Sightings Archives: October 2017

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 28 October 2017

Posted 15 November 2017

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

Marine Mammals
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.

RT Diver Mike Bamford 01
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 Stephen Hedley 01
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.