MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Cote D’Albatre’ Newhaven-Dieppe 11 May 2019

Mandy Bright and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: Dry, wind predominately Northerly Force 4-2, decreasing cloud, sea state 2
Return: Mainly dry, wind predominately NNE Force 7-4, decreasing cloud, sea state 2-1

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 46
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 217
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 21
Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Auk sp. 3

Migrating terrestrial birds
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 10
Swift Apus apus 4
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

A slightly misty drive to Newhaven left me wondering what visibility would be like on the crossing. I met Carol at the port, and we were then warmly welcomed aboard the Cote D'Albatre and swiftly escorted up to the bridge with plenty of time to prepare ourselves to start surveying as we left Newhaven.

The sun was visible but the first hour of the crossing was misty on the horizon. This did not hamper our sightings too much and we were pleased to see a flock of Common Scoter before Gannet and Fulmar started to appear as we got further into the crossing.

Our first Harbour Porpoise came as the mist cleared and a calm sea made the lone dorsal fin easy to spot. Almost immediately after that a Great Skua was spotted which is always a species I look forward to seeing on this route. A further Harbour Porpoise appeared soon after, followed by three more individuals seen over the rest of the outward crossing.

Colbert Bridge Dieppe Mandy Bright
Colbert bridge, Dieppe (Mandy Bright)

We continued to encounter Gannet and Herring Gull for the remainder of the crossing including a group of over 100 resting on the water not far outside Dieppe.

We arrived at Dieppe and walked into town for lunch, where it was busy as always.  We were interested to see that a tall ship was in the harbour and later discovered this was Hermione, a replica of the Lafayette frigate, and that she was moored in Dieppe for three days with 5000 visitors expected over the weekend. Perhaps connected to this were the fishing boats moving around the harbour. This led to both bridges being moved to allow boats through and a slight delay to our stroll back to the ship as we waited for the bridges to reopen to pedestrians. Fortunately, we had allowed plenty of time and were able to enjoy the engineering spectacle of the 19th century Colbert bridge swinging back into place.

Porp sightings Newhaven_Dieppe 2019-05-11 Mandy Bright
Plot of the Harbour Porpoise sightings on this survey

Back on board we readied ourselves for the return crossing. Some large dark cloud formations were impressive on the horizon and suggested we might see some rain on the way back. Gannet and Fulmar made regular appearances with some Kittiwake and Guillemot providing variety as the crossing progressed. Our final Harbour Porpoise sighting of the day was two animals swimming slowly away from the ship. This was followed by the rain we had been expecting, but it was a short shower and left us with the sight of a double rainbow behind the ship. Contrasting against the cloud, this was a delight to see.

Double rainbow Mandy Bright
Double rainbow (Mandy Bright)

The first of three Manx Shearwater sightings followed the rainbow and we completed our day with a flock of Whimbrel.  We ended the survey and thanked Captain Delarue for his hospitality and for DFDS continuing to support MARINElife's work.