Mandy Bright and Tibor Beetles, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Weather: Sea state 4-6, wind SW, visibility very good, severe glare
Summary of sightings:
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 64
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Herring Gull Larus argantatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 18
Unidentified Tern sp. 15
Unidentified Gull sp. 20
Unidentified Shearwater sp. 4
A very bright morning greeted us in Newhaven as we boarded the Cote d'Albatre with the usual efficiency and friendliness. After the ferry had manoeuvred and left the port and started heading towards France we were invited up to the bridge to begin our survey.
Despite being a very clear day, the conditions were not ideal with a high amount of glare and a surprisingly rough sea. Not long out to sea we began to record a few pelagic species, mostly Gannet with a few Great Black-backed Gull, Fulmar and Common Tern.
Common Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
Further into the channel Tibor sighted two dorsal fins about 500 metres ahead slicing quickly through the waves. Sadly, we were not able to verify the species, but taking into account the size, shape and movement of the fins we were certain these were a dolphin species.
Further into our outward journey a shearwater species was seen a few times. The identity of these confused us for a while, but after consulting our bird books we decided that they were Manx Shearwater. Mandy joked that we had both only seen them in cloudy Scotland before, whereas in bright southern sunshine they look a lot more brown than black! As we neared the French coast, Gannet and gull numbers increased a little, as well as more Common Tern and several Great Skua.
Great Skua (Library photo: Peter Howlett)
In Dieppe we sat in the sun enjoying the obligatory stop at the boulangerie. All over town Canadian flags were flying and we found out that it was the weekend of the 75th Anniversary of the WW2 raid on Dieppe by predominantly Canadian troops. It was quite sobering to think that in the very seas we were surveying many lives had been lost in this failed attempt to reclaim the town.
Our return journey was very quiet with less bird sightings and no more cetaceans, perhaps due to higher winds and a quite significant swell. We carried on surveying with a few more Gannet and gulls braving the wind, until we lost the light a short time before arriving back in Newhaven.
We would like to thank the friendly captain and crew of Cote d'Albatre and the staff at DFDS/Transmanche for their hospitality and their continued support of our work.