Sightings Archives: February 2017

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkerque Survey 25 February 2017

Posted 27 February 2017

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

Weather: SW 8, sea state 6-7, cloudy, visibility good

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 14

Gannet Morus bassanus 37
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Back-backed Gull Larus marinus 20
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 7
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Gull sp. 31
Auk sp.  3

With the effects of Storm Doris still lingering, we arrived at the port to see a choppy Strait of Dover, but this didn't dampen our spirits and we looked forward to our survey with DFDS to Dunkirk.

Making our way through the Strait of Dover in a sea state 6, cloudy skies and with visibility at times ranging from good to poor, it wasn't long before the first birds were seen, Gannet, Great Back-backed Gull, Herring Gull sweeping majestically across the waves.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 14
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Things remained a little quiet on our journey to Dunkirk, but after a quick and efficient turn around, it was on the return journey that our first cetacean sighting came, a solitary Harbour Porpoise, 800 metres off the starboard bow ploughing through the waves. Fantastic!

The sightings came in quick succession after this, with three Harbour Porpoise which included a juvenile, 150 metres off the starboard bow and moving quickly away from the ship before disappearing. The best sighting of the day was when a group of five Harbour Porpoise were seen directly ahead of the ship and as they approached, we could clearly see some of the animals sub-surface. The animals crossed the bow and travelled down the side of the vessel, rapidly swimming and creating lots of white water as they went.

Between sightings, we had further encounters with birds, which included a Great Skua, Kittiwake, rafting Razorbill and Fulmar.  The last two sightings of the day came as we approached Dover with a further five Harbour Porpoise, one group of two and then another group of three ahead of the ship.  What a great survey!

Razorbill Graham Ekins 01
Razorbill (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

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