Newhaven-Dieppe survey 15 October
We were welcomed to the bridge shortly after leaving port and familiarised ourselves with the ship’s information display on the starboard consol. It was a quiet start with a few Gannets and occasional juvenile gulls. At 08:50 we sighted a fishing boat just north of the north-bound separation zone. With it was a mixed flock of prospecting Gannet, mixed gulls, and a few Fulmars. Shortly afterwards several Gannets, Kittiwake (including some juveniles with their distinctive markings) and Fulmar passed by heading in the direction of the fishing boat.
Most of the Gannets seen on this survey were adult with a few third and fourth-year birds plus a couple of this year’s all brown fledglings.
Around 10:00 we sighted our only Great Skua of the day. A species which has suffered high mortality from bird flu over the last couple of years. Initial observations from some of the main sites in Shetland suggest that up to 90% of the population may have been lost – and Scotland supports 60% of the world breeding population!
We decided to stay on board whilst in Dieppe and took the opportunity for a very welcome lunch in the restaurant. Soon after 15:00 we returned to the bridge for the return survey to Newhaven. Viewing conditions were now much easier, with more cloud and the sun well off to port.
In the late afternoon along with plunge diving Gannet and feeding Kittiwake we sighted the erratic splashing of feeding Blue-fin Tuna. These magnificent fish have recently returned to British waters in good numbers, but we were surprised to record them this far east in the Channel. We looked hopefully for some cetaceans to join in the feeding, but none were seen.
At sunset we finished the survey and left the bridge. Once again, our thanks go to DFDS, Captain Bidet Mathias and crew of the Côte d'Albâtre for their assistance in completing this survey.
Carol Farmer-Wright and Maggie Gamble, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outward – wind NE 3-4, Sunny, good visibility but glare ahead
Return – wind NE 3-4, some cloud, good visibility
Summary of sightings:
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Fulmar glacialis 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 207
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 23
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 7
Great Skua Stercorarius 1
Larus sp. 88
Auk sp. 3
Blue-fin Tuna Thunnus thynnus