MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk, “Dunkerque Seaways” 1st July 2012

Chery Leaning and Dave Miller: MARINElife Research Surveyors

Weather: Eastbound SW - WSW 7-8 Westbound SW-WSW 7-8

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 15
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 21
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 69
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Risa tridactyla 17
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 67
"Commic" Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 12
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus 1
Unidentified Mixed Gull sp 50+
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3

Terrestrial Birds
Goosander Mergus Merganser 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea 1
Racing Pigeon 1

We were so keen we'd set off before dawn to get to the south coast from rural Lincolnshire. We arrived much too early. Rain forced us into a Greasy Spoon where we filled our time and tummies with the obligatory Full English and copious cups of tea. We made our way to the Departure Terminal when we could drink no more. We were grateful to be swiftly ushered aboard the boat ahead of the long queues of eager travelers. We were introduced to Captain Ron Williams and shown onto the Bridge to be met by more friendly officers and stunning views. The rain had stopped but the wind kept up a deceptive Force 8 as we left the shelter of the harbour walls.

Glaucous Gull adWe had steady numbers of Gannet, Kittiwake, a Black-Headed Gull and lone Fulmar as we left the White Cliffs behind us. Sandwich Terns began to dominate, many with bills full of fish, as we approached the French Coast, which had come into view almost as soon as we entered the Channel. The outbound crossing was capped off nicely with a Great Skua, Goosander and Glaucous Gull before we watched the crew guide the vessel inch by inch onto the dock platforms.

We swapped data entry and Excel tips during the turnaround and were back on the bridge in less than an hour for the return leg. A shallow beach just inside the harbour gave a Great Crested Grebe, Curlew Sandpiper and rows of Cormorant and Mixed Gulls roosting on the walls.

The Sandwich and "Commic" Terns were to and fro across our path in the constant need to feed their young.  As we moved further distant from their coastal colonies, we met more Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls, Gannets, Kittiwakes, and a brave Racing Pigeon which might have been blown off-course.

Visibility was much reduced with a low bank of cloud hanging over the Kent coast with bright sunshine beating down on us from above it. The crew told us about a seal which was often seen swimming around and beneath the boat's moorings. We hung on as long as we could in the hope of getting the mammal record for this trip, but alas in vain.

We joined the throng to the car decks and were soon on our way back north. We received fantastic help and hospitality from all staff, crew and Captain Williams and are keen to continue this great new route. We would like to thank DFDS Seaways for their support.

Cheryl Leaning and Dave Miller: MARINElife Research Surveyors.