MARINElife Blog: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 1 November 2014

Julia Benson and Joanne Reynolds, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Outbound - cloudy, good to moderate visibility, wind southwest force 6-4
Return - cloudy with some bright spells, wind southwest force 4-6

Summmary of sightings:

Gannet Morus bassanus 86
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Gull sp. 6
Auk sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Great White Egret Ardea alba 1

After arriving at the Dover ferry terminal we were quickly checked-in and, soon after, we boarded the ship by car. We made our way to the information desk where we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who escorted us to the bridge and then on to the crew mess where we enjoyed a very tasty lunch before making our way back up to the bridge to begin surveying. We introduced ourselves to Captain Steve Cockerill and his officers who made us feel very welcome.

Gannet Julia Benson 01
Gannet (Photo: Julia Benson)

Within minutes of beginning the survey a few Great Black-backed Gull flew past the ship followed by several solitary Gannet. Gannet were the most common species seen throughout the entire survey; most of them were adults although several juveniles were also encountered.  A lone Great Skua flew across the bow and we also saw some Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and some juvenile gulls.

As we approached the French coast, several Kittiwake were seen and a number of Cormorant appeared as we neared Dunkirk harbour. On entering the harbour entrance we saw a Curlew flying across our path which was shortly followed by a Great White Egret.

After a quick turnaround, the ferry made its way back to Dover. Bird sightings were fairly similar to those on the journey to Dunkirk. A number of Gannet were seen periodically, including one diving spectacularly into the water to feed, as well as gulls and more Cormorant.

Channel sunset Julia Benson 01
Channel sunset (Photo: Julia Benson)

Halfway through the return journey to Dover, the cloud cover reduced slightly to reveal a little of the blue sky hiding behind it and also allowed the sun to finally make a brief appearance. As we approached the English coast we were treated to a beautiful sunset but, now that the days are shorter, we had to end our survey a little earlier than usual due to low light.

Thank you to Captain Steve Cockerill, his officers and crew for their hospitality and to DFDS for their continued support.