MARINElife Blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Cote D’Albatre’ Newhaven-Dieppe 12 March 2016

Bob Graves and Hazel Pittwood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Winds SE/ESE outward, NE on return. Sea state 3 for a majority of the survey. Fog and cloud cover present throughout, limiting visibility for much of the survey.

Summary of sightings:

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 74
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 51
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 87
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 12
Guillemot Uria aalge 31
Gull sp. 19
Shearwater sp. 3 (1 on survey, 2 as casual records)

Terrestrial Birds
Skylark Alauda arvensis 1

Shortly after the ship's departure from port we were escorted up to the bridge by a very friendly DFDS staff member from the passenger help desk. We introduced ourselves to the Captain and his team before quietly setting up for the survey.

Guillemot Peter Howlett 05
Guillemot (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The calm sea state was in our favour, but visibilty was impacted by varying degrees of fog, cloud cover and glare throughout the survey. Two Guillemot in winter plumage were seen resting upon the water before diving under as the ship got nearer and there began our sightings.

Bob identified a notable sighting of a migrant Skylark; a species that is in severe decline. A variety of bird sightings followed throughout the survey, including more Guillemot, lots of Gannet of various ages and plumage, Lesser Black-backed Gull (including a flock of 60), Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and a second calendar year Yellow-legged Gull, along with singles of an unidentified shearwater, Fulmar and Cormorant. I caught sight of two shearwater out of the window whilst I was eating my lunch, but unfortunately I wasn't able to ID which species they were. Shortly before docking in Dieppe we saw five Common Scoter.

cormorant Adrian Shephard 03a
Cormorant (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

On the return leg of our journey we were limited to an hour of surveying, which produced sightings limited to gull species. As the daylight began to fade, so did our hopes of a cetacean sighting; Harbour porpoise had been sighted on this route on the previous survey but on this day it wasn't to be.

We thanked the Captain and left the bridge. With a few hours of darkness aboard the ship before we docked back in Newhaven, we ate dinner, talked about our sightings and discussed other wildlife topics of interest, testament to the fact that meeting likeminded people is an immensely enjoyable aspect of surveying.

Our grateful thanks to DFDS Seaways, Captain Conquet and the crew of the Cote D'Albatre for their helpful assistance and support throughout this survey.