Sightings Archives: April 2016

MARINElife Watch 4 Wildlife Trip: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 24 April 2016

Posted 30 April 2016

Adrian Shephard and Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyors & Guides for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Wind NW, sea state 2-5, bright conditions

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 24
Gannet Morus bassanus 153
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 11
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 7
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 5
Unidentified auk sp. 7
Unidentified gull sp. 2
Unidentified skua sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 87
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 4
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima 1

As I drove down to Newhaven passing through bouts of sleet, I was a little concerned about the conditions for our Watch 4 Wildlife trip to Dieppe, but on reaching the port, the conditions had improved.

I met up with Carol and began welcoming our guests for the trip and before long, we were on board the Seven Sisters and headed out on to the decks just as we departed. As we passed the harbour wall, our keen observers spotted a Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper amongst the rocks and before long, we picked up a small group of Whimbrel then some Bar-tailed Godwit arriving in the UK.

Newhaven-Dieppe Wildlife watch Adrian Shephard
The Watch 4 Wildlife group on the 'Seven Sisters' (Adrian Shephard)

Initial seabirds included a few Razorbill, Herring Gull and then we started observing Gannet, including one which unfortunately had some fishing line attached to it. A couple of Great Skua and an Arctic Skua added to our species list as well as the glider-like action of a number of Fulmar.

An hour into the trip, we sighting our first marine mammal, a Grey Seal passing very close to the port side affording good views. Around 10 minutes later, the first of six Harbour Porpoise were seen, as usual being fairly elusive especially amongst the white caps.

Bar-tailed Godwit Adrian Shephard 01
Migrating Bar-tailed Godwit crossing the Channel (Adrian Shephard)

We then saw an example of what happens when helium balloons are released, then end up at sea causing hazards to marine wildlife.

A Swallow headed over the deck on its way back to the UK and with the coast of France in sight, a couple of Black Tern were a very welcome sight as well as a few Little Gull.

We docked and headed ashore for a couple of hours in the beautiful town of Dieppe where I was able to obtain my favourite pastry, a tarte aux citron - delicious.

We were soon back out on deck, but despite the lovely sunny conditions, this time heading into the winds from the high arctic which required several layers of clothing.

Great Skua Adrian Shephard 07
Great Skua (Adrian Shephard)

Many of us remained on watch for the remainder of the day with further sightings of Bar-tailed Godwit, Great Skua and Little Gull. However, with darkness and Newhaven approaching, we headed down from deck to prepare for our arrival after a great day at sea.

A big thank you to all our passengers for supporting the work of MARINElife and helping make our crossing a fun-packed day.

MARINElife Blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 9 April 2016

Posted 17 April 2016

Adrian Shephard and Tony Chenery, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: wind SW/W, sea state 3-5, heavy rain at times limiting visibility.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Brent Goose Branta bernicla 36
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 25
Gannet Morus bassanus 429
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 31
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Razorbill Alca torda 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 8
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 8
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Unidentified auk sp. 16
Unidentified gull sp. 4
Unidentified shearwater sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Feral Pigeon 1

I met Tony in the DFDS Seaways terminal for a coffee before boarding the Seven Sisters. As this was Tony's first survey for MARINElife, we discussed how the trip would work. We also provided the lady in the coffee shop with some identification charts as she often speaks with the passengers, especially the excited children, about what they might see during the crossing.

We headed aboard and enjoyed a coffee and croissant before heading to the bridge to commence our preparations. After passing the harbour wall, we started recording seabirds with Common and Great Black-backed Gull making an early appearance. We then spotted two groups of Brent Geese heading east on their long journey to their breeding grounds.

Brent Goose Adrian Shephard 02
Brent Geese (Adrian Shephard)

Seabirds remained fairly constant with numbers of Gannet increasing as we headed into the central part of the Channel. Almost all of them were adults in their breeding plumage heading west, perhaps towards the breeding colonies around the Channel Islands or north-west France.

Rain stopped play for around an hour prior to arrival in France with limited visibility. In Dieppe we went for a walk into town enjoying some patisserie and coffee before re-boarding.

This time of year is great because of the lengthening days; meaning we could survey a good amount of the return journey. We headed back to the bridge with the sun shining and a strong rainbow showing.

As we headed out of Dieppe, Tony spotted a Harbour Porpoise, quickly followed by another just ahead of the ship with a further one being added a little later in the survey.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 11
Gannet (Adrian Shephard)

We continued to record good numbers of seabirds, with a number of Fulmar coasting over the sea's surface and Great Skua powering through the air. Soon after the sun set, we bid farewell to the bridge team and headed down to enjoy a delicious meal.

Thank you to DFDS Seaways, Captain Bidet and the crew of the Seven Sisters for their support and interest in our work and I look forward to the next time I can enjoy a crossing to Dieppe.