey was much less eventful with both Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull recorded alongside Gannet, Guillemot, Common Gull and Herring Gull. Overall a fantastic dolphin and porpoise filled trip.

WB Dolphin Carol Farmer Wright 01
White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: Carol Farmer Wright)

Our thanks go to the Captain Andy Ridout, the bridge officers and crew of the Dunkerque Seaways for making our survey so enjoyable and to DFDS for enabling us to survey on this very productive route.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Dover-Dunkirk August 2016

Posted 15 August 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Dover-Dunkirk July 2016

Posted 12 July 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 11 June 2016

Posted 19 June 2016

Emma Howe-Andrews and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Visibility: poor, 1-5km, cloudy, mist, dry. Sea State: 1-2. Swell: 0. Wind Force: 2-4. Wind Direction: NNE-ENE.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 12
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 7
Seabirds
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 33
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 25
Gull sp. 24
Tern sp. 2

Travelling on the A20 to the Port of Dover, the channel looked magnificent and, though a little misty, the seas were calm and we looked forward to our survey with DFDS to Dunkirk.

We were escorted to the bridge by the friendly and helpful guest services staff, who introduced us to Captain Paul and his crew. We were made to feel very welcome and we observed their preparations for departure, which is always a privilege to see.

Grey Seal Steve McAusland 06a
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

We left Dover harbour and it wasn't long before the first birds were seen; Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Great Black-backed Gull and then our first cetaceans. Four adult Harbour Porpoise rolling slowly in the waves ahead of us and, as the sea was so calm, it provided us with fantastic views. What a great start! A Grey Seal was also seen bottling at the surface nearby.

As we travelled further across the Strait of Dover we had further sightings of Harbour Porpoise. An adult and juvenile 700 metres ahead and moving to starboard and a solitary animal moving very fast away from the bow with a few Gannet overhead.

Great Skua Rick Morris 01a
Great Skua (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

After a quick lunch and an efficient turnaround, the Delft Seaways left her berth in Dunkirk and began the journey back to Dover. This brought feeding terns, Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a rafting Great Skua. Throughout the survey, we had observed a number of Grey Seal but, in particular, we saw one being harassed by gulls just in front of the bow and, as the ship drew closer, we could see the animal swimming underneath the surface to escape. When we looked to the back of the ship to see where it had surfaced, it was seen riding the waves created by the wake.

With the white cliffs of Dover barely visible in the mist, we were treated to two further Harbour Porpoise sightings; the first being a group of three animals 800 metres off the starboard side with circling gulls and the final one just before the entrance to the harbour, two animals 400 metres away. What a great survey!

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Huge thanks go to Captain Paul, his crew and the staff of DFDS Delft Seaways who took a great interest in our work and made it a very enjoyable and memorable crossing, and thanks to DFDS for their continuing support.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 7 May 2016

Posted 12 May 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright and Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Eastbound: wind ENE to SSE 2-6 sunny, dry with mist in western channel
Westbound: wind SSE to WSW 6-2 dry, mist in western channel

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Unidentified seal species 1
Unidentified dolphin species 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Gannet Morus bassanus 46
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 32
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 38
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 79
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 15
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 6
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Unidentified tern sp. 11

Terrestrial birds
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 3
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 5

It was a beautiful sunny day for our survey and Tibor and I were welcomed aboard and invited to go to the crew's mess to have some lunch before the ship sailed. We were then escorted to the bridge where we were welcomed by the bridge crew and settled down to begin our survey.

We left harbour with still conditions. Visibility was only marred by the haze of air pollution that hung on the western side of the English Channel.  Bird recording began with Herring Gull of various ages predominating, with Razorbill, Kittiwake and terns in small numbers close to the Kent coastline. Seven minutes after leaving the outer breakwater, Tibor spotted our first marine mammal of the day, its movements so fleeting that we were unable to discern if it was a dolphin or a fast-moving Harbour Porpoise. We did record three Harbour Porpoise on our way to Dunkirk.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 01a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

We also saw a seal feeding amongst a group of gull, the former being too far away to positively identify. Midway across the English Channel Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake were the main species recorded. The Kittiwake flew in an easterly direction towards the French coast appearing in ones and twos until thirty-four birds were flying in a group in front of the port bow. On arriving at Dunkirk we retired to the crew's mess to have an orange squash before the return journey.

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 06
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

The visibility was much better on the French side of the Channel and as we returned we started to record Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Fulmar. The Fulmar were having to work quite hard to fly as there was hardly a breeze to give them lift from the waves. Half an hour into the return journey Tibor recorded another Harbour Porpoise. By that time the air pollution that we had observed had returned but the sea state reduced to almost flat calm so our hopes of recording more marine mammals were raised. Within sight of the Dover outer breakwater we spotted three further Harbour Porpoise; a fitting end to our survey.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 01
Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

We would like to thank Captain Russell Smith, his officers and crew for looking after us whilst on board the Dunkerque Seaways and DFDS for allowing us to survey on their ships.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 9 April 2016

Posted 17 April 2016

Emma Howe-Andrews and Joshua Stafford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: wind S-WSW 4-7, sea state 3-6, swell: 1-2, visibility poor with cloud, mist and rain.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 31
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 33
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8
Razorbill Alca torda 34
Guillemot Uria aalge 4

We arrived at the Port of Dover in high spirits for our survey with DFDS. After a speedy check in and efficient boarding, we were escorted to the bridge by the friendly and helpful guest services staff, who introduced us to Captain Paul and his crew. We were made to feel very welcome and we observed their preparations for departure, which is always fascinating to watch.

After leaving Dover, it was not long before we observed the first of many seabirds that would accompany the Delft Seaways throughout her journey; a single Gannet sweeping across the waves, followed by rafting Razorbill, a solitary Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Razorbill Rick Morris 02
Razorbill (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

As we approached mid-channel, a "bottling" Grey Seal surrounded by rafting Herring Gull was seen before it slipped beneath the waves. With the entrance to Dunkirk harbour only a short distance away, no cetaceans had been sighted, but there was always the return journey! The entrance to the harbour brought resting Shag and a number of circling and feeding Sandwich Tern in front of the bow.

After a quick lunch and an efficient turnaround, the Delft Seaways left her berth and began the journey back to Dover which brought two Harbour Porpoise sightings! The first was seen 500m on the starboard side, fast swimming and creating a trail of white water as it travelled down the side of the ship. The second was a solitary adult slowly swimming 300m off the port bow. Fantastic!

Shag Adrian Shephard 03
Shag (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

No further cetaceans were sighted, but the remainder of the trip brought Common Scoter, Guillemot and Greater Black-backed Gull riding the ship's slipstream and picking off fish in the wake.

Huge thanks go to Captain Paul, his crew and the staff of DFDS Delft Seaways who took a great interest in our work and who made it a very enjoyable and memorable crossing, and thanks to DFDS for their continuing support.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 19 March 2016

Posted 24 March 2016

Adrian Shephard and Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: Sea state 4-5. NE winds. Cloudy. Return: Sea state 3-4. Winds NNE. Cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 32

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 33
Black-throated Diver Diver Gavia arctica 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 32
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 46
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 68
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 72
Razorbill Alca torda 22
Unidentified auk sp. 2
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. 14
Unidentified Diver sp. 2

With overcast conditions coupled with light winds, we were hopeful of a productive crossing. This was Tibor's first survey for MARINElife, so after a briefing and a bite to eat, we headed up to meet the bridge team and commence our survey.

Fulmar Adrian Shephard 05
Fulmar (Adrian Shephard)

Seabird numbers were down on last month, presumably due to their migration season having started. Initially we recorded just a handful of Kittiwake and Guillemot before a fleeting glimpse of the first of many Harbour Porpoise for the crossing.

As the survey progressed, other species of seabird were added to our list including a few Little Gull with the distinctive dark underwings showing nicely. We also recorded a couple of Fulmar gliding across the sea's surface.

With the French coast approaching, we entered an area with increased numbers of Harbour Porpoise, with several in quick succession followed by a few Red-throated Diver and a few groups of Common Scoter.

LBB Gull Adrian Shephard 02
Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Adrian Shephard)

After a short turnaround, we headed out of Dunkirk for the return crossing. The area with Harbour Porpoise was quiet on the return but we did see a few Razorbill. As we headed further out, we picked up some groups of Lesser Black-backed Gull heading east and, with Dover in sight, we once again had a flurry of Harbour Porpoise encounters.

Passing Cote des Flanders as she headed out of Dover, we pulled alongside our berth and thanked the bridge team for another interesting crossing of the Dover straits.

Cotes des Flanders Adrian Shephard 01
Cotes des Flanders (Adrian Shephard)

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 13 February 2016

Posted 15 February 2016

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound: E winds, sea state 5-6 E winds, cloudy with rain.
Return: E winds, sea state 4-6, cloudy with mist.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 13
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3

Seabirds
Greylag Geese Anser anser 42
Black-throated Diver Diver Gavia arctica 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 238
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 86
Guillemot Uria aalge 137
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Unidentified auk sp. 15
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. 4

Once we had departed, we headed to the bridge of the Delft Seaways to commence our survey. The outlook was a little gloomy with a sea state of 6 but, with the wipers on, we had relatively good vision ahead despite the rain.

Thomas Fisher surveying Adrian Shephard 01
Thomas Fisher surveying (Adrian Shephard)

The flurry of gulls in the harbour were soon left behind, but seabirds remained fairly constant throughout the crossing with Guillemot, Gannet and Kittiwake predominating.

Our first marine mammal came about 15 minutes into the crossing with a Harbour Porpoise sighted ahead of the ship, this was shortly followed by a pair of Grey Seal which looked at the ship as we moved passed them before diving.

Harbour Porpoise Thomas Fisher 01
Harbour Porpoise (Thomas Fisher)

Seabird diversity increased with a sighting of a Fulmar riding the waves followed by a Great Skua flying powerfully across the bow. More Harbour Porpoise were sighted as we headed fully into the English Channel and another Grey Seal as we neared the French coast.

After a brief stop in Dunkirk, we headed back out into the Channel and, although the rain had now stopped, the overcast conditions and mist continued to make more distant sightings difficult to pin down. We did manage a further seven Harbour Porpoise sightings on the return and further species of bird including a couple of Great Crested Grebe not far outside Dunkirk harbour.

Great Crested Grebe Thomas Fisher 01
Great Crested Grebe (Thomas Fisher)

A frenzy of feeding Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot indicated that some marine mammals could be present but we did not see them.

With darkness almost upon us, we headed into Dover harbour where we thanked the bridge crew of the Delft Seaways for making us feel so welcome.

MARINElife blog report: Dover-Dunkirk January 2016

Posted 11 January 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 7 November 2015

Posted 14 November 2015

Joshua Stafford and Carol Farmer-Wright , Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outbound: Sea state 5-3. SW winds. Cloudy.
Return: Sea state 4-6. Winds SW to WSW. Cloudy with mist on horizon.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7

Seabirds
Gannet  Morus bassanus 142
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 10
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 26
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 53
Guillemot  Uria aalge 34
Larus sp. 220

After boarding we had a quick coffee and a light lunch before being invited up to the bridge just as the ship began departing. The conditions started off cloudy and rather breezy but with an outside temperature of 20oC, which is significantly higher than the average Dover temperature for November.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We initially recorded numerous gulls close to the port. Our first cetaceans came later in the trip when two adult Harbour Porpoise were seen surfacing about halfway through the crossing. Shortly after this sighting, there was another brief sighting of two adult Harbour Porpoise. On the final leg of the journey heading to Dunkirk a single adult Harbour Porpoise was observed.

The initially strong breeze on the outward journey did not seem to affect the Gannet, Guillemot or Kittiwake which were often observed sitting or flying over the waves, with the Gannet recorded diving in to some of the larger waves to hunt. Upon approaching Dunkirk, a barge vessel dredging the entrance of the harbour was being accompanied by more than 35 large gulls which were also recorded.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 08a
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a short turnaround in Dunkirk, and a hot chocolate, we started back for Dover. The wind had picked up and the return journey resulted in far fewer bird numbers than the outbound. Forty minutes into the journey, two adult Harbour Porpoise passed within 275m of the ferry bringing our grand total to 7 animals. The return journey was not without its bird highlights; numerous Gannet of a range of age kept us busy, while Kittiwake, Guillemot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull all made appearances before the sunset called a halt to our survey.

Our thanks go to Master Ryan Booth, the bridge officers and crew of the Dover Seaways for making our survey so enjoyable.

MARINElife blog: DFDS: ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 10 October 2015

Posted 15 October 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Outbound - sea state 4-3 with ENE winds, hazy. Return - Sea state 3-4 winds ENE to NE hazy.

Summary of Sightings
Seabirds
Common Gull  Larus canus 3
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Gannet  Morus bassanus 45
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 10
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 8
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 3
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 7
Razorbill Alca torda 33
Red-throated Loon  Gavia stellata 1
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Auk sp. 1
Larus sp. 4
Tern sp. 1
Gull sp. 4

Terrestrial birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 2

Once on board the Dunkerque Seaways, I proceeded to the information desk and was taken to the bridge to prepare for the survey. I was able to have a meal before departing, joined by a member of staff, Santa Tehere, with whom I reminisced about travelling across the Bay of Biscay.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 04b
Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

The ship left port and, once outside the breakwater, I began my survey. Sightings were slow, mainly of Gannet, with occasional views of Kittiwake, Great Skua, Great Black-backed Gull, Guillemot and a solitary Red-throated Diver.  Nearing Dunkirk, small groups of Razorbill were seen flying low above the water. A flurry of activity involving feeding Little Gull, Guillemot and Gannet occurred just before the ship entered the Dunkirk breakwater and the outward section of the survey ended.

Whilst berthed at Dunkirk, I took the opportunity to watch the birds flying by the canal that leads to further berths closer to the town. There were many Starling and small birds numbered in their hundreds feeding in the scrubland that, sadly, had to be excluded from the survey. Also excluded were the Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull that crowded around the ship as we reversed out of the berth to opportunistically feed in the currents generated by the ships thrusters and propellers.

Passing the breakwater I began the return section of the survey.  Again, sightings were sparse with the majority of birds being sighted in the first twenty minutes. A small feeding group of Gannet and gulls were seen, the latter quite difficult to identify as many were in silhouette. Occasional sightings of Gannet and Great Black-backed Gull were recorded before the Dover outer breakwater brought my survey to an end.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 04
Great Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

My thanks go to Master Maciej Szymanski, the bridge officers and crew of the Dunkerque Seaways for making my survey so enjoyable.

Carol Farmer-Wright , Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways: Dover-Dunkirk September 2015

Posted 17 September 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways: Dover-Dunkirk August 2015

Posted 14 August 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons/

MARINElife blog: DFDS: ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 11 July 2015

Posted 21 July 2015

Emma Webb and Caroline Race, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Sunny, but hazy, visibility fairly poor with glare and spray. Wind: South-southwest force 4-5, 5-6 on return.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 15
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 19
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 27
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Gull sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Feral pigeon 3

We very quickly and efficiently boarded Delft Seaways and were welcomed onto the Bridge to start the survey just as we exited Dover harbour.  Straightaway we started sighting seabirds with a small flock of 15 Common Scoter flying past as we took our first effort reading.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 09
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A variety of different seabird species were encountered as the ship made her way into the Channel including Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Fulmar and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Kittiwake continued to dominate the sightings with a Great Skua breaking the routine with a nice fly-by past the Bridge.

As we approached Dunkirk, we started seeing more Common Tern along with two Sandwich Tern all looking as though they were on foraging runs from the breeding colonies.

As we approached the shipping channel to enter Dunkirk harbour, we sighted a lone Harbour Porpoise giving good views as it rolled 400m off the starboard bow.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After leaving Dunkirk, the wind strengthened significantly and, as a result, sightings levels dropped significantly although Kittiwake still remained the most frequently sighted seabird.  The highlight of the return leg was a close view of a lone Curlew heading across the Channel close to the ship. Concluding the survey shortly before coming back into Dover harbour, we thanked the Captain and his staff for their enthusiasm and very welcoming hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife survey report: Dover-Dunkirk 6 June 2015

Posted 06 June 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Dover-Dunkirk 11 May 2015

Posted 14 May 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 11 April 2015

Posted 14 April 2015

Julia Benson and Sean Graham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Outward: overcast, visibility was relatively good. Wind: South-westerly wind force 4-5.  Return: brighter and progressively clearer, good visibility with glare at times. Wind: Westerly wind force 2-4.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 90
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 27
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Common Gull Larus canus 46
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 11
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 28
Skua sp. 1
Gull sp. 2

We were welcomed aboard by the staff and crew and, once underway, were escorted to the bridge to start the survey just as we exited Dover harbour.

A variety of different bird species were encountered as the ship ventured into the Channel including Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar and a skua. The skua came into view just above the bow of the boat as it harassed a juvenile Herring Gull. After a while we encountered relatively large numbers of Common Gull and Gannet. It was then we spotted a very young juvenile Gannet which, without using binoculars, looked almost entirely black. On our approach to Dunkirk we suddenly started seeing a number of Sandwich Tern, several of which were flying past and hovering intermittently, probably looking for a chance to feed.

Sandwich Tern Peter Howlett 01
Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After leaving Dunkirk our bird sightings remained relatively consistent with those of the outward journey. A notable difference being the increased number of encounters with Gannet and Sandwich Tern.

Towards the end of our return to Dover, we came across an area which the birds were flying away from. As this may have been an indication of past feeding activity we were optimistic that we may see some cetaceans and we were not disappointed. Sean spotted the lazy surfacing of a Harbour Porpoise, our cetacean encounter of the day.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 16
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Concluding the survey shortly after coming back into Dover harbour, we thanked the Captain and his staff for their enthusiasm and welcoming hospitality before heading ashore.

MARINElife Blog: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 7 March 2015

Posted 19 March 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright and Julia Benson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Sunny and cloudy, good visibility, wind SW 7-8

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 42
Seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet  Morus bassanus 55
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Skua sp. 1
Larus sp. 14
Auk sp. 12

After boarding we had lunch in the crew mess before being escorted to the bridge to begin surveying.

The sun was shining and the sea state was less than ideal for spotting cetaceans because of the many white caps but, within minutes of beginning the survey, two dark grey triangular fins broke the surface of the water -  two Harbour Porpoise. Five minutes later, we saw another two and so it continued with sightings every few minutes. At one point we saw a group of five and one of the officers spotted a group of six!

Harbour Porpoise Carol Farmer-Wright 03
Harbour Porpoise (Carol Farmer-Wright)

During one of the porpoise sightings, Gannet were diving spectacularly into the water to feed in the same area. Several Gannet were also seen sitting on the water close by. Further Gannet sightings mostly coincided with the porpoise sightings. Also seen on the outbound journey were the occasional Kittiwake and a variety of other gull species both juveniles and adults, and auks too. Shortly before arriving at Dunkirk harbour we left the bridge and returned to the crew mess to await the return journey.

Upon leaving Dunkirk we were escorted back to the bridge to resume surveying. Bird sightings, initially, were few and far between, with just the occasional gull and auk species being seen. We also saw Fulmar with a couple gliding close to the surface of the water. Halfway through the journey the bird sightings increased in frequency and we also began to see more Harbour Porpoise. At one point a small shimmering dark grey object was seen floating on the surface of the water for some time and, when it eventually turned, it revealed that it was a seal. Unfortunately it was too far away to determine the species and it was not seen again. Bird sightings continued until our arrival at Dover.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 04
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Thank you to Captain Piero Marenco, his officers and crew for their hospitality and for a very enjoyable survey. Thanks to DFDS for their continued support.

MARINElife Survey report: Dover-Dunkirk 07 February 2015

Posted 09 February 2015

Unfortunately this survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Blog: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 10 January 2015

Posted 13 January 2015

Julia Benson and Fraser Paterson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outbound - cloudy, low visibility with light rain, wind southwest force 8-9.
Return - cloudy with some bright spells, moderate to good visibility, wind northwest force 7-3.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet  Morus bassanus 233
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 8
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 30
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 60
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 58
Guillemot Uria aalge 19
Auk sp  5
Gull sp 120

We were warmly welcomed on board 'Dover Seaways' and, after being escorted up to the bridge, we introduced ourselves to Captain Steve Cockrill who was, along with his officers, friendly and welcoming.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 18
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Visibility was poor with some light rain for the first half hour of the survey. As we made our way out of the harbour a number of seabirds appeared and over the course of the crossing to Dunkirk we sighted many Gannet, along with a few Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gull. Half an hour outside of Dunkirk we had our first cetaceans, two Harbour Porpoise. As we approached Dunkirk a number of Kittiwak, a few Great Skua and some Cormorant put in an appearance.

On the return journey, the sea gradually became calmer with greatly improved visibility and at one point the sun even came out. Our first bird sightings were of Lesser Black-backed gull, Cormorant and Red-throated Diver.

Gannet then started to appear with a few of them staying with the ship for some time. We even saw some of them making their spectacular dives into the water. Occasionally a lone Great Skua came onto the scene and we also saw a couple of Fulmar as we got closer to Dover. Just outside of Dover we had our second cetacean sighting, three Harbour Porpoise travelling together. As we neared the harbour entrance a constant stream of gulls appeared but due to low light it was difficult to identify the species. A great start to 2015 with a good variety of seabirds and Harbour Porpoise.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 09
Little Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Thank you very much to Captain Steve Cockerill, his officers and crew for their hospitality and to DFDS for their continued support.

 

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Dunkerque Seaways Dover-Dunkirk 6 December 2014

Posted 07 December 2014

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
NNE-NW 3-5 . Bright and sunny.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatas 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 563
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 12
Common Gull Larus Canus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 139
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Kittiwake Risa tridactyla 129
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Unidentified Gull Sp 970
Unidentified Auk Sp 3

Terrestrial Birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 11

Bright and sunny conditions greeted us as we headed to Dover for this month's survey. Once aboard we headed for the crew mess for a welcome cup of coffee before commencing our survey. On the bridge we met Captain Russell Smith just prior to departure and set ourselves up for the survey.

Kittiwake Adrian Shephard 04a
Kittiwake (Adrian Shephard)

Seabird numbers were high throughout the crossing, particularly Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Gannet - a fishing vessel proving a big draw for them.

A fleeting glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise was soon followed by two more which were so close to the ship that they appeared to bow ride! A dark-phase Arctic Skua was seen on the water with Dunkirk harbour in sight.

After a brief turn around, we were back on the bridge, but the sun was already heading towards the horizon. Vast numbers of gulls (over 600) were seen against the setting sun, including Great Black-backed and Herring Gull; some crossing the bow.

bottlenose dolphin Adrian Shephard 04a
Bottlenose Dolphin (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

With the light fading, a splash ahead of the ship alerted us to something. Peering through the binoculars into the darkening scene, we observed two Bottlenose Dolphin performing acrobatics before they headed to each side of the bow.

By 4.15pm, it was dark, so we thanked the bridge team and headed down to grab a coffee and tally up the sightings.

Our thanks to the captain and crew of Dunkerque Seaways and DFDS for their on-going support.

MARINElife Blog: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 1 November 2014

Posted 06 November 2014

Julia Benson and Joanne Reynolds, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound - cloudy, good to moderate visibility, wind southwest force 6-4
Return - cloudy with some bright spells, wind southwest force 4-6

Summmary of sightings:

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 86
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Gull sp. 6
Auk sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Great White Egret Ardea alba 1

After arriving at the Dover ferry terminal we were quickly checked-in and, soon after, we boarded the ship by car. We made our way to the information desk where we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who escorted us to the bridge and then on to the crew mess where we enjoyed a very tasty lunch before making our way back up to the bridge to begin surveying. We introduced ourselves to Captain Steve Cockerill and his officers who made us feel very welcome.

Gannet Julia Benson 01
Gannet (Photo: Julia Benson)

Within minutes of beginning the survey a few Great Black-backed Gull flew past the ship followed by several solitary Gannet. Gannet were the most common species seen throughout the entire survey; most of them were adults although several juveniles were also encountered.  A lone Great Skua flew across the bow and we also saw some Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and some juvenile gulls.

As we approached the French coast, several Kittiwake were seen and a number of Cormorant appeared as we neared Dunkirk harbour. On entering the harbour entrance we saw a Curlew flying across our path which was shortly followed by a Great White Egret.

After a quick turnaround, the ferry made its way back to Dover. Bird sightings were fairly similar to those on the journey to Dunkirk. A number of Gannet were seen periodically, including one diving spectacularly into the water to feed, as well as gulls and more Cormorant.

Channel sunset Julia Benson 01
Channel sunset (Photo: Julia Benson)

Halfway through the return journey to Dover, the cloud cover reduced slightly to reveal a little of the blue sky hiding behind it and also allowed the sun to finally make a brief appearance. As we approached the English coast we were treated to a beautiful sunset but, now that the days are shorter, we had to end our survey a little earlier than usual due to low light.

Thank you to Captain Steve Cockerill, his officers and crew for their hospitality and to DFDS for their continued support.

MARINElife survey report: Dover-Dunkirk 4 October 2014

Posted 06 October 2014

This survey had to be cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Dover-Dunkirk 6 September 2014

Posted 08 September 2014

This survey had to be cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS 'Dunkerque Seaways' Dover-Dunkirk 2 August 2014

Posted 05 August 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Aurelia Gabellini, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Outbound - sunny, good visibility, wind southwest force 6-4
Return - good to moderate visibility with mist on the English coast, wind southwest force 4-6

Summary of species seen:

Marine Mammals
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 32
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 15
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 18
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 15
Skua sp. 1
Gull sp.   2
Tern sp. 23
Larus. Sp. 2

With schools now closed for the summer holidays the first weekend in August is a very busy one for the ferries operating across the English Channel. Bearing that in mind I allowed plenty of time to get to the Port of Dover for the noon sailing.

Our paperwork was processed quickly by the port staff and we were soon aboard the Dunkerque Seaways. We made our way to the Information desk and were quickly escorted to the bridge to begin our survey.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 09
Gannet of various ages (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

Sightings were initially slow. Small groups of Gannet passed close to the ship, the majority of the birds were immature between three and five years of age.

Kittiwake also appeared, these birds were predominately adult. As we neared the French coast Sandwich and Common Tern were seen, some going out to fish, others returning with sand eel in their beaks. The Sandwich Tern were transitioning into their winter plumage, the black caps of summer being replaced by white feathers with only black remaining behind the eye, giving them a somewhat sombre appearance.

Sandwich Tern Carol Farmer-Wright 02
Sandwich Tern entering winter plumage (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

We then saw an Arctic Skua trying to get a meal from a Kittiwake. The skua kept harassing the smaller bird, encouraging it to regurgitate the food it had eaten. The aerobatic displays of these two birds were spellbinding. We reached the outer breakwater at Dunkirk and left the bridge. We remained on board the vessel whilst the ship was emptied and reloaded before the return leg to Dover.

The return leg was quiet, the main highlight was seeing a group of around 20 terns feeding less than 100 metres from our starboard bow. As we approached Dover, we collected our belongings and left the bridge having thanked the captain for a most enjoyable survey.

Our thanks go to Captains Slater and Ridout and their teams for their hospitality and interest, as well as to DFDS seaways for their continued support.

MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk 5 July 2014

Posted 07 July 2014

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Dover Seaways Dover-Dunkirk 7 June 2014

Posted 02 July 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Michael Bamford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Out: Sea state 3, wind Southwest  Force 3
Return: Sea state 3, wind West-Southwest, Force 3-4

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 31
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 33
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull  Larus canus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 85
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 40
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 13
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 7
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 46
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 3
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 13

Terrestrial Birds:
Feral/Rock pigeon 1
Swift  Apus apus 2

This was a rather uneventful trip despite the intense activity in the English Channel the previous day - the 70th anniversary of D Day. The only evidence was a solitary Polish Naval Training ship 'Wodnik'.

Warship wodnik Michael Bamford
Polish warship 'Wodnik' (Photo: Mike Bamford)

The weather was kind with benign sea states which suggested we might be able to see a few Harbour Porpoises or other cetaceans.

After boarding with the other cars we were taken to the crew's mess  and from there to the bridge, which we joined, by kind permission of the captain, as we left harbour.

After a flurry of Herring Gull activity at the harbour mouth, and an early Grey Seal, sightings settled with sporadic pelagic species - Kittiwake, Gannet and Fulmar, and an increasing number of Lesser Black-backed Gull as we neared the French Coast.

Over the sandbanks parallel to the coast, we saw some energetic bird feeding activity, and increasing numbers of Sandwich Tern, some carrying food, as we neared Dunkirk. As we entered port the harbour walls carried a colony of Shag.

Apart from the gulls circling in the harbour, as we came 'off effort' we saw a pair of summer plumage Mediterranean Gull.

Med Gull Mike Bamford 02
Mediterranean Gull (Photo: Mike Bamford)

After the remarkably quick turnaround, the return journey gave a similar pattern of bird life. We were escorted back most of the way by a racing pigeon but alas with no marine mammal sightings - a rare blank, considering the conditions.

With thanks to Captain Jason Mills and his crew for their hospitality on the crossing.

MARINElife Survey report: DFDS 'Delft Seaways' Dover-Dunkirk 3 May 2014

Posted 08 May 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Michael Bamford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Outbound: sunny, good visibility: north-easterly wind force 5.
Return: good visibility with glare at times: northerly wind force 5-3.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 9

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Gannet Morus bassanus 91
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 114
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 92
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 36
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 35
Guillemot Uria aalge 3

Terrestrial birds
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 17
Wader sp. 3

The first Bank Holiday weekend in May is expected to be a cold and rainy affair so driving down to Dover in bright sunshine for the day's survey was very welcome.

We drove onto the Delft Seaways and, once aboard, were welcomed by the staff at the information desk and escorted to the bridge to begin our survey.

Arctic Tern Rob Petley-Jones 01
Arctic Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Immediately on exiting the harbour we began recording Kittiwake, Guillemot and Gannet. Several groups of Arctic Tern were seen on migration, travelling north just ahead of the ship. As we neared the French coast Sandwich Tern were seen, some going out to fish, others returning with sandeel in their beaks. Soon we reached the outer breakwater at Dunkirk and left the bridge whilst the ship was emptied before the return leg to Dover.

As we left Dunkirk harbour we identified a Shag hunting and feeding just outside the breakwater. Minutes later we were recording numbers of Sandwich, Common and Little Tern foraging. Half an hour into the return journey, 4 miles north of Calais, we spotted the first Harbour Porpoise, two animals moving in unison away from the ship.

Harbour Porpoise Carol Farmer Wright 02
Harbour Porpoise (Carol Farmer-Wright)

In the mid point of our crossing we could see a great deal of bird activity to the north of our position. Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet were circling above an area of the sea, with Gannet repeatedly diving into the water to feed. We were unable to see any cetaceans amongst this activity but were soon rewarded with seven further Harbour Porpoise appearing in front of our vessel - the first group of four animals appeared as if they too were feeding.

We concluded our survey as we approached the Dover breakwater and thanked Captain Marenco, his officers and crew for their hospitality as we left the bridge to rejoin our car.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Dover-Dunkirk April 2014

Posted 12 April 2014

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife survey report: DFDS Seaways 'Delft Seaways' Dover-Dunkirk survey 1 March 2014

Posted 06 March 2014

Lee Slater & Julia Benson, Research surveyors for MARINElife(Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: outbound sea state2-4, WNW-NNW. Return sea state 2-4, WNW-NW

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 20
Small Cetacean Sp. 1

Birds
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 159
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 45
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 18
Razorbill Alca torda 19
Mixed Gull flock 86
Gull sp. 18
Auk sp. 16

A number of Harbour Porpoise sightings were a highlight of this trip.

After driving to the ferry terminal, we were efficiently ushered on board. After checking in, we were escorted to the bridge, and a hearty lunch, before the vessel slipped out of the harbour and into the English Channel.

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bamford 01
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: MikeBamford)

We were immediately struck by the favourable weather conditions with low swell, low wind and minimal glare. Our first avian sighting was two pairs of Great Northern Diver, who flew across the bow. This was quickly followed by a steady stream of Razorbill and Guillemot. We didn't have to wait long for a cetacean, as a single Harbour Porpoise surfaced at a distance of 1000m. This was the first of seven Harbour Porpoise sightings on this leg.

As the ship neared the centre of the channel, a large feeding flock of Gannet was spotted. Despite both surveyors having their eyes glued to the edge of the diving activity, we only saw a flash of a dorsal fin, which meant that this cetacean eluded full identification. As the vessel entered Dunkirk harbour, porpoise again surfaced inside the breakwater. This seems to be a key area for them as they were also spotted here on my survey on this route in January.

Julia Benson surveying from Delft Seaways Lee Slater 01
Julia Benson surveying (Photo: Lee Slater)

Upon docking, we went to the crew mess for a hot drink and discussed the great sightings of the outbound leg. As the boat started its engine for the return trip, we returned to the bridge.

We recorded the many Cormorant adorning Dunkirk's harbour wall before searching the breakwater area. Once again we weren't disappointed, with another four Harbour Porpoise being observed. We had a further five Harbour Porpoise sightings on our return leg and were welcomed back to England by large flocks of various gull species. This concluded another successful survey.

Our thanks go to Captain Cockrill and his team for their hospitality and interest, as well as to DFDS seaways for their continued support.

MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk 1 February 2014

Posted 23 February 2014

This survey had to be cancelled due to severe weather.

MARINElife survey report: DFDS Delft Seaways Dover-Dunkirk 11 January 2014

Posted 16 January 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Lee Slater, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Outbound - sunny, good visibility, wind NW force 4-7
Return - good visibility with glare at times, wind W-NW force 6-4

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11
Unidentified cetacean species 4
Unidentified dolphin species 4

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 20
Gannet Morus bassanus 236
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 14
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 345
Guillemot Uria aalge 433
Razorbill Alca torda 6
Unidentified Gull species 29

This winter has evidenced so many storms that it was delightful to turn up at Dover for 2014's first survey of this route to sunny skies and moderate winds.

We drove onto the Delft Seaways, were welcomed and then escorted to the bridge to begin our survey. The ship takes two hours to cross the English Channel. Many cargo and passenger vessels travel through the area each day and it can be a surprisingly busy area for cetaceans and birds.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 01
Guillemots (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Immediately on exiting the harbour we began recording Cormorant, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Gannet. Many of the Guillemot were resting on the sea and would dive down to escape the vessel as we approached them.

Half an hour into the survey a cetacean briefly appeared, swimming quickly directly away from the ship. A small blow could be seen but it was all too fleeting an encounter to be able to identify the animal.  Ten minutes later we were able to record Harbour Porpoise moving quickly through the water away from the ship, the first of six sightings we were to have that day.

On arriving at Dunkirk we ventured down to the crews mess to tuck into a lovely lunch. On finishing, we immediately returned to the bridge to complete the return section of the survey.

A raft of Kittiwake were at the outer breakwater of Dunkirk harbour and within five minutes of leaving we saw yet another Harbour Porpoise moving quickly away to avoid the ship. We again had a brief encounter with a small group of dolphin. They were probably Common Dolphin, but again the view was too brief to positively identify.

Kittiwake Rob Petley-Jones 01a
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Regular numbers of Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot were seen on the return crossing and an occasional Fulmar appeared as we neared the English coastline.

We concluded our survey as we approached the Dover breakwater and thanked Captain Londesborough, his officers and crew for their hospitality as we left the bridge to rejoin our car.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Dunkerque Seaways Dover-Dunkirk 2 November 2013

Posted 05 November 2013

Adrian Shephard, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Eastbound: WSW Force 3-5 Westbound: WSW Force 3-8.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 156
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 297
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 40
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 13
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 47
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 22
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified Gull sp 266

Terrestrial Birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 11

I headed aboard and was promptly taken to the bridge to meet Captain Ridout and his crew and made very welcome prior to departure from Dover. Conditions were sunny with no swell but a fresh breeze from the southwest meant a number of whitecaps and challenging viewing conditions for cetaceans.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 06
Juvenile Gannet (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

Seabirds were pretty constant on the outward crossing with good counts of Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull and Great Skua which I often saw chasing down Gannet - known as kleptoparasitism. Quite large flocks of gulls and Gannet were seen behind the incoming ferries - what you might expect trailing a fishing vessel!

The occasional Guillemot and a few Little Gull added further interest on the seabird front and as we approached the French coast, a sighting of two Harbour Porpoise lifted my spirits. A couple of flocks of Common Scoter were also seen as we headed towards Dunkirk harbour.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a brief turn around spent tallying bird sightings on the bridge, we headed back out on the return crossing but with more unfavourable conditions forecast.

A brief glimpse of another Harbour Porpoise outside Dunkirk Harbour was the only marine mammal sighting on the return crossing and as we headed further west the wind increased creeping up to a force 8 with deeply overcast skies. Seabird numbers were reduced, with sporadic Gannet and Great Skua sightings before the light conditions finally called the survey to an end.

Great Skua Adrian Shephard 02
Great Skua (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

I thanked Captain Ridout and his officers for their excellent hospitality and headed for my car to drive home.

My thanks to DFDS Seaways for their ongoing support.

MARINElife survey report: DFDS vessel ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 5th October 2013

Posted 11 October 2013

Graham Ekins and Jack Allum, MARINElife Research Surveyors (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8
Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 4
Common Seal  Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 135
Gannet Morus bassanus 152
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Great Skua   Stercorarius skua 8
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius  pomarinus 1
Arctic Skua   Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 34
Common Gull  Larus canus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 74
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 61
Kittiwake Risa tridactyla 73
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 1
Sandwich Tern   Sterna sandvicensis 6
Guillemot  Uria aalge 2
Razorbill  Alca torda 2

Birds recorded in Dunkirk Harbour
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 35
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 124
Redshank Tringa totanus 2
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 3
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 45
Dunlin Calidris alpina 100
Sanderling Calidris alba 8
Stonechat Saxicola torquata 1
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 2
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 9
Magpie Pica pica 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 10

Land birds recorded from ship
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 4
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1

Weather: Eastbound: Force 1-3,  E-NNW with light, high cloud and some slight haze; Westbound: Force 1-2, NNW clear with light, high cloud and a slight haze.

Some fascinating and surprising sightings of both dolphins and birdlife were among the highlights of a very busy survey.

After a trouble-free drive down to Dover from Essex I met Jack at Dover station and then drove to the DFDS terminal. In just a few minutes we were enjoying a coffee while waiting to board the DFDS Dover Seaways. Once on board we had a very enjoyable lunch in the staff canteen before joining Captain Daniel Cook and his officers on the bridge where we were made very welcome. As we left Dover harbour we were able to see the first of many Gannet and a flock of mainly adult Kittiwake feeding a few hundred metres from the breakwater.

Kittiwakes Dover Graham Ekins 01
Kittiwakes on Dover breakwater (Photo: Graham Ekins)

A few minutes later we had views of the first of eight Harbour Porpoise. Viewing conditions were ideal with little wind and a lightly overcast sky. Mid-channel we had a Balearic Shearwater closely followed by a Great Skua, both heading steadily south. Then about 500m ahead we saw a small group of seabirds circling with a Great Black-backed Gull on the sea. This was the first sign of a feeding group of cetaceans. As we moved closer to them we realised that they were four Common Dolphin, a rare sight on this survey route. They swam towards the ship before diving into the depths.

Common Dolphin Graham Ekins 03
Common Dolphin (Photo: Graham Ekins)

As we turned north a few kms off the French coast we had the first of 140 Common Scoter migrating south. Some of these birds may winter as far south as the shallow waters off the north-west African coast. We also came across several small groups of adult Little Gull, their grey underwings clearly visible in the excellent light conditions. Close to Dunkirk harbour we passed an adult Pomarine Skua still with tail spoons closely followed by a juvenile Arctic Skua, an Arctic Tern and several Sandwich Tern. All of these birds were heading determinedly south. We also had several views of Harbour Porpoise and a Common Seal before were entered the dock.

Once the Dover Seaways had docked we went out on deck to check the harbour with the use of a telescope. On the southern side of the dock we saw 35 Great Crested Grebe, some were still in summer plumage. The number of Cormorant had decreased from the previous month, presumably as this continental sinensis race are highly migratory and many had left for wintering grounds in southern Europe and north Africa. We were surprised to see 155 waders of five species, the most common were 100 Dunlin and most unexpected were three Bar-tailed Godwit and eight Sanderling.   Close to the ship were saw a Stonechat, a few Starling and several Jackdaw.

Gannet Graham Ekins 01
Gannet (Photo: Graham Ekins)

As we left Dunkirk harbour four Meadow Pipit briefly flew alongside while a superb male Peregrine Falcon passed the bridge before heading south, presumably a northern migrant. As we travelled south parallel with the French coast we saw two Razorbilll and a Guillemot while several more Little Gull passed the ship. By mid-channel the number of Gannet heading south had greatly increased, a high proportion of which were brown juveniles. We also saw several more Great Skua, adult Great Black-backed Gull and four Little Gull heading steadily south-west.

After finishing the recording we thanked Captain Daniel Cook and his officers for their excellent hospitality and interest in what we had been seeing on the survey.

We would like to thank DFDS for providing continued support for this important survey route.