Sightings Archives: October 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Lines ‘Flandria Seaways’ Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 28th - 29th October 2013

Posted 06 November 2013

Graham Ekins and Phil Wallace, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather
Eastbound: Force 6-8, WSW-SW variable cloud with occasional, distant heavy rain squalls; Westbound: Force 5-7 SW-WNW, with intermittent heavy rain squalls.

Species Recorded
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Common Scoter   Melanitta nigra 1
Red-throated Diver  Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 124
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 248
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Arctic skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 674
Common Gull   Larus canus 98
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 894                                                                          
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 23
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 682
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 47
Razorbill Alca torda 16
Guillemot   Uria aalge 3
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3

Land birds seen offshore
Bar-tailed Godwit   Limosa lapponica 10

Land birds
Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4
Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea 2
Hen Harrier  Circus cyaneus 1
Sparrowhawk  Accipiter nisus 2
Mute Swan  Cygnus olor 101
Egyptian Goose  Alopochen aegyptiaca 2
Greylag Goose  Anser anser 48
Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 27
Gadwall  Anas strepera 238
Wigeon  Anas penelope 549
Teal  Anas crecca 12
Coot  Fulica atra 2
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 35
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 135
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 11
Curlew  Numenius arquata 5
Purple Sandpiper  Calidris maritima 3
Rook  Corvus frugilegus 15
Carrion Crow  Corvus corone 5
Jackdaw  Corvus monedula 45
Magpie  Pica pica 11
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1
Starling  Sturnus vulgaris 120

Common GullOn arrival at the DFDS Felixstowe Terminal we were issued with our boarding documents by the helpful and friendly booking staff.  We were then driven to the newly painted and very smart looking Flandria Seaways.  The bursar took us to our comfortable cabins where we quickly settled down to a few hours of sleep unaffected by the strong winds blowing around this very stable ship.  At 05.45 we had a hot drink and then went to the bridge where we were welcomed by Captain Jens Olsen and his officers.  As we started the survey the wind was a force 7 to 8 with distant rain showers.  We recorded a constant stream of primarily adult Gannets and Kittiwakes heading south. We then came across a juvenile Pomarine Skua that briefly pursued a hapless Kittiwake before continuing its migration.  Over the next hour we also started to record small groups of Razorbills, several adult Little Gulls and a juvenile Arctic Skua - all apparently unaffected by the strong head winds. A few kilometres off the Dutch coast Phil picked up a flock of migrating Bar-tailed Godwit that passed the ship close to the wave tops. We also found the first of 3 juvenile Great Skuas.  As we approached the Dutch coast we identified a high flying Red-throated Diver closely followed by a Guillemot and 10 Razorbills.

Common Gull (Graham Ekins)

The very rough waters off the Dutch coast provided us with our first sighting of a Harbour Porpoise and before we docked we found 2 more.  We were delighted to get these records as it can be difficult to see small Cetaceans in rough seas.

Purple SandpiperBy the time we reached the entrance to the huge Vlaardingen Canal the wind had eased and the sun was starting to break through the clouds.  As we travelled to our berth we were kept busy recording the large numbers of gulls, ducks and waders roosting on the banks and breakwaters.

After an excellent lunch we collated the sightings and then had a rest before the start of the west bound journey.  We also found time to photograph the many Common Gulls of various ages that were active around the moored Flandria Seaways.

Purple Sandpiper (Photo: Graham Ekins)

As we passed east along the canal we had 2 flocks of Greylag Geese flying south in formation, it was likely that these were migrants from Scandinavia en-route to wintering grounds on the Dutch Polders.  On the long entrance breakwater we found several Turnstones feeding on the barnacle encrusted blocks, with them were 3 Purple Sandpipers, an unexpected find on North Sea Sunsetthis interesting survey. We were also surprised by the large numbers of adult Great Black-backed Gulls roosting together near the entrance with over 600 of this age group recorded.  Interestingly the majority of the immatures were seen offshore. As we continued west into the strengthening wind and frequent rain squalls we found several more Little Gulls, Kittiwakes and Gannets.  The highlight was seeing 3 Puffins close to the starboard side of the ship closely followed by a Balearic Shearwater, an endangered seabird that only breeds on islands in the Mediterranean.

We took the last GPS reading at 17.00 as the light was fading.  We then thanked Captain Jens Olsen and his staff for their excellent hospitality. After leaving the bridge we had a hot drink in the canteen and then enjoyed another excellent meal.  Before we docked at 22.30 we totalled the sightings which were 3 Cetaceans, 2828 seabirds and 1,375 land birds.

North Sea Sunset (Graham Ekins)

We would like to thank DFDS for providing continued support for this survey.

Graham Ekins and Phil Wallace, Research Surveyors for MARINElife