Sightings Archives: September 2019

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Delft Seaways’ Dover-Dunkirk 28 September 2019

Posted 30 September 2019

Stephen Hedley and Julie Ackroyd, Research surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)

Weather Outward - Bright, sea state 4-5, wind SW force 4-5
Return - Cloudy, sea state 4, wind SW force 4

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5

SeabirdsArctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 31
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Gull sp. Laridae 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 45

There were delays at the port on our arrival, however DFDS Office staff kindly managed to resolve these for us and we boarded the ferry almost on time. There were plenty of "white horses" as we started the survey and our first bird sightings were Kittiwake and Great Black-backed Gull, followed by regular sightings of Gannet.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 01
Sandwich Tern, (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Around an hour into the survey we spotted the first Sandwich Tern. These were the most common sighting of the day, all no doubt, on passage to their winter destination off the west coast of Africa. Around half an hour later, closer to the French coast a Great Skua was spotted off to starboard. A minute or so later we had a good view of an Arctic Skua in light phase, plus another one slightly further away.

Ten minutes later on the approach to Dunkirk harbour we spotted our first sea mammal, a Grey Seal, loitering almost in front of us. The Captain advised us that he had seen quite a few seals in the area recently. This statement was borne out later on our return trip, when we had four further sightings, all of Grey Seal.

Cormorant Peter Howlett 03
Cormorant (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The cetacean sightings of the survey, both of Harbour Porpoise were not seen until we approached the Kent coast. The bird sightings were similar to those surveyed on the outward leg: Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Gannet, Sandwich Tern and Mediterranean Gull, with Black-headed Gull and Cormorant seen in Dunkirk harbour.

We would like to express very warm thanks and gratitude to DFDS office staff, plus Captain Mills and crew for their support during the survey.