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Dover-Calais survey 18 February

Captain Rogee and his crew were very welcoming as the surveying team settled in on the bridge of the Cote d’Opale ferry from Dover to Calais. This turned out to be the swiftest and smoothest winter crossing we had ever experienced. Bird life was plentiful although, regrettably, no cetaceans were spotted.

A quick briefing from the captain indicated that there was the possibility that we would enter a fog bank on the way over, which would halt surveying. However, whilst visibility did drop, the team were able to continue collecting data and log sightings from harbour to harbour without a break. In fact, the visibility at sea was better than it had been whilst driving down the motorway to the port.

Guillemot (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The sea state, with low wave height, meant that both Guillemot and Razorbills were easily visible on the water and, in most cases, remained undisturbed until the ship was extremely close. Then, as usual, they dived and disappeared. This enabled the surveyors to positively identify the species in over 50% of sightings, a very good percentage.

It was incredibly heartening to see a large number of adult Gannet in excellent condition. Hopefully, they will be getting ready to pair up and breed. Gannet numbers nationally are down, due to bird flu, so let’s hope that this year is a good one for successfully fledging a high number of chicks. Flotsam and jetsam were also thankfully absent.

Kittiwake were seen in high numbers, both adult and juvenile, together with Great Black-backed and Herring Gull. A sole Common Gull and Black-headed Gull were also seen.

Two groups of three Red-throated Diver were spotted, flying parallel with the French coast, their elongated outline, winter plumage and humped back in flight providing a positive ID. They were followed by a good number of Cormorant.

Cormorant (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Now the days are becoming longer, it was possible to survey on the return trip, right to the harbour mouth at Dover. This made it a very productive and worthwhile journey.

Thanks to all involved in the logistics of getting our team on-board. The data, once collated, will really assist in the scientific assessment of bird numbers in the Channel and the impact on them from environmental factors.

Julie Ackroyd and Pat Hatch, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outbound: cloudy with occ. light rain, wind southerly force 3-4, sea state 3, visibility moderate-poor

Return: partly cloudy, wind south-westerly force 4-5, visibility good



Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Common Gull Larus canus 1

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 22

Gannet Morus bassanus 33

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7

Guillemot Uria aalge 10

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 32

Razorbill Alca torda 6

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 6

Auk sp. 12


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