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Dover-Dunkirk survey report 18 May

Having boarded the Delft Seaways at Dover, we waited in the crew canteen to be called to the bridge. Unfortunately, our vessel quickly encountered dense fog as we sailed out into the Straits, which meant that our wait would be extended for as long as the adverse conditions prevailed, which turned out to be most of the way to Dunkirk.

Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

When the fog finally cleared, we were shown to the bridge, where we were warmly welcomed as we set about recording for the final thirty minutes of the crossing. We quickly spotted a Grey Seal close to the ship, shortly followed by another. Several terns were recorded, including both Sandwich Tern and Common Tern, along with small numbers of some of the more common gull species and a lone Gannet. Approaching the harbour at Dunkirk, our necessarily curtailed outward journey concluded with a sighting of a Harbour Porpoise.

Setting sail for the return voyage, we wondered whether we would run into the same fog bank out in the Channel but, fortunately for all concerned, it had dissipated. Terns and gulls, notably Herring Gull, again predominated near the French coast, with Gannets appearing as we made our way across the Channel. Several of these beautiful birds spent some time riding updraughts in front of the bridge.

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

We saw our third Grey Seal of the day as we neared Dover, spy hopping as it watched our vessel pass by, and finally, closing in on the harbour entrance, we encountered our second Harbour Porpoise.

We wish to thank Captain Borowski and the officers and crew of the Delft Seaways for their welcome and hospitality and for allowing us to conduct our survey aboard their vessel.

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


Outbound: wind NE-NW, sea state 1-2, visibility poor with fog clearing to moderate

Return: wind NW 2-4, sea state 1-2, visibility moderate-good with heavy cloud cover

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3



Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 22

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 9

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1

Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 19

Larus sp. 6

Gull sp. 800

Tern sp. 2

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