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Newhaven-Dieppe survey 9 September

Having checked in at Newhaven port, we boarded the DFDS ferry Cote d’Albatre and reported to the reception desk. Once the ship had set off, we were taken up to the bridge, where we were welcomed by Captain Fontenit.

The sea state was particularly favourable for cetacean sightings, being close to flat calm, and remained so throughout the survey. Our first Harbour Porpoises appeared after forty minutes – a group of three, consisting of two adults and a juvenile – and another three were sighted halfway through the crossing.

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Numbers of bird species were low, with the vast majority of seabird sightings consisting of Gannets and gulls. Three distant skuas added a little variety but did not venture close to the ship, while a Fulmar swept gracefully across the bow around mid-Channel.

The most numerous bird was not a seabird at all. A flock of two hundred migrating Swallows were sighted halfway to Dieppe, flying low over the sea as they closed in on the continental coast.

After a brief sojourn at the port cafeteria at Dieppe, we boarded again for the return journey. Viewing conditions remained favourable for sighting sea mammals, with a calm sea and good visibility, aside from some glare to port.

Adult Gannet (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

All bird sightings were Gannets or gulls, including a variety of immature plumages and close views of some birds as they rode the updraughts in front of the bridge.

An hour into the second leg of the survey, a dolphin was spotted 200 metres from the ship – a brief sighting, but enough to allow an identification of probable Bottlenose Dolphin. The survey concluded with our final cetacean encounter of the trip – a group of four Harbour Porpoise as we neared Newhaven.

We would like to thank Captain Fontenit, his officers and crew for their friendly welcome and hospitality.

Pat Hatch and Amanda Bright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (registered charity no.: 1110884, reg. company no.: 5057367)


Outward – wind N-NW 1-3, sea state 1, visibility good.

Return – wind SW 4-5, sea state 2-4, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals

Bottlenose Dolphin (probable) Tursiops truncatus 1

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10


Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 105

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17

Gull sp. 109

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14

Terrestrial birds

Swallow Hirundo rustica 200

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