MARINElife Blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Côte d’Albâtre’ Newhaven-Dieppe 8 October 2016

Peter Jones and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Sea state 2-3; little swell; strong glare to starboard on outward survey

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 215
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 87
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 29
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 12
Razorbill Alca torda 8

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 15
Swallow Hirundo rustica 6

We were invited to the bridge and began surveying in sunny conditions with a fairly calm sea. Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were plentiful initially and a few Meadow Pipit were seen migrating south towards France.

Gannet were recorded quite frequently as we headed into the Channel, with the birds heading in the same direction.  Eventually we realised they were heading for a fishing boat which had a fairly high number of the birds following it. These was soon followed by a Sooty Shearwater which was a highlight of the crossing, seen well before it headed into the glare.  Two Great Skua rounded off the morning's sightings.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 02

Sooty Shearwater (Peter Howlett)

Afternoon sightings were again dominated by Gannet, with some plunge diving for food, while a small number of Swallow were seen migrating south.  As we approached Dieppe, numbers of gulls increased and Sandwich Tern was also recorded.

Dieppe ferry port had a Black Redstart and two Stonechat which were visible on the adjacent hillside, where a Kestrel was also seen.

The return crossing allowed for ninety minutes surveying before darkness.  A few Sandwich Tern passed close to the boat and a tight group of Razorbill were also seen.

BND Peter Howlett 20

Bottlenose Dolphin (Peter Howlett)

However, it was right at the end of the survey when the highlight of the day occurred.  A big splash caught the attention of us both and a dorsal fin was seen disappearing into the water.  Seconds later, two Bottlenose Dolphin breached the surface and a third was seen close by, all heading towards the bow.  Excellent views were had of all three animals as they breached one final time before passing by the bridge, clearly visible just below the surface.  A super end to an enjoyable day.

As darkness descended we concluded the survey and thanked the Captain and ship's crew for their hospitality throughout the day.

Peter Jones and Mike Mackay, Research Surveyors for MARINElife