MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways vessel ‘Flandria Seaways’ Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 25th March 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Susannah Fleiss, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Conditions
Outward journey was sunny with good visibility but frequent glare: south-easterly wind force 5.
Return journey was cloudier, again with good visibility but glare at times: north-easterly wind force 4-5.


Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals
Unidentified Seal sp.  1

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 12
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 143
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 71
Common Gull Larus canus 46
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 194
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 72
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 20
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 298
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 115
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified Auk sp. 4
Unidentified Gull sp. 3
Unidentified Larus sp. 1007
Unidentified Loon sp. 1
Unidentified Tern sp. 1

River Birds
Common Coot Fulica atra 21
Gadwall Anas strepera 606
Goosander Mergus merganser 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 8
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 8
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 212
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 4
Pochard Aythya farina 8
Eurasian Wigeon Anas Penelope 21
Unidentified Duck sp. 214

Terrestrial Birds
Buzzard Buteo buteo 2
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 5
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 13
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 5
Unidentified Goose sp. 4

Kittiwake Rob-Petley-Jones 02Surveys completed at this time of year are always exciting as bird migration has started and affords the opportunity to see both late overwintering birds and early migrants on passage to their summer breeding grounds. With this in mind we completed boarding procedures and joined the Flandria Seaways late on Monday evening and settled down to sleep in the comfortable cabins provided for us.

We awoke just before dawn and joined the bridge crew to begin our observations by which time we were half way across the North Sea. The sky was clear and bright, a light mist could be seen on the horizon. Most of the birds we observed on the eastbound crossing were in silhouette against the welcome spring sunshine. Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull were in evidence together with Gannet and the occasional auk or Common Gull. Two hours into the survey we encountered two groups of Little Gull flying in a north easterly direction towards the Dutch coast.


Bottling Grey Seal (R.Morris)The last hour of the eastbound survey is conducted along the river connecting Rotterdam to the North Sea, many birds can be seen along this stretch of industrial hinterland during the year.  During our eastbound journey we observed many ducks, the majority in silhouette together with Mute Swan. We docked at Vlaardingen and returned to the driver's canteen to have a delicious lunch.

As we started our return journey the sun was partially obscured by high cloud. Most of the ducks observed on our eastbound leg could now be identified as Gadwall with the occasional Mallard, Pochard and Wigeon in evidence. Forty minutes after entering the North Sea we encountered a further flock of 250 Little Gull travelling northward. Ten minutes later we spotted a solitary Arctic Skua harassing a Kittiwake in the hope of a meal. A further group of Kittiwake were seen before the setting sun drew our survey to a close. Sadly we were unable to observe any cetaceans on this survey but were afforded a brief glimpse of a seal as we entered the North Sea on our return leg.

Seal (Rick Morris)

We would like to thank DFDS Seaways for enabling us to survey this route. Our personal thanks go to Captain Olsen, his officers and crew for making us so welcome on board the Flandria Seaways whilst we were surveying.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Susannah Fleiss, Research Surveyors for MARINElife