Susannah Fleiss and Elaine Brown, Research surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Outbound: SW 5-3, swell 3m to 1m, almost full cloud cover.
Inbound: SW 2, little swell, intermittent light rain and mist with full cloud cover.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 166
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Unidentified Auk Sp. 4
Unidentified Gull Sp. 1
We boarded the Côte d'Albâtre in good time, having enjoyed a coffee in the waiting room cafe beforehand. The ship departed Newhaven at its scheduled time of 10am and shortly after leaving Newhaven harbour, we entered the bridge to begin surveying.
Close to Newhaven, we sighted several Herring Gull and an auk, either a Razorbill or Guillemot, unfortunately too fast-flying to be identified. As we moved further into the Channel, we had large numbers of Gannet sightings. We were privileged to have some excellent views of individuals gaining lift from the front of the ship; the adults are particularly beautiful in their breeding plumage.
Gannet (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)
The sea state was 4-5 for the first two hours or so of the survey and a swell height of 2-3m resulted in some spray onto the windows, which unfortunately reduced visibility for the remainder of the outbound crossing. However, we were able to sight a large number of Gannet of various ages, and also a Kittiwake.
As we neared Dieppe, we saw more Herring Gull and we suspect that the overall low bird diversity of the trip is a result of the time of year, as many seabirds are feeding their young in coastal colonies in early and mid summer.
With two hours turnaround time in Dieppe, we were able to disembark and enjoy a coffee in the town.
The return journey began, and maintained calmer conditions of a sea state 2 and minimal swell. Initially this enabled excellent viewing conditions and we saw numerous Gannet, some Herring Gull, Kittiwake, and Fulmar.
Unfortunately, intermittent light rain and mist following departure reduced the visibility to around 2km at times. This did not however, impede our (and the crew's) spotting a Harbour Porpoise surface 100m in front of the ship. This was very exciting, despite being only a fleeting glimpse and certainly a highlight of the trip.
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)
We continued to see new species as the evening progressed, passing both Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. The Gannet sightings continued throughout the survey, with more Kittiwake, Fulmar and Herring Gull. Towards the end of the survey, a group of three auk species passed by in flight, again unfortunately eluding further identification.
We ended the survey at 8.30pm, both content and looking forward to surveying on this route again. We very much thank the captain and crew of the Côte d'Albâtre who, as always, prove very welcoming and assist us where possible.