Sightings Archives: August 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe-Vlaardingen 'Flandria Seaways' 23 August 2011

Posted 25 August 2011

Michael Bamford and Robbie Hawkins: MARINElife Research Surveyors.
Weather: E-SE 3 with thunder storms

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 9

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 179
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 65
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 424
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 253
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 35
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 18
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 22
Black-backed Gull Sp. 50

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 5
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 909
Gadwall Anas strepera 42
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 12
Domestic Duck sp. 8 
Common Coot Fulica atra 1
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1

This route takes in a Dutch river mouth which is rich in bird sightings, but also with a chance to see Harbour Porpoises.

The night sailing meant we surveyed the Dutch side twice, on the outwards and return journeys - but in very different weather conditions! We boarded at just after 11 pm, and quickly put our heads down as we were due up at 5.30am. The Flandria Seaways is smaller than the recently used Tor ships, and has an excellent forward bridge for viewing. Just before 6am there was a force 3 easterly, which backed to south east, accompanied by thunder, lightning and continuous rain. This was spectacular, but not helpful for viewing! We left the bridge at about half distance up channel due to the weather conditions. 

Docking at 11.00am we had time for lunch before the ship sailed at 14.30. On the river, and for the first hour, conditions were calm with a sea state 1 and a very light southerly, allowing good views of nine Harbour Porpoises, close to the river mouth. We were lucky enough to see one uncharacteristically breach fully out of the water, showing its chunky body shape and pug-like nose.

Harbour Porpoise 1

A wealth of bird sightings included an Arctic Skua, and four each Fulmars and Great Skuas. There were good numbers of Black-headed and Great Black-backed Gulls, and large numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Three types of terns were spotted along with a large number of Cormorants (179).

BH Gull 1Great Skua 2

The biggest count though was for Mute Swans with over 400 of them seen at arrival and departure. Gadwall and Great Crested Grebe were among the other species counted.

After this window of opportunity, the wind backed further to the south west and strengthened to force 4/5, limiting viewing until loss of light stopped play at 19.45.

Our thanks go to the company and crew for this trip.

Michael Bamford and Robbie Hawkins Research Surveyors for MARINElife