Carol Farmer-Wright and Michael Bamford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Outbound: sunny, good visibility: north-easterly wind force 5.
Return: good visibility with glare at times: northerly wind force 5-3.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 9
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Gannet Morus bassanus 91
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 114
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 92
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 36
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 35
Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 17
Wader sp. 3
The first Bank Holiday weekend in May is expected to be a cold and rainy affair so driving down to Dover in bright sunshine for the day's survey was very welcome.
We drove onto the Delft Seaways and, once aboard, were welcomed by the staff at the information desk and escorted to the bridge to begin our survey.
Arctic Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)
Immediately on exiting the harbour we began recording Kittiwake, Guillemot and Gannet. Several groups of Arctic Tern were seen on migration, travelling north just ahead of the ship. As we neared the French coast Sandwich Tern were seen, some going out to fish, others returning with sandeel in their beaks. Soon we reached the outer breakwater at Dunkirk and left the bridge whilst the ship was emptied before the return leg to Dover.
As we left Dunkirk harbour we identified a Shag hunting and feeding just outside the breakwater. Minutes later we were recording numbers of Sandwich, Common and Little Tern foraging. Half an hour into the return journey, 4 miles north of Calais, we spotted the first Harbour Porpoise, two animals moving in unison away from the ship.
Harbour Porpoise (Carol Farmer-Wright)
In the mid point of our crossing we could see a great deal of bird activity to the north of our position. Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet were circling above an area of the sea, with Gannet repeatedly diving into the water to feed. We were unable to see any cetaceans amongst this activity but were soon rewarded with seven further Harbour Porpoise appearing in front of our vessel - the first group of four animals appeared as if they too were feeding.
We concluded our survey as we approached the Dover breakwater and thanked Captain Marenco, his officers and crew for their hospitality as we left the bridge to rejoin our car.