Sightings Archives: June 2018

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 16 June 2018

Posted 01 July 2018

Tom Forster and Helen Swift, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Outbound: Visibility excellent, sea state 3-4, some glare
Return: Visibility excellent-moderate, sea state 2 increasing 5, glare during some of survey

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Unidentified Dolphin sp.  2 (casual sighting by crew)

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 11
Gannet Morus bassanus 91
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Herring Gull Larus argantatus 23
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 30
Larus sp.  2

Birds seen in Dieppe
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus
Greenfinch Chloris chloris
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Magpie Pica pica
Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Swift Apus apus

This was our first Newhaven-Dieppe survey, having done most of our surveys on the larger ferries which depart from Dover, so we were interested to experience the different ship and route. The day got off to a good start when I spotted a pair of Hobby hawking over a field as we drove along the A26 towards Newhaven and I hoped our luck would continue during the survey.

The start of the survey was quiet with no wildlife seen for the first fifteen minutes of effort. However, seabird sightings picked up and the predominant species was Gannet, mostly adults with the occasional immature bird and including one impressive group of 13 birds which flew very close to the bow. There were also smaller numbers of Herring Gull and Kittiwake plus a couple of Lesser Black-Backed Gull and a Fulmar.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 06a
Grey Seal (Library photo: Rick Morris)

There was a brief period of excitement when Tom thought he had spotted a Grey Seal, but unfortunately this turned out to be a piece of flotsam doing a very good impression of a seal head! A short while later, there was sense of déjà vu when I also saw something and could not work out whether it was a seal or some flotsam. As the ship closed towards this I realised that sadly it was both - an adult male Grey Seal with some plastic around his neck, possibly the type used for packaging, although our views weren't good enough to confirm. The poor animal kept wriggling his head around, possibly in an attempt to rid himself of the offending item and it was very upsetting to be unable to help him. This is by no means the first seal to be discovered with plastic around its neck, and there have been a number of reports in the media recently. Tragically, such plastics can cause serious injury and even threaten the seal's life. Yet more evidence (as if we really need it) that we must stop polluting the environment with plastic.

We arrived in Dieppe at about 13:15, when we disembarked and spent a while exploring the town before seeking some rest and refreshment at one of the cafes. We chatted to one of the waiters, who recognised our MARINElife polo shirts from previously working on the ship and who was interested to find out more about our work. After a couple of hours in Dieppe, we headed back to the ferry terminal and soon were able to board the ship again.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 15
Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Seabird sightings were similar to the outbound leg, but this time we also saw small numbers of Manx Shearwater and a flock of twelve Common Scoter in flight. Unfortunately, Tom and I did not see any further marine mammals, but shortly before we arrived back in Newhaven one of the officers informed us that he had seen two dolphins about twenty minutes previously. Unlike dolphins he had previously seen, these had no interest in riding the bow wave and had been swimming slowly in the opposite direction from the ship.

Our thanks to the Captain and the crew of Seven Sisters for looking after us well and taking an interest in our work, and to DFDS Seaways for supporting the work of Marinelife and kindly providing us with a cabin and meals during the survey.