Dover-Calais survey 18 February
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Unidentified Cetacean sp. 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 4
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 2
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 55
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 22
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Auk sp. 3
Outbound - cloudy, moderate visibility with mist, wind WSW force 8-7, sea state 5-4
Return - cloudy, moderate visibility, wind W-WSW force 8-7, sea state 5-4
Our trip, on the DFDS ferry Cote d’Opale, provided a smooth crossing from Dover to Calais. There had been a worry that the tail end of storm Otto might make surveying problematic. However, from the solid platform of the ferry, the wave height was barely noticeable and the survey team had a smooth ride.
It was heartening to see that flotsam and jetsam were noticeably absent on the crossing. We came across only one example of box cargo lost from a ship and no fishing gear or floating rubbish – a positive sign.
As usual, on this route, we saw a variety of seabirds. Of note were two Gannets we saw which were in first year plumage indicating they fledged last summer. This means they managed to survive the bird flu which was ravaging Gannet colonies during last years breeding season. The fact that they looked healthy and well feathered indicates that getting through the final part of winter, and into spring, should not be difficult for them. We hope they join the breeding population on maturity and help bolster Gannet numbers. It’s always lovely to watch when adult Gannets pick up the updraft from the top of the bridge and fly ahead of us, keeping us company for part of the journey. Several Black-throated Divers were seen as well as Fulmar to add to the diversity.
On the cetacean side of the survey we were rewarded with a brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise, surfacing to breathe, as it passed across the bow of the ship. Later, a large splash just below the horizon indicated a large cetacean breaching. Unfortunately, despite searching, that was the only view of this large mammal.
A Harbour Seal was seen, swimming in a relaxed manner in the opposite direction to that of the ship as we left Calais. This would have come from the group of seals which are resident within Calais harbour. These can often be seen hauled up on the sandbank, to the starboard side of the ship, as you enter the breakwater. At certain times of the year this group can number up to thirteen. On this visit just three were present.
As always, we were warmly welcomed by the check-in staff at Dover. The shipboard staff, Captain and officers welcomed us on board and made us comfortable on the bridge. We look forward to joining them again and thank them for making another successful survey possible.
Julie Ackroyd and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)