MARINELife Report: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 1 July 2017

Tibor Beetles and Janos Foldi, Research surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)

Outbound: partial cloudy, NNW wind, sea state 3-4, some mist haze closer to Dunkirk
Return: Mostly cloudy with sunny spells, NNW wind, sea state 2-5

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Sea Birds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 9
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 8
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 33
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 30
Lesser Black-Backed Gull Larus fuscus 12
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 11
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Unidentified Tern  13
Unidentified Gull  7

Terrestrial species
Feral pigeon 1

After getting through border control, the boarding was easy and we were escorted to the canteen and then the bridge. Captain MacMillan and his crew were very friendly and really interested in our work, continuously communicating with us throughout the journey. We also had a film crew, working on board from Channel4, making a documentary about the English Channel. They interviewed Tibor about the work we were doing and we will be keeping our fingers crossed that it will be shown in the program.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 12
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Leaving the port, the sky was clear although we had a strong glare from the starboard side which eventually eased down due to the position of the ship and some clouds. The first sightings were seabirds such as terns, Gannet, Fulmar and Kittiwake which continued constantly all the way to Dunkirk. The highlight was several Manx Shearwater, which surprised us. Sadly a sea state of 4 made spotting cetaceans tricky and we didn't spot any marine mammals on the outbound crossing.

After a brief stop in Dunkirk, we headed back towards Dover. Before starting our survey, we saw the local Grey Seal checking us out from the breakwater, then we were already in the Channel sailing back. There was a very strong glare from ahead for almost all the way to the ferry port. Sea state was 4-5 initially and then calmed down to 2 for the rest of the journey.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 16b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

We saw some birds flying in a high V formation, but we couldn't identify them - they looked like very large light grey gulls. We also saw a Great Skua bullying a gull for its meal, which was an exciting sight. Not long before we were finishing up, we saw a couple of Harbour Porpoise. They surfaced ahead of us and made us feel extremely alive.

Big thanks to DFDS and the friendly crew who helped us in this survey and for supporting MARINElife's work. Perhaps see us on your TV soon!