MARINElife Report: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 18 August 2018

Stephen Hedley and Mike Mackay; Research Surveyors for MARINElife(registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)

Weather: Outward - Cloudy, wind SW 3-4, sea state 3
Return - Cloudy; Wind SW 3-4, sea state 3-4

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 8
Gannet  Morus bassanus 17
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 8
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 16
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 10
Gull sp. Laridae 20
Tern sp. Sternidae 7

Mike and I met at the usual rendezvous point and were soon waiting for the ferry with coffees in hand. We were permitted on board shortly afterwards. The weather was cloudy, and the visibility was reasonable throughout the survey.

The survey began incredibly quietly and after 45 minutes we had only seen Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake and Gannet; a total of 8 birds. The Gannet seen included juvenile, immature and adult birds. The next hour when we were closer to the French coast slightly more birds were seen; including tern species. One of which we spotted in the distance being "pirated" by an Arctic Skua. Obligingly the Arctic Skua then settled on the water and we were able to get a good view as the ship approached.

Arctic Skua Mike Bamford 02a
Arctic Skua (Library photo: Mike Bamford)

Soon afterwards we got our first cetacean sighting, a single Harbour Porpoise off the starboard bow. Approximately ten minutes later we had another sighting, again a single Harbour Porpoise. As we approached Dunkirk harbour, Cormorant and Sandwich Tern became more prominent. Upon entering the outer harbour we spied around 20 gulls, mostly juvenile, sitting on the water. These may well have been some of the young birds hatched in the dock area and seen in earlier in the summer during previous surveys.

In port the height of the ship gave us good views of Lesser Black-backed Gull, some still with large chicks, plus Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull flying around the berth.

cormorant Adrian Shephard 03a
Cormorant (Library photo: Adrian Shephard)

The return journey began with a similar pattern of observations; Cormorant, Kittiwake, Sandwich Tern and Gull species closer to Dunkirk. Further out to sea an adult Grey Seal was spotted and a few minutes later, eight Common Scoter were seen flying away from us. Sightings dropped in frequency further into the survey, with occasional Gannet and Kittiwake seen. The survey thus ended on a quiet note as we approached Dover Harbour.

I would like to express very warm thanks to Captain Jason Miles and crew for their support during the survey.