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