Sightings Archives: March 2014

MARINELife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways Côte d'Albâtre Newhaven-Dieppe 15 March 2014

Posted 19 March 2014

Steve Morgan and Peter Jones: Research surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather conditions: Sea state mostly 4, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 32
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 18
Gannet Morus bassanus 185
Great Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalocrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 13
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 55
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 19
Guillemot Uria aalge 80
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Unidentified Gull Sp 4
Unidentified Auk Sp 40
Unidentified Diver Sp 15

We boarded the Côte d'Albâtre at 09.30 and were shown to the bridge almost straight away by the very helpful DFDS crew. We had hardly set ourselves up on the starboard side of the bridge before we were under way, on schedule at 10.00.

Once clear of the harbour mouth, and with the ship pointing seawards, we began recording. Herring Gull dominated proceedings at first, though soon we started to find Guillemot, Gannet and Fulmar.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 03
Fulmar (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Not far out to sea, a wave broke with a slightly suspicious second splash and, for a split second, it seemed that a glimpse of black followed it beneath the surface. Harbour Porpoise, Seal perhaps, or just a piece of flotsam? Whatever it might have been, it did not re-appear and the identity of the mysterious black object will remain unknown.

The most notable aspect of the crossing, in both directions, was the surprising number of divers. The majority were Red-throated Diver although some were too distant to be certain about. One or two, apparently slightly larger and with less white visible on their necks, might have been Great Northern.

Gannet were numerous and most were adult or nearly so, a few just sporting the odd black feather on their otherwise spotlessly white wings. Several came within a few metres of the bridge, giving us spectacular close range views. There were also a number of Great Skua in evidence, some flying purposefully across our bows, others resting on the water.

Razorbill Adrian Shephard 02
Razorbills (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

With recent reports of dead auks on beaches in both Britain and France, victims of the protracted winter storms, it was re-assuring to see good numbers of both Guillemot and Razorbill.

Indeed, it was a pleasure just to be out at sea again in relatively gentle conditions (the sea state never got worse than 4) and with good visibility. The DFDS crew and administrative staff were models of efficiency and helpfulness and several of them even took a keen interest in what we were recording. We both look forward to our next opportunity to survey this interesting route.