Carol Farmer-Wright and Elaine Brown, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound: Winds variable NW veering E to WNW, sea state 1-3, cloudy with occasional sunshine.
Return: Winds NW veering ENE 4-5, sea state 2-4, cloudy with mist.
Summary of sightings;
Gannet Morus bassanus 75
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 35
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 23
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 114
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Gull sp. 12
Larus sp. 75
Auk sp. 1
Skua sp. 2
Warbler sp. 2
Passerine sp. 4
We met at Newhaven and had a cup of coffee at the terminal before being taken to the Côte d'Albâtre by the port staff. We were welcomed on the bridge by Captain Conquet and settled down to begin our survey. The high pressure that had been over the south coast of England had resulted in cloud cover accompanied by a light mist that advanced and receded as we journeyed south.
Initially we encountered Herring, Black-headed, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls. Many of the birds were juveniles. As we moved further south Gannet began to appear with the occasional skua. Three hours into the survey, groups of Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull were observed resting on the water. Many young birds were present in these small rafts. Further encounters of resting birds were seen as we approached Dieppe Harbour. We left the bridge as we entered the harbour to start compiling our sightings and await the return leg three hours later.
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)
We returned to the bridge and the ship left promptly at 17:00. The weather had cleared a little since our arrival and as we left we immediately started to record the larger gull species: Herring, Great and Lesser Black-backed. Half an hour after leaving Dieppe a group of 20 or more individuals were seen resting in the water, a few birds were feeding. These birds took to the air as we neared their position and many of them decided to shadow the boat as it travelled north. A few Gannet were also in evidence. Sadly, with the autumn equinox being almost upon us, we were forced to close the survey before 19:00. We left the bridge to complete our report. Unfortunately no cetaceans were seen this time, but it is encouraging to see so many young gulls in the Channel.
As always our thanks go to DFDS, Captain Conquet, his officers and crew for being so supportive of our work.