Stephen Hedley, Research surveyor for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)
Weather: Outward - cloudy with rain, sea state 3, wind E 4. Return - cloudy, sea state 3-4, wind E 4
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 254
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 18
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Gull sp. Laridae 49
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 37
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 64
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 1
The port was quiet on arrival and boarding/departure was on time. As usual the survey started as soon as the ferry passed the Dover harbour wall, where we were greeted by a large number of gulls resting on the water. Closer examination revealed the birds as mostly Kittiwake with Mediterranean Gull present too. Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were seen soon afterwards. The first hour of the survey was conducted in light rain, although sea conditions were good throughout for surveying. The first Gannet sighting was around 10 minutes into the survey, followed by frequent regular sightings thereafter.
Red-throated Diver (Library photo: Mike Bamford)
Around half an hour into the survey a Red-throated Diver flew past the bridge and a few Guillemot were spotted flying low over the waves. Around halfway and almost a mile off to starboard a huge flock of birds was spotted around a fishing vessel, these were too far away to identify and quantify properly. The fishing vessel was however clearly attracting more birds with over 100 Gannet counted as they flew across the bow of the ferry. Other sightings included Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Skua, Common Gull and Cormorant, close to Dunkirk harbour.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Graham Ekins)
Within the harbour eleven seals were counted resting on the exposed beach off to starboard; these were too far way to confirm species. This number had increased to 15 an hour later, on departure. The only cetacean sighting of the day was one brief glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise around half an hour after leaving. Gannet, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull were spotted on the return. The main surprise of the trip was a female Chaffinch walking on the bridge walkway, hitching a ride. The return survey ended an hour after departure due to the rapidly fading light.
I would like to express very warm thanks and gratitude to Captain Mills and crew for their support during the survey.