Sightings Archives: April 2014

MARINElife survey report: DFDS Seaways Côte d'Albâtre Newhaven-Dieppe 12 April 2014

Posted 18 April 2014

Bob Graves and Susannah Fleiss, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
No marine mammals were sighted this time

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 16
Gannet Morus bassanus 94
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 7
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 67
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 13
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Auk Sp. 4
Larus Sp. 8
Tern Sp. 1
Diver Sp.2

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

The outward crossing was bright and calm, beginning with a sea state of 1 outside Newhaven and increasing to 3. There was no swell. Visibility was slightly hampered by haze in the first half of the crossing and glare from about 1 hour in. The wind direction was WSW.

The sea state continued to increase throughout the return leg and was force 6 by close of play. The wind had moved to a north-westerly direction. Glare and haze were not an issue on this crossing. The conditions were generally bright with variable cloud.

Great Skua Rick Morris 01
Great Skua (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Calm and bright weather coupled with a favourable tide meant that the Côte d'Albâtre left exactly on schedule at 10:00. Both of us had arrived early and enjoyed a leisurely cuppa in the café before heading through customs where we received good wishes from the friendly staff at Newhaven port.

Once on board, we headed straight for the outside decks while we waited for the vessel to clear the harbour area and were greeted by six Sandwich Tern, the first of the year for both of us. After about ten minutes we were escorted up to the bridge to begin the survey.

The conditions initially were bright and calm but some hazy conditions restricted our longer distance visibility. For the first 45 minutes or so, we recorded only Guillemot, Razorbill and Fulmar. As the survey progressed, these species were gradually replaced by Herring Gull and Gannet in the main, with a sprinkling of Kittiwake and Great Skua for good measure.

As the sun moved from the port side to straight ahead and eventually slightly to starboard, glare became an issue with reduced visibility and colour definition in these areas.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 01a
Fulmar (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Bird sightings were quite evenly spread throughout the crossing, keeping both surveyors active and occupied. Additional species included two single Sandwich Tern, surprisingly the only terns of the trip, also two distant divers which remained frustratingly unidentified as they flew north. As we reached the French coastline, Cormorant and three additional species of gull were added to the list.

Dieppe proved to be lovely, especially in the sunny conditions and an hour or more rock-pooling on the beach was hugely enjoyed by both of us!

The return crossing brought much greater numbers of Gannet and an increase in Fulmar in the strengthening wind. Conditions eventually became quite choppy, but never unpleasant, then the fading light signalled the end of the survey.

It just remains for us to thank Captain Conquet and the entire crew for their kind assistance and hospitality. We both commented that we look forward to returning to this route in the near future.