MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways' Dover-Dunkirk 25 March 2017

Mandy Bright and Joshua Stafford, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Wind NE 4-7, sea state 4-5,sunny, visibility good, sunny

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Gannet Morus bassanus 55
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 6
Great Back-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Guillemot Uria aalge 27
Auk Sp. 3

With the shipping forecast predicting sunshine and strong winds for our journey across to Dunkirk, we arrived at the Port of Dover in high spirits for our survey with DFDS Seaways.

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 the Captain and his crew. We were made to feel very welcome and we observed their preparations for departure, which is always fascinating to watch.

Kittiwake Graham Ekins 02a
Kittiwake (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

We left Dover and headed out into a sea state 4, with strong NNE winds, an almost clear sky and good visibility. Despite the strong wind we remained hopeful of seeing the wonderful wildlife that inhabits the Strait of Dover.

It wasn't long before we observed the first of many seabirds along the route, almost as soon as we exited the harbour we were recorded two Herring Gull and a small flock of six Bar-tailed Godwit flying towards the shoreline. However, due to the earlier high winds the usual accompaniment of gulls circling the ferry were nowhere to be seen.

As we approached mid-Channel, we had recorded a number of individual Gannet, flying, resting and feeding, along with numerous Kittiwake which were using the strong winds to glide and swoop low over the surrounding waves.

Towards the end of the outbound route, as we approached Dunkirk harbour we recorded a small group of twelve Common Scoter consisting of six males and females flying across the bow.

Common Scoter Adrian Shephard 03
Common Scoter (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

After a quick break and an efficient turnaround, the Delft Seaways left her berth and began the journey back to Dover in a sea state 5, which quickly dropped down to a 4. The return trip brought sightings of Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot.

Huge thanks go to the Captain and crew and the staff of DFDS Delft 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.