Portsmouth-Le Havre

Recent Sightings

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways Seven Sisters Portsmouth–Le Havre 13-14 September 2014

Posted 17 September 2014

Jessica Mead and Ellen Last, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Wind was NE and sea state averaged 3 on the Beaufort Scale - a little choppy with plenty of whitecaps. Visibility was fairly good though hazy towards the horizon.

Summary of sightings:

Great Shearwater Puffinus gravis 1
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 33
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Black-headed gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Gull sp. 9

We left Portsmouth on schedule and quickly retired to our cabin for the overnight crossing to Le Havre. Waking early, we had breakfast and then left the ship to explore Le Havre and the nearby coastal town of Etretat: a beautiful town with stunning coastal views of steep chalk cliffs and archways. Plus the French pastries from the bakery were delicious!

Etretat coast Jessica Mead
Spectacular cliffs at Etretat (Photo: Jessica Mead)

Re-boarding in the afternoon, we headed to the bridge to prepare for our survey. We were welcomed by Captain Bidet and his bridge team and were soon recording seabirds. A busy start as we headed out of port seeing a variety of gulls including Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull, as well as a couple of Cormorant. A little further out in the channel we saw 3 Sandwich Tern all in winter plumage - a reminder that although the weather still has a lovely summery feel at the moment, it might not last much longer. Soon after this we had sightings of both Great and Sooty Shearwater gliding close to the sea surface. After this the crossing turned quiet, with only the occasional Gannet to be seen for the rest of the survey time.

Great Shearwater Peter Howlett 01
Great Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Our surveying concluded just after a very beautiful sunset when the conditions grew too dark to survey. We thanked the Captain and his staff for their hospitality before leaving the bridge and a couple of hours later arrived in Portsmouth.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways 'Seven Sisters' Portsmouth-Le Havre 6-7 September 2014

Posted 09 September 2014

Peter Jones, Keith Morgan and Mark Beeston, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Sea state 3, decreasing to 1. Visibility good initially, becoming hazy towards dusk.

Summary of sightings:

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 53
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 6
Gull sp. 5

Terrestrial Birds
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla 1
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 3
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 1

Bat sp. 3

We met at the very modern Portsmouth terminal building and, following a swift check-in, enjoyed a calm overnight crossing. During the outward crossing we saw Wheatear, Firecrest and Yellow Wagtail on the ship.

We also saw the strange sight of three bats off the stern of the ship before dawn. September is the key month for the cross-Europe migration of Nathusius's Pipistrelle, but with no bat detector to hand, identification was not possible.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 09
Little Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

During our time in Le Havre, we ventured into the French countryside to go bird-watching. The Forest de Brotonne was notable for a tight flock of woodland birds including Short-toed Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Crested Tit, Chiffchaff, and Nuthatch.

The Seine estuary area had a fairly large flock of Yellow Wagtail, five Wheatear, plus a single Whinchat, and a Cattle Egret. Cetti's Warbler sung from deep within the undergrowth, and we were fortunate to have a glimpse of one. Finally, we watched four White Stork and found a very impressive Stork's nest on a telegraph pole. At Le Havre port we saw 45 Sandwich Terns, a White Wagtail, and Whitethroat whilst we waited to board the ferry.

The survey on the return journey got off to a lively start on departing Le Havre with Sandwich Tern, Little Gull, Kittiwake, Arctic Skua and Balearic Shearwater all seen within the first 15 minutes. The Arctic Skua and Little Gull in particular giving excellent close views.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 07
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

Two Fulmar, and another Balearic Shearwater were seen before the bird numbers started to drop except for a steady trickle of Gannet. Gannet sightings continued frequently for the rest of the survey.

Despite the sea state dropping to 1 for the last hour of daylight, we were unable to add any cetaceans to the survey. Two Great Skua showed well before the light faded. We thanked the ship's crew and ended the survey. We arrived back at Portsmouth and returned home after a very long and enjoyable day.

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways 'Seven Sisters' Portsmouth-Le Havre 5-6 July 2014

Posted 23 July 2014

Maggie Gamble and Libby Abbot, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: NNW wind force 1-4. Some mist and rain on the outward journey.

Summary of species recorded:

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 55
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Unidentified Gull Sp. 128
Unidentified Auk Sp. 1

We were welcomed aboard Seven Sisters at Portsmouth Harbour for the 11pm sailing to Le Havre. After a late supper we headed to our cabin to catch a few hours sleep before surveying in the morning. Shortly before dawn we were escorted onto the bridge where we began the first leg of the survey. Visibility was restricted due to an overall mist which turned to rain as we reached the French coast. Both legs of the survey were very quiet with adult Gannet providing the majority of sightings, plus a few Fulmar and gulls. Unfortunately no cetacean sightings were made on either leg of the survey.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 01a
Gannet (Archive photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

After docking in Le Havre we joined the foot passengers and went ashore and into town. We visited the very nice morning market and enjoyed coffee in a local café. Upon returning to the ship we were welcomed back onto the bridge for the second leg of the survey to Portsmouth Harbour, with the visibility much improved.

It will be very interesting to see how this new route develops. The Captain's impression is that they generally see more birds later in the summer. Many thanks to Captain Delarue and the crew of Seven Sisters for all their help during the survey and the ever-helpful DFDS Staff for their assistance in organising the survey.

MARINElife Survey report: DFDS Seaways Portsmouth-Le Havre 22nd June 2014

Posted 30 June 2014

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher; MARINElife Research Surveyors
ESE veering NE force 1-4

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 226
Great Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 203
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 11
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 28
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 26
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 6
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Unidentified Gull Sp. 128
Unidentified Auk Sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

Fulmar Adrian Shephard 03

Fulmar (Adrian Shephard)

We arrived at the Portsmouth terminal in plenty of time and had a coffee whilst we waited to board Seven Sisters for this first survey on the Portsmouth to Le Havre route. We boarded and were welcomed by the reception staff before getting some food in the dining area. We retired to bed ready for the early start the following morning.

Arriving back at reception at 4.30am, we were taken to meet the bridge team and begin the survey. After introductions and some explanations of our work, we started the survey at 4.45am

Conditions were quite calm and there were fairly good numbers of seabirds to be seen, predominantly Gannet with the occasional Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull. As we headed towards Le Havre, a couple of Swallow appeared in front of the bridge and further seabirds were seen including Fulmar, Kittiwake and Herring Gull. We headed down to prepare to disembark as we approached the harbour in Le Havre.

Cormorant 3_Adrian ShephardWe took a drive along the coast to beautiful Etretat for breakfast and a lovely walk along the cliffs. After heading back to Le Havre, we re-boarded, had an early dinner and then headed up to the bridge prior to departure. Captain Bidet skilfully took the ship out and we started our observations.

Conditions were bright and a little more windy, meaning that whitecaps and some glare did make observation more challenging, however, we were soon recording more seabirds initially Herring Gull. A distant fishing boat attracted more than 100 gulls with a scattering of Gannet and Fulmar.

Seabirds were fairly steady all the way back with a couple of Guillemot increasing the species count as we passed through the Solent. With the Spinnaker Tower getting closer, we thanked the bridge team for their support and headed back down to collect our luggage and disembark.
Cormorant (Adrian Shephard)

We would like to thank Captain Matthias Bidet, his bridge team and the staff of DFDS Seaways Seven Sisters for their support on a very enjoyable survey.

Adrian Shephard and Thomas Fisher; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey report: DFDS Portsmouth-Le Havre May 2014

Posted 08 June 2014

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey report DFDS Portsmouth-Le Havre April 2014

Posted 03 May 2014

This survey was cancelled for technical reasons.