MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Dunkerque Seaways Dover-Dunkirk 2 November 2013

Adrian Shephard, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Eastbound: WSW Force 3-5 Westbound: WSW Force 3-8.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 156
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 297
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 40
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 13
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 47
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 22
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified Gull sp 266

Terrestrial Birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 11

I headed aboard and was promptly taken to the bridge to meet Captain Ridout and his crew and made very welcome prior to departure from Dover. Conditions were sunny with no swell but a fresh breeze from the southwest meant a number of whitecaps and challenging viewing conditions for cetaceans.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 06
Juvenile Gannet (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

Seabirds were pretty constant on the outward crossing with good counts of Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull and Great Skua which I often saw chasing down Gannet - known as kleptoparasitism. Quite large flocks of gulls and Gannet were seen behind the incoming ferries - what you might expect trailing a fishing vessel!

The occasional Guillemot and a few Little Gull added further interest on the seabird front and as we approached the French coast, a sighting of two Harbour Porpoise lifted my spirits. A couple of flocks of Common Scoter were also seen as we headed towards Dunkirk harbour.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a brief turn around spent tallying bird sightings on the bridge, we headed back out on the return crossing but with more unfavourable conditions forecast.

A brief glimpse of another Harbour Porpoise outside Dunkirk Harbour was the only marine mammal sighting on the return crossing and as we headed further west the wind increased creeping up to a force 8 with deeply overcast skies. Seabird numbers were reduced, with sporadic Gannet and Great Skua sightings before the light conditions finally called the survey to an end.

Great Skua Adrian Shephard 02
Great Skua (Photo: Adrian Shephard)

I thanked Captain Ridout and his officers for their excellent hospitality and headed for my car to drive home.

My thanks to DFDS Seaways for their ongoing support.