Julia Benson and Fraser Paterson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound - cloudy, low visibility with light rain, wind southwest force 8-9.
Return - cloudy with some bright spells, moderate to good visibility, wind northwest force 7-3.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 233
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 8
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 30
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 60
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 58
Guillemot Uria aalge 19
Auk sp 5
Gull sp 120
We were warmly welcomed on board 'Dover Seaways' and, after being escorted up to the bridge, we introduced ourselves to Captain Steve Cockrill who was, along with his officers, friendly and welcoming.
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
Visibility was poor with some light rain for the first half hour of the survey. As we made our way out of the harbour a number of seabirds appeared and over the course of the crossing to Dunkirk we sighted many Gannet, along with a few Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gull. Half an hour outside of Dunkirk we had our first cetaceans, two Harbour Porpoise. As we approached Dunkirk a number of Kittiwak, a few Great Skua and some Cormorant put in an appearance.
On the return journey, the sea gradually became calmer with greatly improved visibility and at one point the sun even came out. Our first bird sightings were of Lesser Black-backed gull, Cormorant and Red-throated Diver.
Gannet then started to appear with a few of them staying with the ship for some time. We even saw some of them making their spectacular dives into the water. Occasionally a lone Great Skua came onto the scene and we also saw a couple of Fulmar as we got closer to Dover. Just outside of Dover we had our second cetacean sighting, three Harbour Porpoise travelling together. As we neared the harbour entrance a constant stream of gulls appeared but due to low light it was difficult to identify the species. A great start to 2015 with a good variety of seabirds and Harbour Porpoise.
Little Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
Thank you very much to Captain Steve Cockerill, his officers and crew for their hospitality and to DFDS for their continued support.