Sightings Archives: March 2015

MARINElife Blog: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 7 March 2015

Posted 19 March 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright and Julia Benson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Sunny and cloudy, good visibility, wind SW 7-8

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 42
Seal sp. 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet  Morus bassanus 55
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Skua sp. 1
Larus sp. 14
Auk sp. 12

After boarding we had lunch in the crew mess before being escorted to the bridge to begin surveying.

The sun was shining and the sea state was less than ideal for spotting cetaceans because of the many white caps but, within minutes of beginning the survey, two dark grey triangular fins broke the surface of the water -  two Harbour Porpoise. Five minutes later, we saw another two and so it continued with sightings every few minutes. At one point we saw a group of five and one of the officers spotted a group of six!

Harbour Porpoise Carol Farmer-Wright 03
Harbour Porpoise (Carol Farmer-Wright)

During one of the porpoise sightings, Gannet were diving spectacularly into the water to feed in the same area. Several Gannet were also seen sitting on the water close by. Further Gannet sightings mostly coincided with the porpoise sightings. Also seen on the outbound journey were the occasional Kittiwake and a variety of other gull species both juveniles and adults, and auks too. Shortly before arriving at Dunkirk harbour we left the bridge and returned to the crew mess to await the return journey.

Upon leaving Dunkirk we were escorted back to the bridge to resume surveying. Bird sightings, initially, were few and far between, with just the occasional gull and auk species being seen. We also saw Fulmar with a couple gliding close to the surface of the water. Halfway through the journey the bird sightings increased in frequency and we also began to see more Harbour Porpoise. At one point a small shimmering dark grey object was seen floating on the surface of the water for some time and, when it eventually turned, it revealed that it was a seal. Unfortunately it was too far away to determine the species and it was not seen again. Bird sightings continued until our arrival at Dover.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 04
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Thank you to Captain Piero Marenco, his officers and crew for their hospitality and for a very enjoyable survey. Thanks to DFDS for their continued support.