Newhaven-Dieppe survey 17 January
Summary of sightings
Unidentified Seal spp. 1
Unidentified Dolphin spp. Casual sighting not seen by surveyor 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 17
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 320
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 13
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Diver sp. 5
Weather (southbound only)
Wind NNE veering ESE force 4, sea state 2-3, good visibility with increasing high cloud.
January 2023 saw the jet stream bringing in rain and strong winds in to the south of England. Fortunately, a window of opportunity opened on the 16th to 18th and survey conditions became far more favourable. With that in mind I rearranged the survey to 17th January and headed down to Newhaven on a crisp, bright morning to undertake the first survey on this route for 2023.
On board the ferry I was able to enter the bridge prior to the vessel moving and was met by Philippe Conquet, the master of the vessel. It was lovely to be able to catch up with him as it must have been around three years since our paths last crossed.
Many seabirds were in the harbour including Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gull waiting to take advantage of the ship stirring up the river sediment as it backed out of the river mouth to begin its journey to Dieppe.
The survey began once the harbour outer wall was cleared. Initially Kittiwake, Herring Gull and Cormorant were recorded. Three winter plumage Divers were also seen but the high cloud that had now appeared and the distance of the birds meant the identification couldn’t be any more specific.
For the next hour no further sightings were recorded. As we approached mid-Channel we encountered fishing vessels taking advantage of the calm seas. Gannet numbers also began to increase until a fishing vessel bringing in its nets resulted in a feeding flock of 200 or more with several Great Black-backed Gull flying above the vessel and feeding on scraps left behind in the wake.
During this time, one of the Cote d’Albatres’ Officers, Lilian Lechen, spotted a dolphin close to the ship. He brought it to my attention but unfortunately it had disappeared before I could get on to it. By now we were just approaching the northern separation zone in the channel. Despite it being January a German cruise ship, the AIDAbella was returning to Hamburg via Rotterdam having been in warmer climes.
As the ship approached the French coast, Gannet decreased giving way to sightings of Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Kittiwake, Divers and Cormorant. These sightings became more frequent as we neared Dieppe harbour.
With the harbour in sight I recorded a very brief glimpse of a seal as it popped its head up to look at the Cote d’Albatre approaching the outer harbour wall. With the light fading I closed the survey, thanked the officers on the bridge and made my way down to the passenger area to disembark the vessel. The return voyage would start after sundown allowing me to input the data I had collected on the way back to Newhaven.
I would like to thank the Captain, Officers and crew of the Cote d’Albatre for looking after me so well and for the shore staff for their kind help to MARINElife.
Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)