MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe Vlaardingen “Flandria Seaways” 25th September 2012

Fraser Paterson, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Outward - overcast, good visibility: south-westerly wind force 6. Return - brighter, good visibility with glare at times: south-westerly wind force 5-6

Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata  1

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 77
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Great Skua Stecorarius skua 5
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 22
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 18
Guillemot Uria aalge 2

River Birds  
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 371
Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Wigeon Anas Penelope 35
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 75
Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 329
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea  1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Coot  Fulica atra 41
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 125
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 10
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 317
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1248
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 185
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 59
Collared Dove  Streptopelia decaocto 4
Greater-spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopus major 1
Magpie Pica pica 13
Jay Garrulus glandarius 2
Starling Sturnus vulgaris  c. 4475
Unidentified gull sp.  c. 55
Unidentified corvids c. 70
Unidentified pipit sp.  4
Unidentified warbler sp.  1

Terrestrial Birds (at sea)
Unidentified pipit sp.  1

Long Tailed SkuaFollowing the previous day's stormy weather, the outbound crossing was still a little 'choppy' when the survey began as soon as it was light enough to make observations. Our passage was generally quiet and dominated by sightings of individual Gannets, with the only variations being occasional gulls, a small group of 'Commic' Terns and a single Guillemot, until the river entrance - Monday's winds had obviously driven everything else away! However, an hour from Vlaardingen, a dark phase juvenile Arctic Skua and two Long-tailed Skua, an adult and intermediate phase juvenile, flew right under the bow and lit up the morning.

A probable Purple Sandpiper was on the northern breakwater, a Whimbrel flew over the ship about 1 km inland, and there was a flock of c. 4000 Starling swirling around. The tidal river had the usual mix of Cormorant and Greater / Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gull, sheltering from the winds, and further inland good numbers of Mute Swan and Mallard hugged the banks.

The ship left on schedule and the calmer seas and lighter winds initially bode well for the return trip, with groups of Common, 'Commic' and Sandwich Terns being observed in the coastal area. Nevertheless, conditions gradually worsened as we pulled away from the coast and the morning's pattern of isolated Gannet sightings was repeated, although a single Guillemot and 5 Great Skua were welcome distractions.

Minke WhaleCetacean watching was frustrating due to the wind and waves and only a probable single Minke Whale was seen during the trip. The animal, which was larger than any dolphins likely to be encountered on the route, was seen doing a high roll about 400 m directly in front of the ship, then just a fleeting glimpse of its dorsal fin as it swam away. 

Once again, many thanks go to Captain Fleming Langballe and the crew of the Flandria Seaways, who made this a very enjoyable crossing, and to the Felixstowe operations staff.

Fraser Paterson, Research Surveyor for MARINElife