Fraser Paterson and Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Outbound: Wind E-NNE, sea state 1-4, high cloud, visibility hazy, improving.
Return: NE breeze dropping light NW, sea state 3-1, sunny and clear.
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Unidentified dolphin sp. 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 26
Gannet Morus bassanus 93
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 22
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 3
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Auk sp. 6
Gull sp. 33
Tern sp. 1
Common Swift Apus apus 1
We were welcomed aboard the Côte d'Albâtre by the crew, who were much charmed by Fraser's command of French no doubt, and who kindly escorted us to the bridge.
The weather was cloudy and a little hazy with a light NE breeze and with a calm sea we were hopeful of Harbour Porpoise as we left Newhaven. A few Herring Gull, Razorbill and Guillemot were sighted shortly after departure, along with a single errant Swift. Within half an hour, we spotted our single Harbour Porpoise of the day, the distinctive rolling slow swim and small triangular dorsal clearly visible even several hundred metres away thanks to the calm sea.
Pomarine Skua (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)
Lesser Black-backed Gull, including a couple of juveniles, Gannet and Kittiwake were spotted consistently across the Channel. A slight swell and rougher sea developed as we neared the French coast with a few Fulmar gliding effortlessly over the waves and 25 gulls rafting in the wake of a small fishing vessel. Upon nearing Dieppe we were treated to the sight of two stocky juvenile Pomarine Skua in quick succession, perhaps lagging behind the adults on their migration north.
With a couple of hours to wait before our return crossing, we walked into the pleasant harbour town of Dieppe, enjoyed a wander around town in the sunshine before returning to the ferry terminal.
Fulmar (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)
After another friendly greeting aboard, we set up for the return crossing enjoying calm seas and a light NNE breeze although with quite a strong port-ahead glare, making cetacean spotting tricky. Gannet were more prevalent this time, although Guillemot, Kittiwake and Fulmar were all recorded along with another juvenile Pomarine Skua, with many of the birds resting on the water.
Our second cetacean sighting was made by Fraser. A splash around 750m away alerted him to a probable dolphin species associating with Gannet and Kittiwake. Unfortunately the animal could not be identified.
The crossing continued with consistent Gannet, Kittiwake and gull sightings and a good number of Fulmar gliding on the NNW breeze as we neared the familiar white cliffs of the Sussex coast. With fading light and a pretty sunset, we ended the survey within sight of the home port and thanked Captain Delarue and his crew for another much appreciated opportunity to survey aboard an enjoyable and productive DFDS Seaways route.
Channel sunset (Tibor Beetles)