MARINElife Report: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 27 April 2019

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

Weather: Outward - Cloudy; Sea State 5-6; Wind SW Force 5-6.
Return - Cloudy; Sea State 5-6; Wind SW Force 6

Summary of sightings

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

Gannet  Morus bassanus 55
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 76
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 47
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 31
Gull sp. 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 7
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 2

Nuala and I were slightly apprehensive beforehand due to the predicted weather conditions; principally Storm Hannah and its after effects. Nevertheless we decided to go ahead with the survey and met up at Dover Priory station before proceeding into the port area. Shortly afterwards we were drove on board the ferry. The weather was cloudy all day and the visibility was reasonable throughout the survey. Despite the strong winds the ferry left on time and as soon we passed beyond the harbour wall, we were greeted by mostly adult Herring Gull and a Fulmar.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 01a
Fulmar (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

As we progressed, we started to encounter occasional Gannet, before spotting the only Great Skua of the day taking off in front of us. Around half an hour into the survey we spotted the first Kittiwake, followed by further Kittiwake. These were then the main sightings for the next twenty minutes, apart from an occasional Lesser Black-backed Gull. As we approached Dunkirk, two Guillemot were seen, followed just afterwards by Sandwich Tern. On the final approach to the harbour, we spotted our only Harbour Porpoise sighting of the day, followed by an adult Grey Seal, bottling at the mouth of the harbour.

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 01
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Graham Ekins)

After a prompt turn around in Dunkirk, we were soon on our return leg. This time we were headed into the wind and it made a large adverse difference to surveying conditions, with large waves and spray hindering our view. The bird sightings were similar to those surveyed on the outward leg: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Gannet and Herring Gull (the most frequent species seen during the survey), plus several Sandwich Tern and occasional Fulmar.

We would like to express very warm thanks to Captain Mills and crew for their support during the survey.