Sightings Archives: April 2012

Survey Report: Felixstowe-Vlaardingen 'Flandria Seaways' 24 April 2012

Posted 02 May 2012

Carol Farmer-Wright and Graham Ekins: MARINElife Research Surveyors

Cetaceans and mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin 7
Harbour Porpoise 9
Harbour (Common) Seal 3

Red-throated Diver 1
Great Crested Grebe 11
Fulmar 8
Gannet 51
Cormorant 164
Common Eider 4
Common Scoter 46
Great Skua 2
Pomarine Skua 1
Black-headed Gull 120
Common Gull 45
Mediterranean Gull 1
Herring Gull 1549
Yellow-legged Gull 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull 8523
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Little Gull 3
Unidentified Larus Sp. 2
Unidentified gull Sp. 3
Kittiwake 9
Sandwich Tern 127
Common Tern 122
Arctic Tern 44
'Commic' Tern 14
Unidentified tern Sp. 4
Puffin   2
Guillemot 9
Razorbill 6

Terrestrial Birds
Black-tailed Godwit 1
Canada Goose 1
Carrion Crow 1
Collared Dove 1
Common Buzzard 2
Common Sandpiper 1
Teal 9
Coot 7
Egyptian Goose 6
Gadwall 37
Great Crested Grebe 11
Grey Heron 1
Grey Plover 1
Greylag Goose 20
House Crow 3
House Martin 1
Jackdaw 35
Magpie 1
Mallard 30
Meadow Pipit 1
Mute Swan 161
Oystercatcher 9
Redshank 2
Siskin 1
Slavonian Grebe 1
Sparrowhawk 1
Starling 2
Swallow 1
Tufted Duck 1
Whimbrel 2
Wood Pigeon 8

We arrived at Felixstowe on Monday night and were welcomed aboard the 'Flandria Seaways' by the friendly crew. We were then given an evening meal before settling down for the night.

We awoke before dawn and looked out to a calm sea with 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 Gannets, Fulmars and the occasional Sandwich Tern. The calm seas then rewarded us with sightings of a small group of three Harbour Porpoise and shortly afterwards a further pod of porpoises all travelling northwards in a leisurely fashion.

BND 2 After this we started to see small groups of Sandwich and Arctic Terns passing the ship heading North East migrating to their breeding grounds. Shortly after 8 a.m. a group of four Bottlenose Dolphins appeared that included a juvenile.  On nearing the coast we encountered Common Terns, Common Scoter, Cormorants and Lesser Black-back Gulls and two more harbour porpoise were seen before we headed up the river towards Vlaardingen. Two Common Seal were hauled out on a sandbank near the river mouth and a third was seen in the water.

The challenge to record birds was now in earnest. There were many birds to be seen on this tidal river and we were soon recording Lesser Black-backed gulls in breeding colonies, immature Mute Swans swimming close to the river bank, geese, ducks and waders. A few migrating passerines were also spotted. 

We berthed at Vlaardingen and were given a delicious lunch by the ship's chef.

Our homeward journey began four hours later. Many gulls, terns, grebes and ducks were recorded along the river together with sightings of House Crow.

On entering the North Sea we came upon a couple of fishing boats. One of these vessels was being escorted by a huge flock of around 2000 birds, primarily Lesser Black-backed and Herring gulls. Again shortly afterwards we were able to see Harbour Porpoise, this time three separate sightings of individual animals close to the coast and later a further sighting of three Bottlenose dolphin.

Captain Flandria Seaways The birding highlight of the day was spotted by Graham just after 6.15p.m. A Pomerine Skua making its way North approached the ship looking for food. Graham managed to get a photograph of the bird as it tracked us for a couple of minutes before deciding that we didn't have anything tasty to offer. We continued our journey west with views of Gannets and auks, our final sighting of the survey as dusk approached being a pair of Guillemots displaying on the sea, a wonderful way to end a very rewarding day.

Our thanks go to Captain Fleming Jensen, his Officers and crew for their hospitality and to DFDS Seaways for making this survey possible.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Graham Ekins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife