Carol Farmer-Wright and Stephen Hedley Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Outward - Cloudy, wind W 4-5, sea state 3-4. Return - Cloudy, wind W 4-6, sea state 3-5
Summary of sightings
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 203
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 18
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Guillemot Uria aalge 73
Razorbill Alca torda 35
Auk sp. 17
Larus sp. 2
We passed through passport control and ticket check promptly and thus had time for a quick dose of caffeine before driving onto the Delft Seaways. On board DFDS staff facilitated our check in, enabling time for a pleasant lunch before sailing. Captain Mills and his bridge crew welcomed us onto the bridge just prior to departure. The visibility was good and it remained so throughout the day. The sea state was moderate.
Red-throated Diver (Library photo: Mike Bamford)
We started the survey immediately on passing out of Dover harbour and after a short while we saw several pelagic species: Kittiwake, Gannet, plus Guillemot. We also saw a Common Gull and juvenile Lesser Black Backed Gull. Gannet continued to appear at a steady rate throughout the outward leg, punctuated by the occasional Kittiwake and Razorbill. The Gannet stages included juvenile, intermediate and adult birds and many were resting on the sea. Several Great Black Backed Gull were seen (juvenile and adult), as well as two Great Skua. After an hour, closer to the French coast, we saw our first Little Gull in winter plumage, followed in the next thirty minutes by five others, all in tern-like flight and showing their distinctive wing pattern. A Red-throated Diver and Cormorant were observed approaching Dunkirk harbour.
The return journey began with the same pattern of observations; mainly Gannet, punctuated with the occasional Kittiwake, Great Black Backed Gull, Little Gull and Razorbill. After half an hour of the return trip one Harbour Porpoise, our only non-bird observation, was seen briefly by Carol heading northwards. Following this excitement the regular observations of Gannet and other afore mentioned species continued. Close to the English coast three Mediterranean Gulls were observed in winter plumage flying close to the water. The trip ended with the sea state reduced and a lovely golden glow on the white cliffs.
Channel coast at sunset (Stephen Hedley)
We would like to express very warm thanks to Captain Mills, his officers and crew for looking after us during the survey.