Sightings Archives: April 2017

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 22 April 2017

Posted 02 May 2017

Tibor Beetles and Hazel Munt, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Dry and overcast with sunny spells, visibility very good

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7

Gannet Morus bassanus 78
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Common Scoter Melanitta fusca 7
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull Larus argantatus 12
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Auk sp.  2
Gull sp.  13
Tern sp.  2

Terrestrial birds:
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 8
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

We headed straight to the bridge of the Seven Sisters just before departing at around 10:30, and we started the survey once we had manoeuvred to face the right direction and were not in the way of the captain.  The weather was perfect with the sea being fairly flat, and the light bright but largely overcast.  At times, we did have a bit of glare but the survey was largely perfect conditions.

Gannet Peter Howlett 08
Gannet (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Despite being a lovely day it seemed to be very quiet, and our first sightings were of some gulls too far off to be identified, but soon followed by a confirmed sighting of a Gannet.  Shortly after we saw something white and grey shoot past right above the bridge window, and we got excited thinking we had some gulls.  We didn't - we had feral pigeons on board the boat.  They flew round the boat a few laps and popped up a lot throughout the survey.

As we headed further out towards France we saw a selection of birds with the highlight being a Great Skua.   Just after 12.40 we saw our first Harbour Porpoise dorsal fins.  At first, we thought it was just one animal, but then we realised there was a second and after another minute three popped up together.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 05
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The numbers and sightings of bird species increased and we got a couple more single Harbour Porpoise throughout the survey.   As we approached Dieppe we saw a group of Common Scoter to finish the first half of the survey off.

In Dieppe, we strolled through the markets and stopped at the bakery and had a nice lunch in the sunshine with the sparrows collecting our crumbs as we ate.  We were relieved to arrive back at the ferry terminal and have a sit down for an hour.

On the return journey, we had less sightings with these largely being of Gannet with a few Fulmar to mix it up a bit, but we did see a couple more Harbour Porpoise.  One of these popped up meters from the ship and quickly darted away whilst I was having a break and staring at the bow of the ship!

As we lost the light we got a few more gulls and a Guillemot.