MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 11 August 2018

Mandy Bright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Sunny with some cloud, visibility excellent, sea state 1

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 72
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Herring Gull Larus argantatus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Unidentified Large Gull Sp. 200
Auk sp.  1

After a couple of days break in the glorious summer conditions, I approached Newhaven wondering what the weather would have in store.   As I waited to board, the sun came out and a quick check of the forecast suggested that I would be fortunate.   As usual, I was warmly welcomed aboard the Seven Sisters and was soon installed on the bridge and ready to begin the survey as we sailed out of the port.

There was a variety of gulls as the ship left Newhaven but then things quietened down a little with numbers of Gannet making up the bulk of sightings for the crossing.   As we approached Dieppe I saw two Great Skuas - I always look forward to spotting this species on this crossing and was pleased to see two in quick succession.

Gannet Peter Howlett 04
Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

I took a stroll into Dieppe to enjoy a pastry on the beach and then enjoyed the sunshine on the way back to the port in time for the return sailing.

I was soon back on the bridge and had an opportunity to discuss MARINElife's work with a couple of interested crew members before we left port.   Almost as soon as we departed, a small fishing boat provided an opportunity to watch about thirty gulls circling and looking for whatever the boat might be leaving behind.   The sea on this return leg was completely calm and visibility was excellent, and the smooth sea offered the opportunity to see the reflection of some Gannet as they swooped close to the surface.

The calm sea also made spotting a dorsal fin breaking the surface quite easy and I saw the first two Harbour Porpoise about 300 metres away.   These small animals can be hidden by waves and it was lovely to have a clear view as they swam slowly through the water.  As they disappeared, my attention was drawn by another fishing boat, and this time the cloud of birds around it numbered around 150 as they actively fed behind the boat.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 03
Fulmar (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Another Harbour Porpoise was visible soon after, a little closer this time and again clear to see against the calm sea.   As the crossing continued, more Gannet were seen and the unusually good visibility (commented on by the crew) meant that we could see the English coast much earlier than normal.  More Gannet and two Fulmar completed the sightings.

My thanks to Captain Conquet and his crew for the warm welcome I was given, and to DFDS for their continued support of MARINElife's work.