MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Ferry ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkerque survey 3rd August 2013

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jack Allum, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Sunny, winds southwesterly, force 8 outbound decreasing to force 6 on return leg. Visibility good.

Sightings summary:

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 10
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 27
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 20
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 58
Unidentified Larus sp. 8

Friday night heralded a change in weather conditions as a low pressure system passed through the south of England and thunderstorms brought fresh and cooler air into the country on Saturday. We arrived at Dover in sunny conditions with a brisk southwesterly wind. Once the vessel was ready to load we were directed to our parking area on board the ship. We were welcomed at the information desk by Tony who arranged for us to be taken to the bridge. We had time to have a delicious meal in the crews mess before the ship set sail and our work began.

Kittiwake 03 Graham Ekins
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

On leaving the outer breakwater at Dover we started to encounter Cormorant and Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Moving further into the English Channel Kittiwake started to appear. Approaching Dunkerque sailing parallel to the French coast, Sandwich and Common Tern were seen crossing in front of the ship heading out to sea to feed. We know Harbour Porpoises can frequently be seen on this route, but their tiny size and undemonstrative behaviour make them difficult to spot unless the sea is mirror calm.

On the return leg fewer white horses were evident and it was easier to see terns feeding and returning to the sand dunes on the French coast with fish for their growing offspring. Twice we were fortunate to see Fulmar flying over the waves with consummate ease. Half an hour away from entering Dover harbour our eyes were drawn to the sea immediately in front of the bow. No cetaceans, instead a couple of hundred cuttlefish bones were floating on the sea surface. We had seen similar numbers on our outward crossing. As we approached Dover Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull were the last birds we encountered.

LBB ad 3 flight upperside
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

With the sun streaming into the bridge we thanked Captain Cook, his officers and crew for their hospitality and returned to the lower decks to prepare for leaving the ship after such an enjoyable survey. Our thanks also go to DFDS for their continued support of our work.