Tibor Beetles and Janos Foldi, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Sea state 1-3, N-NE winds, Visibility excellent, low cloud cover, high glare
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 16
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 41
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Comic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 13
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Tern sp. 49
Gull sp. 316
Duck sp. 6
Feral Pigeon 1
Wader sp. 8
We made our way down to Dover to be greeted with clear skies, great visibility, and a calm sea. After a quick and efficient boarding, we were provided with a fine lunch in the crew mess then allowed up to the bridge to be greeted by Captain Cockerill and his team as the Dover Seaways left the docks.
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
Minutes after leaving the harbour we spotted six ducks, more clearly identified later as Common Scoter on the return journey. The seabird numbers were very low for the first 20 minutes of our survey, however, Tibor did spot two Harbour Porpoise briefly surface far ahead of the bow. Further out into the Channel the bird activity did increase with a mixture of Gannet, Herring and Great Black-backed Gull, Comic Tern and several Great Skua.
Despite the calm seas we didn't spot any further cetaceans on the outbound journey, however not far from the entrance to Dunkirk harbour there was a huge flock of birds surrounding a small fishing vessel - the sheer number of birds made detailed ID and counting almost impossible but we estimated over 200 mixed gulls and terns circling and feeding, as well as a large Grey Seal, indicating there was a great food source under the water. We also spotted a small flock of light brown and grey waders, although we were unable to identify these as they flew past so surreptitiously.
Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
The return journey stayed calm with mostly a sea state 2, although the strong glare made observation more difficult towards the end of the survey. The same huge flock of mixed gulls and terns had dissipated slightly, but there were still around a hundred circling or resting on the water just off the harbour walls. About halfway across the Channel we observed a constant number of small groups of Gannet, often resting on the water and including some younger birds, giving us some practice of age identification. We also saw a couple of Fulmar, Great Skua and Herring Gull. About 10 minutes from Dover, Jani gave a shout as he had spotted another pair of Harbour Porpoise quite far ahead of the ship - a good end to another interesting survey.
Our thanks to Captain Cockerill and his Crew for their steady supply of coffee and biscuits and DFDS for their continued support of our work.