Bob Graves and Toby Oliver: MARINElife Research
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 13
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 68
Black-Headed Gull Larus ridibundus 165
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 209
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 51
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Razorbill Alca torda 15
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 5
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 20
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 2
Greylag Goose Anser anser 9
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Gadwall Anas strepera 34
Shoveler Duck Anas clypeata 19
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca 18
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 41
Common Coot Fulica atra 13
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 19
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina 3
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 14
Magpie Pica pica 1
Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Feral Pigeon 1
We arrived at Felixstowe Docks, as arranged, at 22:45 on Monday 27th February to find a still and very mild night for the time of year.
The onshore formalities were dealt with quickly and efficiently by the friendly DFDS staff and we were whisked away to ship for a much welcomed dinner (especially for Toby who had travelled 6 hours from Wales) followed by bed.
The morning dawned grey and overcast but mild with little or no wind, which set the tone for the whole voyage making conditions ideal for the job at hand - no problems with glare or that low February sun!
The survey started at 7 o'clock UK time and we immediately recorded our first Kittiwakes with 8 in the first 15 minutes. We didn't have to wait long for our first cetacean sighting either, with the first Harbour Porpoise seen at 8:15, followed by another 6 minutes later, both just off the bow of the ship.
Bird-wise the crossing was dominated, as expected, by gull species (very good numbers) with a single Fulmar, 5 auks - sadly too far out for a positive ID - and a sprinkling of Gannets adding extra interest.
As we neared the Dutch coast the activity increased even further. A further seven Harbour Porpoises were seen, two together and then a group of at least five, associated with an obvious current which must have provided good fishing. The first Great Crested Grebes were also observed at the same time, and as we approached the breakwater at the mouth of the river Cormorants became a common sight. Sailing along the river towards Vlaadingen provided just over an hour of manic bird recording, with a good selection of species including four species of duck: Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard.
The few hours in port produced a couple of interesting, if non-native, sightings with two Egyptian Geese on a small pool and at least four Ring-necked Parakeets flying across the docks - a noisy but most attractive sight.
After another excellent meal we were back on the bridge at just after 15:00 local and ship's time. We recorded the species from the other side of the river on the return journey which was just as busy and interesting as the inbound voyage. We added two more duck species, Shoveler and Shelduck to our tally, amongst a number of other birds.
The return sea crossing provided flat calm conditions at first and for a short while it became quite foggy. Many more auks were seen on the homeward leg with a pair of Guillemots plus small groups of Razorbills often giving excellent views on the water before diving just as the ship approached. Most, but not all, were in full breeding plumage.
A further four Harbour Porpoises - a single and a group of three - brought the number to 13 for the trip which we felt was a very respectable total. 27 species of bird, with over 1300 individuals, were also recorded from the bridge.
As always, the officers and crew of Flandria Seaways were very friendly and helpful and our sincere thanks go to them.
Bob Graves and Toby Oliver, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Emma Webb and Russell Neave: MARINElife Research
Weather: visibility 5, wind ENE force 6, sea state 6
in river ; visibility 5, wind ENE force 4, sea state 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 21
Gannet Morus bassanus
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 27
Common Gull Larus canus 883
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 558
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 24
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 56
Guillemot Uria aalge 91
Razorbill Alca torda 86
Auk Sp. 168
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Greater Canada Goose Branta canadensis 20
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 6
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiacus 3
Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope 412
Gadwall Anas strepera 1429
Eurasian Teal Anas crecca 47
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 91
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 2
Common Coot Fulica atra 20
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 6
Dunlin Calidris alpina 15
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Common Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Diver Sp. 1
Goose Sp. 35
Despite a windy few days before the trip, our overnight crossing to Vlaardingen was comfortable and we were able to get some sleep before starting our formal observations at sunrise the following morning. We were kept busy with plenty of sightings of Kittiwake, Guillemot and Razorbill on the way to the river as well as two quick sightings of Harbour Porpoise.
up river was very smooth and bright with many large groups of
Wigeon, Gadwall and gulls before we docked at the freight port.
Departure was prompt, and again we were kept exceptionally busy
with groups of Gadwall and Wigeon on the river. Almost as
soon as we left the river mouth into the open sea, we started
recording Harbour Porpoise, all looking as if they were busy
feeding in the turbulent water where the river meets sea.
However, all too soon we lost the daylight and after watching a
beautiful sunset over the North Sea, it was time to finish the
survey and thank the bridge crew for their fantastic
Emma Webb and Russell Neave, Research Surveyors for MARINElife