Sightings Archives: August 2019

MARINELife Report: DFDS 'Dover Seaways' Dover–Dunkirk 24 August 2019

Posted 25 August 2019

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

Outbound: Dry, low visibility due to light mist, NE wind force 4-5
Return: Dry, low visibility due to light mist, NNE-NE wind force 4-5

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 64
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 12
Duck sp. 6
Larus sp. 27
Gull sp. 228
Tern sp. 52

I boarded the busy Dover Seaways on a beautiful bright summer day alongside plenty of holidaymakers off to France and beyond. Survey conditions were compromised by some glare and light mist on the Channel which made for limited visibility beyond about 5km but good views in closer range. Captain Cockerill and his team were very welcoming, and I began surveying as we left the Dover breakwater.

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

Within 2 minutes of starting the survey, I noticed the familiar sight of a solitary Harbour Porpoise dorsal fin, rolling through the water about 400m from the ferry.

There was also a large flock of around 125 gulls of mixed species and ages circling and rafting on the water just beyond the breakwater. I was also pleased to see the sight of three juvenile Kittiwake with their striking W-shaped back plumage.

The Channel crossing was fairly quiet, with no further cetaceans but a fairly steady mix of Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gull alongside some less easily identifiable gull and Larus species either due to visibility or age, Gannet of various different ages, a single Great Skua and a few Commic Tern. Within the Dunkirk breakwater a few Cormorant were also observed.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 19
Great Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After an efficient turnaround by the crew, the return conditions were almost identical, albeit with the glare on our port-ahead side. Bird species also remained a similar mix as the outbound crossing, aside from a fleeting glimpse of a small flock of unidentified ducks. About 40mins into the crossing there was a small flurry of activity, with around 35 terns of mixed species circling the water and a few juvenile Gannet feeding and rafting. Only a few minutes before entering the Dover breakwater and finishing the survey a few Kittiwake joined the species list again.

I'd like to thank Captain Cockerill and crew for their hospitality and DFDS for continuing to support MARINElife's important data collection in the Channel.