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Dover-Dunkirk Survey 26 March DFDS 'Dover Seaways'

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1


Common Gull Larus canus 3

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2

Gannet Morus bassanus 26

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9

Guillemot Uria aalge 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 53

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5


Outbound – Hazy, moderate visibility with glare at times, wind NE force 3.

Return – similar conditions without glare, wind NNE force 4.

This was to be the last day of Greenwich mean time as I headed down to Dover to board the Dover Seaways for a return survey to Dunkirk. There had been quite strong winds the previous weekend and now these had abated the prospect for surveying was good.

Formalities were completed at the port and I found an area on the starboard side of the outside deck where I could commence the survey. The journey to Dunkirk would take around 2 hours.

There had been a high-pressure system over the UK for several days and a pollution haze had settled over the English Channel. The visibility was therefore limited as we left Dover harbour and a hazy sun was trying to break through the mist. The birds encountered were primarily Kittiwake, Gannet and large gulls. Many Gannet had attained breeding plumage, their golden heads were becoming quite distinct. An unusual bird to be encountered at this time of year was a Red-throated Diver. The bird was in breeding plumage and was probably on migration northwards to Scotland or Scandinavia.

Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Nearing the French coast one of our summer migrants was seen, a Sandwich Tern. These birds nest on the sand dunes just to the West of Dunkirk and it was pleasing to see that some had already arrived to begin their breeding programme for 2022.

The Dover Seaways then entered Dunkirk harbour and completed the turn-around. Leaving Dunkirk I was able to record more Sandwich Tern, Gannet, Herring Gull and first summer Kittiwake. The wind had increased a little whilst we were in port. As we started travelling towards England, I noticed that there were many ships moored in the English Channel awaiting orders to discharge their cargo's in ports across Europe. A French naval ship was also in the channel, probably looking for migrants travelling across the Straits of Dover and to monitor vessel traffic.

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Forty minutes into our return trip I looked down at the side of the ship and saw a quick roll of an animal. I was able to follow its progress underwater and was able to identify it when it surfaced as a Harbour Porpoise. This was to be my only sighting of a marine mammal that day.

As we approached Dover Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Gannet and a Fulmar were seen before I returned to the indoor passenger area to await discharge at Dover port. I wish to thank DFDS for allowing us to return to their vessels enabling us to survey across the English Channel once again.

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

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