Sightings Archives: April 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Dover-Dunkirk, 'Delft Seaways' 6th April 2013

Posted 15 April 2013

Dave Miller and Emma Howe-Andrews, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Sunny with Force 6 - 7 N - NNE winds

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11 (including 1 juvenile)

Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca 1
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 2
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 21
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 53
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 29
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 37
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 29
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 19
Unidentified Large Gull Sp. 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 21
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Unidentified Auk sp. 3

We were quickly boarded and escorted to the bridge to start the survey with sunny skies. We were expecting to see evidence of bird migration but the survey started slowly, with a few Gannet, all in adult plumage, and a few Kittiwake. Further out to sea these were joined by small numbers of Guillemot and Razorbill. As we approached the French coast bird numbers picked up and at the same time our first Harbour Porpoise was spotted.

Harbour Porpoise
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Just outside the harbour at Dunkerque there seemed to be a minor feeding frenzy going on as the number of species and frequency of birds increased. We encountered Sandwich and Common Tern, Shag, Little Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull as well as three more Porpoise. We were intrigued as they were very close to the ferry, maybe too preoccupied with hunting to worry about us.

Shag 2
Shag (Archive photo: Mike Bamford)


There was a good array of birds in Dunkerque harbour and we saw Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Great Crested Grebe and a single Velvet Scoter here. Two more Porpoise were encountered close to the harbour as we left the French coast.

Halfway across the Channel we came across a flock of 28 Black-headed Gull headed determinedly towards the French coast. As we neared the white cliffs Red-throated Diver were encountered frequently as well as a single Sandwich Tern close to Dover. Emma was proving to be an expert Porpoise spotter and we recorded three more individuals close to the harbour. The final encounter was with an adult and juvenile that dived deeper close to the ferry.

This was an excellent survey carried out in excellent conditions. Our thanks to the friendliness of Capt Marenco and the bridge crew. Thank you also to DFDS for supporting MARINElife in allowing us to carry out these surveys.