MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 9 April 2016

Emma Howe-Andrews and Joshua Stafford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: wind S-WSW 4-7, sea state 3-6, swell: 1-2, visibility poor with cloud, mist and rain.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 31
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 33
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8
Razorbill Alca torda 34
Guillemot Uria aalge 4

We arrived at the Port of Dover in high spirits for our survey with DFDS. After a speedy check in and efficient boarding, we were escorted to the bridge by the friendly and helpful guest services staff, who introduced us to Captain Paul and his crew. We were made to feel very welcome and we observed their preparations for departure, which is always fascinating to watch.

After leaving Dover, it was not long before we observed the first of many seabirds that would accompany the Delft Seaways throughout her journey; a single Gannet sweeping across the waves, followed by rafting Razorbill, a solitary Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Razorbill Rick Morris 02
Razorbill (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

As we approached mid-channel, a "bottling" Grey Seal surrounded by rafting Herring Gull was seen before it slipped beneath the waves. With the entrance to Dunkirk harbour only a short distance away, no cetaceans had been sighted, but there was always the return journey! The entrance to the harbour brought resting Shag and a number of circling and feeding Sandwich Tern in front of the bow.

After a quick lunch and an efficient turnaround, the Delft Seaways left her berth and began the journey back to Dover which brought two Harbour Porpoise sightings! The first was seen 500m on the starboard side, fast swimming and creating a trail of white water as it travelled down the side of the ship. The second was a solitary adult slowly swimming 300m off the port bow. Fantastic!

Shag Adrian Shephard 03
Shag (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

No further cetaceans were sighted, but the remainder of the trip brought Common Scoter, Guillemot and Greater Black-backed Gull riding the ship's slipstream and picking off fish in the wake.

Huge thanks go to Captain Paul, his crew and the staff of DFDS Delft Seaways who took a great interest in our work and who made it a very enjoyable and memorable crossing, and thanks to DFDS for their continuing support.