Sightings Archives: December 2016

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Cote D’Albatre’ Newhaven-Dieppe 17 December 2016

Posted 18 December 2016

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Some fog but calm seas N 0-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise    Phocoena phocoena 17

Brent Goose   Branta bernicla 2
Black-throated Diver   Gavia arctica 5
Fulmar   Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet   Morus bassanus 578
Cormorant   Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic Skua   Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull   Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Herring Gull   Larus argentatus 91
Great Black-backed Gull   Larus marinus 134
Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla 26
Gull sp.   6
Guillemot   Uria aalge 40
Razorbill   Alca torda 1
Auk sp. 24

This was to be my second survey in a row on this route and as we drove down to Newhaven in thick fog, I wondered if we would see anything at all. After enjoying a coffee in the port, we boarded and were soon on the bridge. The fog had lifted slightly and the winds were very light meaning a very conducive sea state for observing marine wildlife.

Newhaven fog Adrian Shephard 01
Fog in Newhaven (Adrian Shephard)

The standard array of seabirds greeted us initially with Great Black-backed Gull, Gannet, Kittiwake and the occasional auk silhouette flying in the distance, but it wasn't long before the first of many Harbour Porpoise put in an appearance accompanied by a few interested Gannet. The sightings of Harbour Porpoise continued through the initial half of the survey then a further sighting close to Dieppe.

Gannet Adrian Shephard 17
Gannets over the Cote D'Albatre (Adrian Shephard)

Seabirds of note included a couple of Brent Geese flying high, an Arctic Skua and a number of Black-throated Diver, but Gannet were the most numerous throughout the crossing. There were a number of fishing vessels which were a draw for many gulls and Gannet and also attracted the attention of a Fulmar which was having to work hard in the virtually non-existent wind.

Even though it was December, the Guillemot were already heralding spring as many were in transition to their breeding plumage. As we neared Dieppe, it seemed like we were in the Gannet equivalent of Heathrow, with group after group of Gannet passing the ship directly overhead.

Guillemot Adrian Shephard 03
Guillemot moulting into breeding plumage (Adrian Shephard)

A big thank you as always to Captain Bidet and his crew on the Cote D'Albatre and the helpful DFDS port staff.

Thomas Fisher surveying Adrian Shephard 02
Thomas Fisher surveying (Adrian Shephard)