Hazel Munt and Stephen Hedley, research surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)
Weather: Sea state 1-3, winds 4-5, excellent visibility, low cloud cover
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 2695
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 114
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 112
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 274
Guillemot Uria aalge 27
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Auk sp. 6
Diver sp. 3
We made our way very quickly through passport control and checks. After boarding we quickly made our way to the reception desk on board the ship Delft Seaways. On board DFDS staff greeted us, and showed us to the mess where we had time for a pleasant lunch before sailing. Captain Mount and his bridge crew welcomed us onto the bridge just prior to departure. The visibility was good and it remained so throughout the day and the sea state was fair.
Kittiwake (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
We started the survey immediately on passing out of Dover harbour, where Stephen saw a Harbour Seal bottling at the entrance to the harbour. It started busy and remained that way for most of the crossing seeing large numbers of Kittiwake, Gannet, and Herring Gull. Gannet continued to appear at a steady rate throughout the outward leg, punctuated by Kittiwake and the occasional 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 a Great Skua. About an hour into the survey we reached an area which was completely covered in Gannets, with the occasional gull species, most were resting on the water with about a third actively hunting. As we approached Dunkirk harbour Red-throated Diver and Cormorant were observed.
The return journey - with Captain Londesbrough having taken over from Captain Mount - began with the same pattern of observations; mainly Gannet, with Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull being seen often and Guillemot occasionally being seen.
Cormorant (Library photo: Graham Ekins)
About 30 minutes into the return trip one Harbour Porpoise was seen by Hazel heading south and straight across the bow of Delft Seaways and seen breaching by the wake of the ship for several minutes after. We carried on the survey for another 30 minutes until it was too dark to identify the species so just after 4pm the survey ended.
We would like to express very warm thanks to DFDS, plus both Captains, officers, and crew for looking after us during the survey.