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

Seabirds
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.