Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Weather: NW2-3, sea state 2
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 6
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 38
Gannet Morus bassanus 3022
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 32
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 118
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 39
Unidentified mixed Gull Sp. 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Razorbill Alca torda 8
Unidentified Auk Sp. 5
Unidentified Diver Sp. 7
We arrived at Newhaven and, after a coffee and some breakfast in the terminal café, we were welcomed aboard by the DFDS reception staff. We had enough time for another coffee before heading up to the bridge to meet Captain Quenoil and his crew.
The relatively high winds over the last few days had subsided and a sea state of 2 greeted us and stayed with us for most of the crossing. Our first few seabirds were divers, but as they were at some distance it was difficult to identify the species. A couple of closer birds were clearly Red-throated Diver. The occasional Razorbill, Guillemot and Kittiwake made us feel that from a seabird perspective, it was going to be a quiet trip - how wrong we were!
Gannet (Photo: Thomas Fisher)
Thomas spotted the first cetaceans, a small group of Harbour Porpoise including a young calf which surfaced ahead of the vessel, these were the first of 11 which were recorded during the crossing in ones and twos.
Our first Gannet sightings were around an hour out of Newhaven with numbers increasing as we passed a small fishing vessel. Then my jaw dropped! Ahead of the ship, as far as the eye could see, were small white dots on the sea surface: thousands of Gannet resting on the water. Our conservative estimate is of around 2,500. But it wasn't only Gannet, amongst them were large black birds powering through the air as they took off . We counted 32 Great Skua in total plus an assortment of Fulmar, Great Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake. Keeping pace with the recording was a struggle.
Great Skua (Photo: Adrian Shephard)
Many of the Gannet passed close to the ship; taking flight as we approached them. There were so many further off that our total of 3022 was conservative. I am guessing many of the North Sea birds had moved into the Channel and the Great Skua had followed!
As we neared Dieppe, more divers were seen, this time including a couple of Black-throated Diver making an attempt to move out of the way of the ship as it approached.
Black-throated Diver (Photo: Adrian Shephard)
We finished our survey as we neared the harbour in Dieppe. We got off in Dieppe to feel the cold northern wind, making us extremely grateful for the warmth of the bridge for these winter surveys and went to a café before heading back aboard to start entering our sightings.
A big thank you to Captain Quenoil and his crew for a very productive survey and their continued support of MARINElife surveys on this route.