Lee Slater & Julia Benson, Research surveyors for MARINElife(Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: outbound sea state2-4, WNW-NNW. Return sea state 2-4, WNW-NW
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 20
Small Cetacean Sp. 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 159
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 45
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 18
Razorbill Alca torda 19
Mixed Gull flock 86
Gull sp. 18
Auk sp. 16
A number of Harbour Porpoise sightings were a highlight of this trip.
After driving to the ferry terminal, we were efficiently ushered on board. After checking in, we were escorted to the bridge, and a hearty lunch, before the vessel slipped out of the harbour and into the English Channel.
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: MikeBamford)
We were immediately struck by the favourable weather conditions with low swell, low wind and minimal glare. Our first avian sighting was two pairs of Great Northern Diver, who flew across the bow. This was quickly followed by a steady stream of Razorbill and Guillemot. We didn't have to wait long for a cetacean, as a single Harbour Porpoise surfaced at a distance of 1000m. This was the first of seven Harbour Porpoise sightings on this leg.
As the ship neared the centre of the channel, a large feeding flock of Gannet was spotted. Despite both surveyors having their eyes glued to the edge of the diving activity, we only saw a flash of a dorsal fin, which meant that this cetacean eluded full identification. As the vessel entered Dunkirk harbour, porpoise again surfaced inside the breakwater. This seems to be a key area for them as they were also spotted here on my survey on this route in January.
Julia Benson surveying (Photo: Lee Slater)
Upon docking, we went to the crew mess for a hot drink and discussed the great sightings of the outbound leg. As the boat started its engine for the return trip, we returned to the bridge.
We recorded the many Cormorant adorning Dunkirk's harbour wall before searching the breakwater area. Once again we weren't disappointed, with another four Harbour Porpoise being observed. We had a further five Harbour Porpoise sightings on our return leg and were welcomed back to England by large flocks of various gull species. This concluded another successful survey.
Our thanks go to Captain Cockrill and his team for their hospitality and interest, as well as to DFDS seaways for their continued support.