MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 7 November 2015

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

Weather
Outbound: Sea state 5-3. SW winds. Cloudy.
Return: Sea state 4-6. Winds SW to WSW. Cloudy with mist on horizon.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7

Seabirds
Gannet  Morus bassanus 142
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 10
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 26
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 53
Guillemot  Uria aalge 34
Larus sp. 220

After boarding we had a quick coffee and a light lunch before being invited up to the bridge just as the ship began departing. The conditions started off cloudy and rather breezy but with an outside temperature of 20oC, which is significantly higher than the average Dover temperature for November.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We initially recorded numerous gulls close to the port. Our first cetaceans came later in the trip when two adult Harbour Porpoise were seen surfacing about halfway through the crossing. Shortly after this sighting, there was another brief sighting of two adult Harbour Porpoise. On the final leg of the journey heading to Dunkirk a single adult Harbour Porpoise was observed.

The initially strong breeze on the outward journey did not seem to affect the Gannet, Guillemot or Kittiwake which were often observed sitting or flying over the waves, with the Gannet recorded diving in to some of the larger waves to hunt. Upon approaching Dunkirk, a barge vessel dredging the entrance of the harbour was being accompanied by more than 35 large gulls which were also recorded.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 08a
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

After a short turnaround in Dunkirk, and a hot chocolate, we started back for Dover. The wind had picked up and the return journey resulted in far fewer bird numbers than the outbound. Forty minutes into the journey, two adult Harbour Porpoise passed within 275m of the ferry bringing our grand total to 7 animals. The return journey was not without its bird highlights; numerous Gannet of a range of age kept us busy, while Kittiwake, Guillemot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull all made appearances before the sunset called a halt to our survey.

Our thanks go to Master Ryan Booth, the bridge officers and crew of the Dover Seaways for making our survey so enjoyable.