Sightings Archives: August 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk, “Dunkerque Seaways” 5th August 2012

Posted 08 August 2012

Cheryl Leaning and Kate Wilson: Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Eastbound 6-5 SSW-WNW cloudy Westbound 6-4 WNW-SW

Harbour Porpoise Phocena phocena 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 32
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 61
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 49
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 49
Kittiwake Risa tridactyla 8
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 39
Mixed Gull sp 30+
Eider Somateria mollissima 2

I3 Gannet

Thanks to the efficient DFDS staff arranging priority boarding for us, we soon had the car onboard 'Dunkerque Seaways'. Up on the bridge, we met the officers who had been expecting us, before a quick lunch in the crew mess.

The sky was completely cloud covered as we left Dover harbour. Our first bird sighting came ten minutes later: a couple of Black-headed Gulls passed an adult Gannet effortlessly riding the strong breeze.

Some more Gannets, a few busy Sandwich Terns and a couple of Kittiwakes bustled by on what was a relatively quiet crossing. Our low count was boosted by the appearance of 30 mixed gulls sitting expectantly on the water behind a small private boat fishing off the French coast.

Sightings picked up as we drew closer to our destination port, with increasing numbers of Sandwich Terns, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Kittiwakes and our first Great Skua. 

Harbour PorpoiseCormorants were evident as we entered Dunkirk harbour. The first leg of the survey was nicely rounded off by two Eider sitting on a pipe with Cormorants alongside the canal leading to the old harbour.

We inputted the morning's data whilst the ferry was rapidly emptied, then refilled with fresh holidaymakers and their vehicles. We sampled a bowl of delicious cod chowder, before rejoining Captain Mark Davis and his team on the bridge for the short trip back to Dover.

We had a lovely sighting of a solitary harbour porpoise as we pulled away from France in an area the crew told us they were often seen.

Back at Dover cars, motorbikes and campervans filled the parking area, all waiting to board the ferry as we docked. It was easy to believe over 25,000 people a day experience the fast route to their summer holidays. I think the seabirds had already taken an earlier boat.

We are most grateful to DFDS, Captain Davis and his crew for the warm welcome, hearty hospitality and opportunity to collect data on this short but important route.

Cheryl Leaning and Kate Wilson: Research Surveyors for MARINElife