Ross Wheeler and Peter Jones; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: Overcast WSW to W 5-2
Summary of sightings
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Dark Bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla 3
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 128
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 24
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 65
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Auk sp. 1
Tern sp. 3
Large Gull sp. 9
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 6
Birds from Dieppe Harbour:
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 19
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 3
On arrival at the Newhaven ferry terminal, we checked in and boarded the Côte d'Albatre for a 10:30 departure. Once the ship had cleared the harbour, we were escorted to the bridge and started our survey in excellent sea state conditions with slight overcast cloud cover minimising any potential glare from the sun.
The first half hour of our survey was relatively quiet in both species diversity and abundance with just a few sporadic sightings of Great Black-backed Gull and Gannet. However, after this slow start sightings became increasingly numerous and included Swallow, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, a solo Sandwich Tern and a flock of 12 Common Scoter flying swiftly across the path of the ship. Amongst this busy surveying period an Osprey took us both by surprise as it flew directly past the bridge windows from what looked like a sheltered spot around the bow of the ship. Wondering whether the Osprey was planning on hitching a ride to France, we continued to watch as it flew alongside the ship before heading out of view.
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Rick Morris)
As we sailed closer to Dieppe, a circle of Gannets in the far distance caught our eyes and as we watched in anticipation for anything that might be below them, 2 Harbour Porpoise surfaced and then continued to be seen several times over a period of approximately one and a half minutes. Despite this being our only cetacean sighting for the trip, it was great to see this species frequently surfacing for such a long time before eventually disappearing as the ship neared closer. By this time, Great Skua were ever present along the survey route and as we came close enough to clearly make out the French coastline we had increasing numbers of tern species as well as 3 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and our first sighting of 4 Balearic Shearwater. As the ship sailed closer to the harbour, we gathered our surveying equipment and left the bridge after thanking the crew for their hospitality throughout the first part of our survey.
Spoonbills (Photo: Peter Jones)
Whilst docked in Dieppe we decided to stay on the ferry and look out for any terrestrial birds that may be around the harbour and surrounding cliffs. We were soon delighted to see 3 Black Redstart flying around the ship and around the church, which overlooks the harbour. This was closely followed by a large flock of 19 Spoonbill that seemed to be heading in a southerly direction. A Great Crested Grebe was found to be swimming around the port side of the ship and a Mediterranean Gull was spotted amongst the large number of mixed gulls within the harbour.
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)
We departed Dieppe at 6pm local time under the same great viewing conditions. Our first sighting on this outbound journey was another 4 Balearic Shearwater followed by terns, Gannets and gulls. The second half of the survey gradually became much quieter than our first journey although Great Skua remained ever present with numerous Gannet keeping us on our toes. As the light gradually decreased, the survey became increasingly difficult to undertake so we finished, thanked the crew on the bridge and headed down to the café where we were kindly provided with a free meal and drink. On arrival to Newhaven, we were efficiently escorted with the other foot passengers to the terminal where we parted ways following a very successful and enjoyable survey.
We would like to thank the captain and all of the staff on board
the Côte d'Albatre who were extremely friendly and helpful
throughout the day.