MARINElife survey report: DFDS Delft Seaways Dover-Dunkirk 11 January 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Lee Slater, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Outbound - sunny, good visibility, wind NW force 4-7
Return - good visibility with glare at times, wind W-NW force 6-4

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11
Unidentified cetacean species 4
Unidentified dolphin species 4

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 20
Gannet Morus bassanus 236
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 14
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 345
Guillemot Uria aalge 433
Razorbill Alca torda 6
Unidentified Gull species 29

This winter has evidenced so many storms that it was delightful to turn up at Dover for 2014's first survey of this route to sunny skies and moderate winds.

We drove onto the Delft Seaways, were welcomed and then escorted to the bridge to begin our survey. The ship takes two hours to cross the English Channel. Many cargo and passenger vessels travel through the area each day and it can be a surprisingly busy area for cetaceans and birds.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 01
Guillemots (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Immediately on exiting the harbour we began recording Cormorant, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Gannet. Many of the Guillemot were resting on the sea and would dive down to escape the vessel as we approached them.

Half an hour into the survey a cetacean briefly appeared, swimming quickly directly away from the ship. A small blow could be seen but it was all too fleeting an encounter to be able to identify the animal.  Ten minutes later we were able to record Harbour Porpoise moving quickly through the water away from the ship, the first of six sightings we were to have that day.

On arriving at Dunkirk we ventured down to the crews mess to tuck into a lovely lunch. On finishing, we immediately returned to the bridge to complete the return section of the survey.

A raft of Kittiwake were at the outer breakwater of Dunkirk harbour and within five minutes of leaving we saw yet another Harbour Porpoise moving quickly away to avoid the ship. We again had a brief encounter with a small group of dolphin. They were probably Common Dolphin, but again the view was too brief to positively identify.

Kittiwake Rob Petley-Jones 01a
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Regular numbers of Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot were seen on the return crossing and an occasional Fulmar appeared as we neared the English coastline.

We concluded our survey as we approached the Dover breakwater and thanked Captain Londesborough, his officers and crew for their hospitality as we left the bridge to rejoin our car.