DFDS Cote d'Opale Dover-Calais 22 October
Summary of sightings:
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 7 (Seen off survey)
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 8
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 27
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 9
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Auk sp. Alcidae 8
Outward: sea state 2-4, wind SW 4-6, visibility good
Return: sea state 2, wind SW 3-4, visibility moderate to good
Having boarded the Cote d’Opale, we were shown to the bridge and received a friendly welcome from the Captain and members of his crew. It was a mild, sunny afternoon, perhaps too sunny for ideal survey conditions, with a moderate amount of glare off the starboard bow on the way over to Calais.
This was only my second MARINElife survey, the first being on the same cross-Channel route back before the dawn of the global pandemic in January 2020, so a run through the recording forms was essential. Carol also pointed out the bridge instruments we were to consult for ship’s speed and course, wind strength and direction.
We sailed out of the harbour into a sea state of 4, with some white-capped waves in evidence. We soon spotted the first of a series of Gannets, which were encountered throughout the outward voyage, during which the wind, swell and sea state gradually calmed. Of the gulls, Kittiwake was the most frequent and several auks were also seen, most of them loafing on the water.
Nearing the French coast on the final approach to Calais, our tally gained additional interest with a lone Mediterranean Gull, a pair of Red-throated Divers and three Little Gulls. The divers were flying one behind the other, the bird in the rear saving energy in the slipstream of the leading bird, no doubt swapping over at regular intervals.
Arriving in Calais, the Captain pointed out several Common Seals lying on the nearby beach in the autumn sunshine, including at least one pup.
Our return trip to Dover brought us far fewer Kittiwakes than the outward leg, more other gulls and slightly fewer Gannets, though the latter were still encountered at regular intervals. Around mid-Channel, we were delighted to observe a small flock of Little Gulls flying low over the sea, with their distinctive dark underwings intermittently visible as they flitted over the waves. Three Mediterranean Gulls also put in an appearance soon after the midway point.
Viewing conditions improved throughout the trip, with wind speed, sea state and swell all decreasing.
Our thanks are due to the Captain of the Cote d’Opale, his bridge officers and crew for their hospitality.
Carol Farmer-Wright and Pat Hatch, Research surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)