Graham Ekins and Maria Smithies,
Research Surveyors for MARINElife.
Weather: Eastbound: Force 2/3 W/SW variable light cloud; Westbound: S/SW Force 2-4, variable high cloud.
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Common or Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 20
Eider Somateria mollissima 12
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 42
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 184
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 389
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 9
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 5
Pomarine Skua Stecorarius pomarinus 2
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 16
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 68
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 326
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 296
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake Risa tridactyla 2
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 7
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 27
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 2
Jan, the Manager at the Trans European Ferries terminal at
Ramsgate quickly processed our passports and also provided us with
a welcome cup of coffee. Within minutes we were on our way to
board the Gardenia. The Purser welcomed us and kindly
provided a cabin for our belongings even though the return trip
would be completed in one day. We were then taken to meet Captain
Rahko Deldum and his officers. He allowed us to stay on the
bridge as we left Ramsgate Harbour at 07.00.
Almost immediately we started to log seabirds, mainly Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gulls with attendant Herring Gulls while we were still inside the harbour. To the south of us we noticed a large sandbank. Through our telescope we could clearly see a Bull Grey Seal with 2 presumed females. 300m further on we had great views of 20 Common Seals hauled out on the edge of the same sandbank. As we travelled east towards the French coast we continued to log increasing numbers of Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and the occasional small group of Sandwich terns heading steadily SW. At 08.30, we had our first sighting of a Harbour Porpoise off the starboard side of the Gardenia. For the last hour as we travelled north along the coast towards Oostende, where we noted small groups of Common Scoters and Eider Ducks heading south, all but one of the Scoters were jet black adult males.
A few kilometres from the harbour mouth we came across a fishing boat processing its catch, attendant seabirds included Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Gannets as well as Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gulls and Great and Arctic Skuas. Nearing the harbour entrance we had another sighting of a Harbour Porpoise. In the shallows we found large numbers of fishing Cormorants with every buoy we passed holding roosting birds. At one point we watched a Cormorant take off close to the ship carrying a large Garfish. As we passed Oostende harbour entrance we found 2 adult Yellow-legged Gulls roosting amongst the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
After a superb four course meal we started the survey administration work over a cup of coffee. On returning to the bridge and commencing the second part of the survey, we started to see Little Gulls, the majority of which were adults, two of these still had the black hoods of breeding plumage. We saw a total of 16 of these delightful small gulls. After a few nautical miles we started to change course to travel west, it was then that we found another Harbour Porpoise with a couple of attendant Gannets. As we approached mid-channel, we encountered small groups of Arctic and Sandwich Terns as well as Arctic, Pomarine and Great Skuas. All were heading in a S/SW direction, presumably on their way to wintering grounds from West Africa southwards. A large group of circling Gannets attracted our attention, and with the telescope it was possible to see the small dorsal fins of 3 Harbour Porpoises who were busy fishing.
We continued to record seabirds during the rest of the crossing,
the density decreasing as we approached the Kent coast. As we
entered Ramsgate harbour, we found 2 Turnstones roosting amongst a
mixed flock of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
As we left the bridge we thanked Captain Rahko Deldum and his officers for their hospitality and friendliness during this very interesting survey. During the two crossings several of the crew came and asked us what we had been seeing. They also shared their own Cetacean and seabird sightings over recent months.
We would like to thank Trans European Ferries for their continued support for this survey.
Graham Ekins and Maria Smithies; Research Surveyors for MARINElife