MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk, 'Dover Seaways' 2nd December 2012

Graham Ekins,   MARINElife Research Surveyor
Weather: East and West bound: Force 3 NNW with scattered clouds and good visibility.

Seals and Cetaceans
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus     1
Common Seal  Phoca vitulina  2 

Gannet Morus bassanus    270
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo  532
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 24
Red-throated Diver  Gavia  stellata  13
Great Skua   Stercorarius skua   13
Pomarine Skua  Stecorarius pomarinus    1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 70 
Common Gull Larus canus 118
Herring Gull Larus argentatus  1686
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus  1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus   439
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla    318
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge    38
Razorbill   Alca torda   9

Terrestrial Birds
Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus   19

KittiwakeAfter an excellent drive down to Dover the bright skies suggested that I would have good visibility for the survey.   Once I boarded the "DFDS Dover Seaways" I was taken to the restaurant for an early lunch where I met 4 surveyors from the French OCEAMM Cetacean Group led by Thibaut Bouveroux.  It was very interesting listening to details of their sightings on this and previous surveys.  I enjoyed their company on the eastbound survey route.

Captain Steven Burton welcomed me on to the bridge and introduced me to his bridge staff.  As we crossed the channel the numbers of seabirds was impressive with many Gannet and Kittiwake as well as several Red-throated Diver logged.  As we approached the French coast we had brief views of a Grey Seal and shortly afterwards a Harbour Porpoise.  We then came across a trawler with large numbers of Gannet and gulls in attendance.  As we travelled north along the French coast towards Dunkirk we found a large flock of Gannet diving on a fish shoal accompanied by many gulls, 10 Great Skua and a juvenile Pomarine Skua which was an unexpectedly high number of skuas for mid-winter.  We also saw several Guillemot, a few Razorbill and 3 Little Gull.

As we approached Dunkirk harbour we noticed many Cormorant roosting on one of the gantries while several Great-crested Grebe were fishing in one of the sheltered bays.

While the "Dover Seaways" was unloaded I said goodbye to my French colleagues. I then started to collate to records for the first part of the survey. 

GuillemotWithin a short while the "Dover Seaways" was leaving the port, as we left I noticed 2 Common Seal fishing near the harbour entrance.    The numbers of birds on the western section of the survey was very impressive with increasing numbers of Kittiwake, Common, Great Black-backed and Herring Gull of the northern race argentatus. I also had a flock of 24 Common Scoter fly south past the ship plus several more Red-throated Diver, Great Skua and Guillemot. As we approached the port of Dover I encountered a steady stream of large gulls heading NW. This passage continued until dusk when we were still 30 minutes east of the port.

As I left the bridge I thanked Captain Steven Burton and his officers for their hospitality during this very busy and interesting survey.

I would like to thank DFDS for providing continued support for this survey. 

Graham Ekins, MARINElife Research Surveyor.