Dover-Calais survey 17 June
Summary of sightings:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 16
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 63
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Mediterranean Gull Icthhyaetus melanocephalus 1
Larus sp. 606
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Columba livia 2
A long, dry spell of hot weather had changed to overcast skies as I headed down the motorway to Dover and a light rain was falling as I waited to board the ship to begin surveying. The low cloud meant that the French coast was hidden from view. Once on the ship, I headed to the information desk, completed formalities, and arranged with them to head up to the bridge to survey.
As the ship left Dover harbour, a large group of Herring Gull were swimming at the base of the harbour breakwater. The gulls tend to aggregate there as they can quickly fly to meet the vessels entering the harbour to pick up food disturbed by the ship’s wake. As most birds had reached their breeding grounds, sightings were slow, with only 52 birds comprising of Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake, Mediterranean Gull, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull recorded on the outward transect.
Fortunately, as the sea state was slight, I had a far better chance of recording mammals. A solitary Bottlenose Dolphin swam quickly from right to left within the first 15 minutes of the survey, surfacing twice as it passed by us. A sighting of a single Harbour Porpoise was seen 40 minutes later, swimming slowly, its small triangular fin breaking the surface as it rolled forward.
A quarter of an hour later, the ship entered Calais Port. The tide was falling, and sixteen Harbour Seals, including two juveniles, were hauled out at the highest point of the beach, warming themselves. Whilst in port, with the tide dropping further, I could see many more seals hauling out on a sandbank to the north-east of Calais.
With the mist lifting and the ship loaded with England-bound freight and passengers, we left Calais and headed towards Dover. Again, bird sightings were slow, the vast majority being Herring Gull. As we neared the separation lanes a second Bottlenose Dolphin was seen, swimming slowly at a distance.
As the ship approached Dover, a large raft of predominantly Herring Gull could be seen resting about 400 metres from the breakwater, my last seabird count of the day. I left the bridge as we passed the Dover outer breakwater.
During the survey a unicorn (inflatable of course) and a football were recorded floating on the surface of the water.
I would like to thank DFDS, the Captain, officers, and crew of the Cote d’Opale for their help in making the survey possible and enjoyable.
Carol Farmer-Wright Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound: wind ESE 3, misty with moderate visibility
Return: wind NE 4, improving visibility, misty with occasional glare