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Dover-Dunkirk 27 January

With the weather having been stormy recently, it was delightful to wake up to a calm and sunny morning for my first survey of the year from Dover. I met up with Pat at Albany Place carpark and he drove us down to the port. Having proceeded through the border, we drove onto the ship and were escorted to the bridge to start the survey. Captain Ben May welcomed us on the bridge and we unpacked our binoculars ready to start surveying.

Conditions were ideal as the sea state was moderate with no swell. If there were any marine mammals in the Dover Strait within a mile or two from the ship, we had a good chance of seeing them.  Our survey started once we had cleared the outer breakwater of Dover harbour.

Herring Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Bird sightings were initially slow, a few Herring Gull, Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Gannet and Kittiwake. Nearing the French coast, we started to see Guillemot and Razorbill, the former were starting to develop their summer plumage and the winter plumaged adults were now difficult to discern from last year’s juveniles. We did record seals and a Harbour Porpoise on our way over to Dunkirk, one of the seal sightings was too brief to positively identify.

The turn-around in Dunkirk takes around an hour, so it was just after 15:00 when we started heading back to Dover. One more seal was seen during our return transect. The same bird species were recorded on the return, we were fortunate to see a second year and a fourth year Gannet amongst them.

4th year Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The sun set half an hour before we were due to dock at Dover. Once it set, we returned to the passenger decks to await disembarkation at Dover.

We both wish to thank Captain Ben May, and the officers and crew of the Dunkerque Seaways for looking after us so well whilst we were surveying for MARINElife.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Pat Hatch, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outbound: wind SSW-S force 5-4, sea state 3, good visibility with partial cloud cover.

Return: wind SW-SSW force 3-4, sea state 2, partially cloudy with good visibility.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus  1

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Unidentified Seal sp.  2



Common Gull Larus canus 2

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 35

Gannet Morus bassanus 16

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14

Guillemot Uria aalge 170

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 125

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 22

Razorbill Alca torda 20

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 3

Diver sp. 1

Auk sp. 4


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