Carol Farmer-Wright and John Littlewood: Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: outbound wind SE4-2 sunny with light cloud return leg wind NW3-1 developing S force 4 with increasing cloud
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 20
Dead cetacean species 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 27
Gannet Morus bassanus 16
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 399
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 38
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 81
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1352
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Mixed Larus Sp. 2044
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 147
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 15
Unidentified tern Sp. 8
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Coot Fulicra atra 2
Curlew Numenius arquata 4
Feral Pigeon Columba palumbus 31
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 7
Greylag Goose Anser anser 222
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 2
Magpie Pica pica 1
Mallard Anus platyrhynchos 1
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1567
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 32
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii 2
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 20
We arrived at Felixstowe on Monday night and were welcomed aboard the 'Flandria Seaways' by the friendly crew.
We awoke before dawn and looked out to a calm sea with light cloud cover, ideal conditions for looking for cetaceans. By this time we were half way across the North Sea having left Felixstowe at 3 in the morning. We were soon recording Fulmars, Lesser Black-back gulls and the occasional Gannet. The calm seas then rewarded us with the first sighting of a Harbour Porpoise. Five further sightings of Harbour Porpoise occurred before we reached the Dutch coast.
As we approached the Hook of Holland the Lesser Black-back gulls were joined by Sandwich Terns and Cormorants. There is a large breeding colony of Lesser Black backed gulls on the south side of the river and there were many chicks to be seen amongst the adults on the shingle.
We were now about to travel through what I describe as the Club 18-30 of the Mute Swan world. Many immature swans seem to visit the tidal river over the summer. Both sides of the river had groups of swans varying from 2 to 20 individuals. Greylag Geese were also on the river, goslings were grouped in crèches. Sandwich Terns were replaced by Common and Arctic Terns as we moved further down the river towards the Vlaardingen berth.
We left the bridge having thanked Captain Stephensen and started to record the data from the mornings section of the survey before joining the ships officers for a delicious lunch.
Our homeward journey began four hours later. Again we were to see many of the Mute Swans hugging the side of the river. The best sighting of the day was finding some Great Crested Grebes and shortly afterwards a solitary Spoonbill amongst the birds feeding by the river, it's black, spoon-shaped bill sweeping from side to side in the water searching for food. Again we passed the breeding colony of gulls and counted over 1200 birds on the shingle.
As we entered the North Sea the swans were replaced by Cormorants, one bird surfaced with a crab in its bill, realised the ship was bearing down on it, panicked and dropped meal and flew away. Once in the open sea Gannets and Fulmars started to appear and again the sea-state was favourable to see Harbour Porpoises sporadically during the return journey. This included one brief sighting of three animals together, one being slightly smaller than the others.
Eventually with the light fading, we left the bridge having had almost twelve hours surveying on the North Sea in excellent conditions.
Our thanks go to Captain Thomas Stephensen, his Officers and crew for their hospitality and to DFDS Seaways for making this survey possible.
Carol Farmer-Wright and John Littlewood, Research Surveyors for MARINElife