Sightings Archives: September 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe-Vlaardingen 'Flandria Seaways' 27 September 2011

Posted 13 October 2011

Maggie Gamble and Phillip Dutt: MARINElife Research Surveyors.
Weather: SW1-2 Overcast

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 36

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 88
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 258
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 134
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Unidentified Skua Sp. 2
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus  2
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Guillemots Uria aalge   5
Unidentified Auk Sp 3 
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 193
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 33
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 39
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 11
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 5
Unidentified Gull Sp 585

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 214
Gadwall Anas strepera 30
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 5
Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 48
Jay Garrulus glandarius 1
Unidentified Harrier Sp. 1


Boarding the ship at around 11pm our overnight crossing eastbound was very smooth. We were welcomed to the bridge just after dawn and were soon recording a variety of seabirds. A highlight of this eastbound leg was several flocks of Common Scoter as we approached the Dutch Coast. The UK breeding population of this small diving seaduck has substantially declined and it is now a UK Red List species. Nesting on upland moors, it winters chiefly on coasts of Western Europe where the water is shallow enough to allow it to dive for molluscs.

Arriving at Port we had time for an excellent lunch before returning to the bridge for the westbound leg of the survey and after departure had good views of the river barrage which is an amazing looking piece of engineering.

Gannet dive
The almost mirror calm conditions on this return leg gave perfect conditions for spotting Harbour Porpoise and we counted at least thirty five (plus one on the outward leg). We are hoping for the route record! We were alerted to the presence of one (or possibly two) of them by four Gannets which were flying around in a manner which suggested they were watching something in the sea below. Eventually, beneath them we could see the Porpoises' small triangular dorsal fin just breaking the surface and as we watched more Gannets started to arrive, no doubt attracted by the attentive behaviour of the others.


Harbour Porpoise 2

The growing group of Gannets tracked the Porpoise for a few minutes then in a sudden flurry of swept back wings and dagger sharp bills they plunged in around it, in a mini feeding frenzy! Whether there were any fish to be had we couldn't quite make out.

After a beautiful sunset we lingered hopefully for just one more Porpoise? But it was not to be and thanking the Bridge Crew for their hospitality we headed to our bunks for a couple of hours sleep before disembarking at 10.45pm.

Maggie Gamble and Phillip Dutt, Research Surveyors for MARINElife