Sightings Archives: September 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk, “Dunkerque Seaways” 2nd September 2012

Posted 10 September 2012

Carol Farmer-Wright and Claire Trew: Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Eastbound 2-3 SSW-WSW

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3       
Gannet Morus bassanus 39
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 152
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black‐headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 60
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 12
Unidentified Gull sp. 1
Unidentified Duck sp. 6

Gannet by SLThis was the first time I'd travelled with my car on a Dover car ferry from but thanks to the smooth operation of the DFDS check-in and boarding team, Claire and I were swiftly directed onto the ship's car deck. After a quick lunch we were invited up to the bridge to begin our survey.

We left harbour in dry weather with high clouds, and a relatively calm sea with a few white caps. We soon came across a group of Gannet just outside the harbour entrance. These birds flew in front of the ship, enabling us to see the variation in plumage as they age.

As we navigated the busy English Channel, other birds came into view: Commic Tern, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and a couple of Fulmar.

Soon we were entering Dunkirk Harbour, the western side of which is the communal resting ground for more than 130 Cormorant, thanks to a large petroleum pipeline We left the bridge while the ship was docking and started to enter the data we had collected although before we could finish, the return journey had begun. So we returned to the bridge in time to record a group of Herring Gull with a solitary Great Black-backed Gull sitting on the eastern harbour wall. As we left the harbour behind us many Commic Tern appeared, with some starting to fishing on the starboard side of the vessel. These gave way to Great Black-backed Gull and an occasional Gannet. 

GBB Gull ad 1

Then, the highlight of the afternoon: a close encounter with a Great Skua, a sub-adult bird who obligingly crossed the bow about 30m out giving us an excellent view.  Another unusual mammal sighting was a cross-channel swimmer, making a late start crossing the channel.

With Dover Harbour in sight, we thanked the officers and crew of the vessel who had been so welcoming and helpful during our survey. We would also like to thank DFDS Seaways for making this survey possible.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Claire Trew, Research Surveyors for MARINElife