Fraser Paterson and Claire Trew, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: 8-9 NNE / ENE winds and clear skies prevailed away from the coastal areas where conditions were much gentler. Sea state varied between 4 and 5
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Dolphin Sp. 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 12
Gannet Morus bassanus 86
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 52
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Gull Sp. c60
Tern Sp. 5
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 2
Racing Pigeon 4
We checked in and waited before boarding the Côte d'Albatre for its 10:00 am sailing. We headed to the bridge as soon as we received clearance and started our survey as the ship turned around in calm conditions.
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Mike Bamford)
Initially we picked up a variety of gulls including Herring and Common as well as Gannet plus a single Sandwich Tern as we headed out into the Channel. Unfortunately, the calm conditions gave way to increasingly strong winds, which with the heat haze and strong glare, made observations difficult. Herring Gull and Gannet dominated the early sightings, which dropped off mid Channel before picking up again in the run towards Dieppe where we saw some Fulmar, Cormorant and unidentified terns. As we approached the French coast, a pair of Kentish Plovers flew past the prow, a flight of racing pigeons joined the ship and we had a tantalising glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise ahead of the ferry.
Great Skua harassing Gannet (Archive photo: Carol Farmer Wright)
We stayed on board before setting off, slightly behind schedule due to yachts entering the harbour. Although the lighting had improved, especially to starboard, the wind had picked up and there was still a lot of glare on the port side. Bird sightings - mainly Gannet, remained constant throughout the survey, although a pair of Scoter, 2 Great Skua, a few Kittiwake and Fulmar were welcome additions to the trip list. Indeed, a prolonged Skua assault on a juvenile Gannet at close range right in front of us proved the highlight of the survey. As we approached Newhaven a single unidentified dolphin rolled a couple of times, but we were unable to locate it when we got closer to its location.
We concluded our survey on arrival outside Newhaven and thanked the Captain, crew and shore staff for their hospitality.