Julia Benson and Sean Graham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Outward: overcast, visibility was relatively good. Wind: South-westerly wind force 4-5. Return: brighter and progressively clearer, good visibility with glare at times. Wind: Westerly wind force 2-4.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 90
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 27
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Common Gull Larus canus 46
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 11
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 28
Skua sp. 1
Gull sp. 2
We were welcomed aboard by the staff and crew and, once underway, were escorted to the bridge to start the survey just as we exited Dover harbour.
A variety of different bird species were encountered as the ship ventured into the Channel including Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar and a skua. The skua came into view just above the bow of the boat as it harassed a juvenile Herring Gull. After a while we encountered relatively large numbers of Common Gull and Gannet. It was then we spotted a very young juvenile Gannet which, without using binoculars, looked almost entirely black. On our approach to Dunkirk we suddenly started seeing a number of Sandwich Tern, several of which were flying past and hovering intermittently, probably looking for a chance to feed.
Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
After leaving Dunkirk our bird sightings remained relatively consistent with those of the outward journey. A notable difference being the increased number of encounters with Gannet and Sandwich Tern.
Towards the end of our return to Dover, we came across an area which the birds were flying away from. As this may have been an indication of past feeding activity we were optimistic that we may see some cetaceans and we were not disappointed. Sean spotted the lazy surfacing of a Harbour Porpoise, our cetacean encounter of the day.
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
Concluding the survey shortly after coming back into Dover harbour, we thanked the Captain and his staff for their enthusiasm and welcoming hospitality before heading ashore.