Stephen Hedley and Lee Slater; Research surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)
Weather: Outward - Cloudy, wind SSW 2, sea state 1-3. Return - Cloudy, wind SSW 2, sea state 1
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 40
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 83
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 33
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 32
Guillemot Uria aalge 37
Diver sp. 2
Gull sp. 29
Auk sp. 2
We boarded the Delft Seaways having passed through the official formalities and taking a quick coffee. After checking in at reception we were taken to the bridge, where we made preparation for the survey. We were able to take a quick lunch and then returned to the bridge just prior to departure. The weather was very overcast and visibility was fairly poor. The sea state was calm.
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Rick Morris)
We started the survey immediately on passing beyond the Dover harbour wall. The first sighting was Kittiwake followed by Gannet shortly after leaving the harbour. After 5 more minutes we saw further Kittiwake, Gannet, and Guillemot, plus a lone Red-throated Diver. Guillemot continued to appear at a steady rate, along with more numerous Gannet. Gannet were the most numerous species seen during the survey, followed by Kittiwake and Guillemot.
We spotted our first Harbour Porpoise fast swimming around 10 minutes later. After a further 30 minutes, closer to the more sheltered French coast, we had another sighting of Harbour Porpoise. Shortly afterwards we spotted one Gannet with its catch, it was rapidly approached by nine others and one Lesser Black Backed Gull trying to disturb the Gannet eating its lunch. We had one final Harbour Porpoise sighting on the outward leg a further 30 minutes later. Close to Dunkirk harbour we observed Cormorant and were greeted by Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. One Great Crested Grebe was also spotted. At berth four more Great Crested Grebe were observed in the inner harbour at Dunkirk.
Great Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
The return journey began with a similar pattern of observations; Cormorant and Gull species close to Dunkirk. Further out to sea were some Great Black-backed Gull. Two Harbour Porpoise were observed. Around 15 minutes later 40 Common Scoter flew across the bow heading northward. Our final sighting of two more Harbour Porpoise occurred a few minutes later, around 100m from the ship. Throughout this time there were regular sightings of Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot. Our only Great Skua spot of the day was seen more than halfway towards Dover. A lone Fulmar was also seen around 10 minutes from the harbour. We ended the survey shortly afterwards as the ship approached the Dover, having had an enjoyable survey.
We would like to express very warm thanks to Captain Mike Mills and crew for looking after us during the survey.