MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe Vlaardingen “Flandria Seaways” 27th August 2012

Michael Bamford and Emma Bateman, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Outward - overcast, good visibility: south-westerly wind force 3. Return - bright, good visibility with glare: westerly wind force 5-6

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 31
Gannet Morus bassanus 81
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 570
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 79
Common Gull Larus canus 25
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 93
Unidentified Gull Sp. 172
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 20
Unidentified Tern Sp 11

Terrestrial Birds
Greylag Goose Anser anser 125
Gadwall Anas strepera 15
Mallard Anus platyrhynchos 8
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1032
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 180
Lapwing  20

Harbour Porpoise 2We were greeted very efficiently and escorted to the Flandria Seaways in the nearby dock. After climbing the steep stairway to the driver's area we settled as soon as possible pending an early start at 5.45 the next day in mid North Sea. Although the weather was overcast the sea was unexpectedly slight and visibility good. Soon after arriving on the bridge we saw a pair of Harbour Porpoises ('lazy dolphins', as described to us by the officer on watch). Thereafter we saw largely Gannets on the open sea pending the frenzy of birds in the river, and a further pair of porpoises.

Going upriver there were, as usual, large numbers of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, many of them first year birds, and a surprisingly large number of Cormorants. The resident Mute Swans were present in large numbers, but no cygnets: presumably these were still on smaller waterways. There were a number of eclipse Gadwall and Mallard ducks evident as well as roosting flocks of Oystercatchers and a small flock of Lapwings. We were also treated to a close flypast by a female Sparrowhawk.

Common Tern ad sum 2The return journey started an hour before schedule, down the very busy river. Conditions had brightened up, but unfortunately the wind had risen to force 6, and with a westerly course into the afternoon and evening glare from the sun, viewing conditions were tricky. A small mixed tern flock appeared at the mouth of the river, including Common and Sandwich terns with some being first year birds. At sea birds became fewer, but Fulmars put in an appearance plus a juvenile skua that appeared too bulky to be an Arctic Skua, and with wing flashes that suggested a juvenile Pomarine.

At sunset just before 8.pm, we left the bridge to count up the 3,500 or so birds we had logged, before arriving in Felixstowe around 11pm.

With thanks to the bridge crew, and the DFDS port staff at Felixstowe, and not least to the ship's cook - we rolled off the ship significantly heavier than we went on board!

Michael Bamford and Emma Bateman, Research Surveyor for MARINElife