MARINElife Report: DFDS ‘Dover Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 8 September 2018

Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: Wind SW 2-4, sea state 2-3, cloudy. Return: Wind SW 3-5, sea state 3-4, cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Gannet Morus bassanus 13
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 2
Gull sp. Laridae 10
Tern sp. Sternidae 6

This was only my second survey this year, so I was pleased to see weather conditions were very favourable with an overcast sky and reasonably calm seas as I drove into the port. The port was quite busy, but I was soon checked-in and aboard the Dover Seaways.

Captain Jason Mills and his crew greeted me and told me about some porpoise sightings earlier in the day, so I was hopeful of some sightings myself. Whilst the weather conditions remained favourable, I noticed quite a lack in seabird activity. A few terns, gulls and Gannet were all I saw for quite a while. In the summer months many bird species are often tending their young - something I sympathise with having become a father myself this summer!

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Twenty minutes out of Dover, a distant movement caught my eye and with binoculars I was pleased to spot the small triangular fin of a Harbour Porpoise. Further into the survey, I spotted several Great Skua, as well as an Arctic Skua flying low over the water. Apart from the occasional Gannet and gulls this was the only noteworthy bird activity.

My luck with porpoises continued as having made the turn to sail parallel with the French coast, I also spotted another Harbour Porpoise in the distance. On closer inspection with binoculars I noticed a tiny calf close to its mother. Cute! Having passed the Dunkirk harbour entrance I also spotted a bottling Grey Seal in the calm waters, along with a few Cormorant flying in towards land.

Arctic Skua Graham Ekins 01a
Arctic Skua (Library photo: Graham Ekins)

On departing Dunkirk for the return journey the winds had increased slightly and the sea state was slightly higher, leading to trickier spotting conditions so no further cetaceans were seen. Birds were also still scarce with an occasional sighting of Gannet, gulls, Great Skua and terns. However, I had enjoyed my survey and was pleased to have contributed more data for the charity's important research.

Thanks as always to the DFDS crew for continuing to support MARINElife's research.