MARINElife blog: DFDS: ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 11 July 2015

Emma Webb and Caroline Race, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Sunny, but hazy, visibility fairly poor with glare and spray. Wind: South-southwest force 4-5, 5-6 on return.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 15
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 19
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 27
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Gull sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Feral pigeon 3

We very quickly and efficiently boarded Delft Seaways and were welcomed onto the Bridge to start the survey just as we exited Dover harbour.  Straightaway we started sighting seabirds with a small flock of 15 Common Scoter flying past as we took our first effort reading.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 09
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A variety of different seabird species were encountered as the ship made her way into the Channel including Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Fulmar and a Lesser Black-backed Gull. Kittiwake continued to dominate the sightings with a Great Skua breaking the routine with a nice fly-by past the Bridge.

As we approached Dunkirk, we started seeing more Common Tern along with two Sandwich Tern all looking as though they were on foraging runs from the breeding colonies.

As we approached the shipping channel to enter Dunkirk harbour, we sighted a lone Harbour Porpoise giving good views as it rolled 400m off the starboard bow.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01a
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After leaving Dunkirk, the wind strengthened significantly and, as a result, sightings levels dropped significantly although Kittiwake still remained the most frequently sighted seabird.  The highlight of the return leg was a close view of a lone Curlew heading across the Channel close to the ship. Concluding the survey shortly before coming back into Dover harbour, we thanked the Captain and his staff for their enthusiasm and very welcoming hospitality before heading ashore.