Stephen Hedley and Karen Francis; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)
Outward - Cloudy, sea state 3-5, wind W force 4-5
Return - Cloudy, sea state 3-4, wind W force 4-5
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 88
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 32
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 33
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Diver sp 1
The temperature was close to freezing when we met near the B&B in Dover where Karen stayed. We soon afterwards passed through passport control and ticket check and this gave us time for a quick coffee before driving onto the Dover Seaways. On board DFDS staff facilitated our check in, so that we had time for a quick lunch before sailing. Captain Cockrell 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.
Great Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
We started the survey immediately on leaving the Dover harbour and soon afterwards we saw Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant, plus two Red-throated Diver flying away from the ship. We also saw further gull species including Herring Gull and Kittiwake (adults and juveniles). It was however more than 10 minutes out to sea that we spotted the first Gannet. Captain Cockrell had mentioned that the sea was churned up, presumably as a result of the strong winds (from Storm Caroline during the week).
Further Gannet were seen intermittently throughout the rest of the voyage in small numbers only. None were observed diving. Further Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Herring Gull were spotted, plus several Guillemot and a lone Fulmar skimming the waves. After half an hour one of the bridge crew shouted that she had seen one Harbour Porpoise. She spotted it just off the port bow and despite checking we were unable to see it ourselves. One Great Skua was seen, with further Kittiwake. The same crew member then saw a Harbour Porpoise after a further half an hour; again regrettably we were unable to confirm it. Closer to Dunkirk we saw further Great Skua, plus a lone Common Gull, and also some Cormorant.
Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
Whilst waiting in Dunkirk for the unloading and loading of vehicles, we were able to observe squabbling Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull and Common Gull close to the ferry. One Little Egret was also seen on the side of the nearby ship canal.
The return journey began with a few Great Black-backed Gulls, Kittiwake and the occasional Gannet. We concluded the survey within the hour as darkness fell.
We would like to express very warm thanks to Captain and crew of the Dover Seaways for looking after us during the survey.