MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 16 September 2017

Adrian Shephard and Peter Merry, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: N-NW 1-3; Good visibility and some glare

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7

Gannet Morus bassanus 990
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 8
European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 51
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 47
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 64
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 41
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Unidentified Large Gull Sp. 133
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 10
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 2

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 82
Hirundine sp. 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 8
Passerine sp. 3

With a 9am departure from Newhaven and good conditions forecast, the drive down to the port was filled with possibilities. After a quick coffee, we boarded and were soon on the bridge for the survey.

Conditions were bright as forecast with good sea state and it wasn't long before we started recording seabirds which remained fairly numerous for all but the final 20 minutes of the survey as we approached Dieppe.

Gannet with net Adrian Shephard 01a
Gannet caught in fishing net (Adrian Shephard)

Unfortunately, one of our first Gannet encounters was with an immature bird with fishing net caught around its neck, demonstrating the issue of marine pollution.

Peter made the first marine mammal observation with a swift glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise ahead of the vessel. This was to be followed by more throughout the survey, totalling 7 by the end.

With the winds from the north we expected to see a few migrants and were not disappointed, with numerous Swallow starting their long migration to South Africa and well as others such as Meadow Pipit.

As well as terrestrial birds migrating we also witnessed a good passage of seabirds, in particular Great Skua of which we counted 47, most tracking with the Gannet which were also moving through.

Storm Petrel Adrian Shephard 01a
Storm Petrels (Adrian Shephard)

We encountered large numbers of birds in association with a fishing vessel including several hundred Gannet as well as good numbers of Storm Petrel which took flight in the calm conditions as the vessel approached.

Trawler Adrian Shephard 02
Seabirds feeding behind a trawler (Adrian Shephard)

We arrived into Dieppe and after a brief stop for coffee and cake in this beautiful little town we were soon back on the bridge for the return.

We had a good two hours of survey time on the return, recording more Harbour Porpoise, including a group of 3 together, and more Great Skua.

As darkness approached, we called the survey to a halt and watched some flashes of lightening as we drew close to the port of Newhaven.

Newhaven sunset Adrian Shephard 01a
Heading home towards Newhaven (Adrian Shephard)

Our thanks to Captain Conquet and the crew of Seven Sisters as well as the staff from DFDS for making our surveys possible.