MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Lines ‘Flandria Seaways’ Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 29th April 2014

Bob Graves and Mary Colledge, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Conditions
Sea state 1-3, wind, light, WSW to NW and variable visibility starting generally good, but with reduced visibility on approach to Dutch coast and fog for an hour or so on the return journey. The best visibility was for the last hour before dusk on westerly crossing.

Species Recorded
Cetaceans and mammals

Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 13
White Beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 1

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 19
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 97
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 55
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 91
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 47
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 550
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 861
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 43
Unidentified Gull sp. 1

Land birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 14
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos 1
Coot Fulica atra 2
Gadwall Anas strepera 110
Greylag Goose Anser anser 173
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 43
Magpie Pica pica 1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 3
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 597
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 1

Mary Colledge and I recently completed a very successful survey aboard the DFDS vessel Flandria Seaways.

We were welcomed on board by the captain and his ever-helpful, ever-friendly, multi-national crew for a relaxed but long and tiring day on the bridge. After a 05.30 start, for the first hour events were somewhat uninspiring from a wildlife perspective with only 13 birds sighted; of which 10 were Lesser Black-backed Gulls. However, the action gradually increased with our first Harbour Porpoise sighting just after 7am which lifted spirits significantly and 2 further Harbour Porpoise encounters followed on the outward crossing. Avian highlights included 85 Common Scoter in 4 flocks on their northward migration, 8 Sandwich Tern (observed in ones and twos having recently arrived from the south) and an unexpected mid-crossing Redshank.

Imm Gannet-RobertGraves.jpgThe Flandria Seaways left exactly on time for the return journey. The river provided surprising numbers of Mute Swan in scattered large groups, given the time of year we expected them to be in their breeding habitat. Other well represented water birds were Gadwall and Greylag Geese. Common and Sandwich Tern were feeding amongst the gulls and a single Common Sandpiper flew along the shoreline.

The return journey proved to be even more eventful for cetaceans with 10 separate Harbour Porpoise encounters involving 13 animals plus a single White-beaked Dolphin; ample reward for the long hours of observation. On the way back 2 Great Skua as well as 2 Red-throated Diver were noted amongst the many birds observed.

We were fortunate enough to have calm conditions throughout. Bad lights stopped play at 20.30 BST bringing a most enjoyable and successful survey to a close. Very special thanks to DFDS Seaways and their crew for this fantastic opportunity.

Bob Graves and Mary Colledge, Research Surveyors for MARINElife