MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Seven Sisters’ Newhaven-Dieppe 10 August 2019

Helen Swift and Tom Forster, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound: Unable to survey due to weather conditions.
Return: Sunny, dry but very windy; good visibility; SW wind force 6-8, occasionally gusting force 9; sea state 8 initially, dropping to 7 later; significant glare until the final hour of the survey

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus  33
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2

From the beginning we knew that this survey might not be able to go ahead with the shipping forecast predicting a potential for winds to severe gale force 9 and seas that might be rough to very rough.  Looking at the sea-watching sightings from along the length of the south and southwest coasts on Friday the 9 August we were intrigued by reports of Balearic Shearwaters being seen it seemed at every watch point between Aberystwyth and Dungeness.  Given these sightings, we wondered what might be out there to see.

Gannet Peter Howlett 08
Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Unfortunately, due to the severity of the conditions for safety reasons we could not survey outbound from the bridge. Instead, we had to content ourselves with watching a few scattered Gannet scudding across the waves as we enjoyed coffee in the bar.

On our return trip the winds and sea-state had improved slightly and we were able to survey as normal.  Instead of the variety and numbers of birds we had hoped for from yesterday's reports, instead we faced a spectacular view of huge swells and a sea swept almost clear of birds!

Amazingly, those birds we did see - hardy Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet - seemed unfazed by all the dramatic weather.  If anything, the Gannet seemed almost to be relishing the freedom the strong winds gave them to soar and glide in massive arcs high over the waves.

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

We saw no mammals but did have one point of interest where we spotted a group of Gannet which seemed to be circling above a particular spot as if prospecting for food. However, amidst the big waves, we did not glimpse anything below them though it seemed suspiciously like they might be accompanying some cetaceans.

Our thanks to the Captain and the crew of Seven Sisters for making us welcome and looking after us throughout this survey.