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Dover-Dunkirk survey 22 April

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5


Common Gull Larus canus 2

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 32

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 15

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 120

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7

Razorbill Alca torda 2

Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 103

Auk sp. 2

Larus sp. 6

Tern sp. 9

Wader sp. 30

Terrestrial birds

Swallow Hirundo rustica 2


Outward: sea state 2, wind SE 1-3, visibility moderate

Return: sea state 2, wind N backing SW 2-5, visibility moderate

After a recent sighting of a Humpback Whale in the Dover Straits, we wondered whether the animal might still be in the area as we took our place on the bridge of the Delft Seaways. We were welcomed to the bridge by the Captain and bridge crew and invited to make use of their tea-making facilities.

We sailed out of the harbour under sunny skies with some high cloud. A bright glare affected visibility to starboard but a favourable sea state and a lack of swell meant that our hopes of sighting marine mammals were high.

Ten minutes out, a pair of Razorbill were sighted on the water, along with the first Kittiwake of the day, shortly followed by a fly-past of 32 Common Scoter. Next came our first Gannet, a lone Swallow, a circling Sandwich Tern and our first Harbour Porpoise. Over the next twelve minutes, five more Harbour Porpoise were sighted, including two seen together.

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Meanwhile, bird numbers increased, with Kittiwake the most numerous species and smaller numbers of Gannet, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant and auk. A second Swallow was also spotted and a lone Fulmar was observed on the water.

Nearing Dunkirk, we had our final sighting of a Harbour Porpoise, in company with Sandwich Tern, Kittiwake and other gulls. Approaching the harbour, most of the navigation buoys were in use by resting Sandwich Terns.

Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On the return crossing to Dover, wind speed was higher, but the sea state and general viewing conditions remained more or less constant. Ten minutes out from Dunkirk, we spotted a Grey Seal, the first of four individuals encountered over the following fifteen minutes.

As on the outward journey, Kittiwakes became more numerous around mid-channel, where another Grey Seal was observed spy hopping in front of the ship. Common Gull was added to our list but bird numbers dwindled rapidly as we closed in on Dover, with no further sightings for the last twenty minutes of our homeward voyage.

Grey Seal (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We would like to thank the Captain of the Delft Seaways, his bridge officers and crew for their hospitality.

Pat Hatch and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)

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