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Dover-Dunkirk survey 23 March

Having met up with Laura in Dover, we drove into the port and boarded the Delft Seaways for her first MARINElife survey. We presented ourselves at the ship’s information desk and were swiftly shown to the bridge, where Captain Mark Miller gave us a warm welcome.

As we sailed out of the harbour, we began surveying. Conditions were not ideal for spotting marine mammals, with numerous whitecaps, but visibility was otherwise good.

Adult Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Gannets formed the majority of early sightings and continued to be recorded throughout the outward voyage, most were adults but two immature birds were also spotted. Though hardly numerous, Fulmars were encountered in higher numbers then I had yet experienced in the Dover Straits. Kittiwake became the most frequently sighted gull around mid-Channel, with numbers of other gulls fairly low. Nearing the French coast, we started to see auks, typically flying in ones or twos at some distance from the ship.

After a quick turn-around in Dunkirk, we set sail again for England. Unfortunately, the low sun and cloudless horizon to the southwest resulted in a bright glare which hampered recording off the port bow. At least partly on account of this, fewer birds were recorded on the return leg of the survey.

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Nearing the harbour entrance at Dover, and just as we were about to bring the survey to an end, Laura spotted a Harbour Porpoise, an accompanying flock of milling gulls drawing attention to its presence. It was seen to surface several times before we lost sight of it, a fitting end to her inaugural survey.

We wish to thank Captain Mark Miller and the officers and crew of the Delft Seaways for looking after us and allowing us to conduct our survey aboard their vessel.

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


Outbound: wind WSW force 3-4, good visibility with moderate to heavy cloud cover.

Return: wind W-WSW force 3-4, light to moderate cloud cover, visibility affected by glare.


Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1



Common Gull Larus canus 3

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14

Gannet Morus bassanus 48

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 20

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3

Gull sp.  40

Tern sp. 1

Auk sp. 6

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