Sightings Archives: March 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk, 'Dunkerque Seaways' 2nd March 2013

Posted 03 March 2013

Carol Farmer-Wright and Mary Norden; Researcher Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Overcast wind ENE-N 2-5 occasionally 6, sea state 2-3

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 25

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus  107
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 44
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus  240
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 398
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 61
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 106
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 6
Red-throated Diver (Loon) Gavia stellata 10
Unidentified Auk sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 18

We arrived at the Port of Dover and were quickly advised of our lane to join the ship. Upon boarding we were immediately taken to the staff mess to have lunch before beginning our survey. The weather was settled, calm seas and cloudy skies with good visibility, ideal for cetacean watching.

Red Throated DiverCaptain Roe welcomed us onto the bridge and we settled down to our observations. Within five minutes of leaving the outer breakwater we saw our first Harbour Porpoise. Three animals were slowly rolling to the south. This was to be one of many sightings that day. The majority of the animals were no more than seven miles off either coast.

Cormorant, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake were all evident close to the harbour entrance, some on the breakwater, many sitting on the sea waiting for passing ferries to stir up the silt and provide them with an easy meal. As we left the coast behind, Guillemot and Gannet became more prevalent. A few Red-throated Diver (Loon) flew past and, as we approached the French coast, a few Common Scoter were seen. Entering the outer breakwater in Dunkirk, a small raft of female and juvenile male Goldeneye was encountered.

Harbour Porpoise 2As we started our return crossing, we soon encountered Great Crested Grebe swimming just outside the outer breakwater. Within 30 minutes of leaving Dunkirk we sighted eight more Harbour Porpoise. The sea state deteriorated slightly as we approached the English coast and no further cetaceans were seen.

On approaching the Dover breakwater, many Common Gull flew out to the ship to take advantage of food being stirred up by the ship's wake. The occasional Black-backed Gull joined in the food search. 

On passing the outer breakwater in Dover we concluded our survey and thanked Captain Roe, his officers and crew for their hospitality. Our thanks also go to DFDS Seaways for supporting MARINElife in enabling us to survey this important route.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Mary Norden,  Research Surveyors for MARINElife