MARINElife Report DFDS ‘Dunkerque Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 10 February 2018

Tibor Beetles and Helen Swift, Research Surveyors for MARINElife 
Weather: Outbound: Sea state 4-5. SW winds. Cloudy.  Return: Sea state 3-6. Winds SW. Cloudy with rain.

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 20

Seabirds
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 158
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 21
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 51
Razorbill Alca torda 31
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Unidentified auk sp.  43
Unidentified Larus Gull sp. 84
Unidentified diver sp. 1

This was my first survey for MARINElife, and I saw plenty of wildlife to help practice my identification skills.

As we departed Dover, we headed to the bridge of Dunkerque Seaways to commence our survey.  The viewing conditions were quite favourable, with good visibility and a sea state of 4 and, in contrast to what we had expected, it remained dry throughout the outbound journey.

Shortly after leaving the harbour, we began to encounter a variety of seabirds, including Great Black-backed and Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Razorbill and Common Guillemot.  However, by far the most numerous birds were Gannet, with a constant flow of them throughout the outbound journey.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 01

Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

All of the Gannet recorded on this survey were adults, distinguished from younger birds by their pure white tails.   We also encountered several Great Skua resting on the water as we started to approach France.

Just over half way through the journey, we spotted something long and dark in the water, which we initially feared was flotsam.  However, as we got nearer we were pleased to discover that this was a Grey Seal resting at the surface.

Shortly afterwards, we spotted our first Harbour Porpoise - initially six, including a mother and calf, and then another three a few minutes later.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01

Harbour Porpoise (Peter Howlett)

After a brief stop in Dunkirk, we returned to the bridge to carry out the survey on the return leg.  Visibility had declined at this point, and about half an hour into the journey it started to rain and this continued for the rest of the journey.  This made spotting wildlife more challenging; however, we were still fortunate enough to see a further 11 Harbour Porpoise and a variety of seabirds.

These were mostly the same species as seen on the outbound journey, with the addition of a single Fulmar and a diver species - the latter bird was in flight and we did not have sufficiently good views to determine the species.

Fulmar Mike Bailey 01

Fulmar (Mike Bailey)

I thoroughly enjoyed my first survey with MARINElife and would like to thank Captain Rebizant and the crew of DFDS Dunkerque Seaways for their hospitality.

Tibor Beetles and Helen Swift, Research Surveyors for MARINElife