Sightings Archives: October 2014

MARINElife Survey Report, Felixstowe-Vlaardingen, "Flandria Seaways" 27-28th October 2014

Posted 11 November 2014

Steve Morgan and Mary Norden, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Wind Force 4 Southerly, sea state mainly 3 to 4. Outbound: overcast with fog. Return: sunny initially but then cloudy.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Common Seal Phoca vitulina  1

Northern Gannet Morus bassanus  9
Great Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo   98
Great Skua Stercorarius skua   1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus   196
Common Gull Larus canus  40
Herring Gull Larus argentatus   450
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus   42
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus   26
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla   5
Common Guillemot Uria aalge   13
Unidentified Auk sp   11
Unidentified Gull sp   462

Terrestrial Birds
Eurasian Starling Sturnus vulgaris  456
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea   1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus   2
Mute Swan Cygnus olor   102
Curlew Numenius arquata   2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralagus   9
Redshank Tringa totanus    1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos  20
Wigeon Anas penelope   124
Gadwall Anas strepera    60
Jackdaw Corvus monedula    58
Black-billed Magpie Pica pica   1

We boarded the Flandria Seaways in good time on the evening of the 27th in Felixstowe and had a good night's rest before making an early start on the 28th. On arriving at the bridge we found overcast conditions with a moderate sea state of around 4. A few birds were showing, including a Great Skua, some Herring Gulls and a few Guillemots.

We were anticipating a flurry of activity in the Maas as we made our upriver to Vlaardingen and, indeed, before long we were recording large numbers of Wigeon, Gadwall and Mute Swan as well as many Black-headed and Common Gulls. Perhaps the most unexpected sighting was the large number of Starlings - we had already seen several well out to sea earlier but, here in the Maas, we found three reasonably large murmurations. As we approached our moorings we also came across a sizeable flock of Jackdaws. Our docking operations in Vlaardingen were a master-class in manoeuvring; thick fog had descended and we watched in fascination as the captain and his officers inched us safely through the murk into our berth.

The return saw much improved weather. The fog had completely cleared and our challenge now was glare from the sun. However, this didn't stop us recording our only marine mammal of the trip - a Common Seal which obligingly rolled in front of us as we progressed back up the Maas River.

Cormorant-Graham Ekins

(Cormorants photo - Graham Ekins)

At the estuary there were huge numbers of gulls. We found about 300 Herring Gulls, around two  thirds of them juveniles, on the beach. A remarkable sight! And, too far away to be positively identified, were large groups of other gulls, many of which were probably Black-headed and Common Gulls. The breakwater was host to over fifty Cormorants as well as various other Gull species.

We were confidently expecting cetaceans in our remaining hour and a half out at sea but, despite a hard search, we couldn't find any. By 4.45 pm it was becoming too gloomy to continue and we reluctantly gave up the chase. Our last bird was a mature Gannet which nonchalantly drifted over our bows before heading to starboard.

Our thanks go to the captain, crew and staff aboard the Flandria Seaways, who once again made our work such a pleasure.

Steve Morgan and Mary Norden, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS vessel ‘Flandria Seaways’ Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 14th October 2014

Posted 23 October 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Joanne Reynolds, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Outbound - cloudy, wind force 7 to 3 southerly, mist clearing. Return - improved visibility, wind south westerly veering west north-west with a force of 4-7.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
None recorded

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 4
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 18
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 769
Great Skua Stecorarius skua 1
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 323
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 512
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 24
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 85
Little Gull Larus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified Auk sp.  3
Unidentified Gull sp.  32
Unidentified Larus (large gull) sp.  887


Terrestrial Birds
Blackbird Turdus merula 2
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 37
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 486
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 19
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 10
Gadwall Anas strepera 43
Coot Fulica atra 6
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 69
Buzzard Buteo buteo 4
Wigeon Anas Penelope 38
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris 1
Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2
Duck sp.  23
Goose sp. 16
Raptor sp.   1
Warbler sp.  2

Surveying for DFDSWe arrived at Felixstowe Docks shortly before the Flandria Seaways was due to arrive. The friendly port staff issued us with our boarding passes and arranged for us to be taken to the ship once it was berthed. We were welcomed onboard by the crew, completed the boarding formalities and headed to our cabins for a good night's sleep.

We awoke just before dawn and were invited to begin our survey on the bridge. A low pressure system was moving through the North Sea and white crests were evident on the water reducing the possibility of spotting small cetaceans.

We began our survey 22 miles west of the Dutch coast. Initially there were few birds with the exception of a female Blackbird that must have travelled with us overnight. The bird count was to increase markedly as we headed into the waterway that connects Rotterdam to the North Sea. The Hook of Holland hosts many large gull species breed in the summer, most of these birds had now left but some Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull still remained. In addition to these birds, several hundred Cormorant were resting on the breakwater that protects Europort from the North Sea. As we journeyed towards Vlaardingen we recorded Mute Swan and Gadwall before arriving at our terminal.

We began the return leg 4 hours later. We started to record Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and the occasional Common Gull. Mute Swan and Gadwall were again in evidence and we had a brief glimpse of 68 Starling crossing the river in a tight murmuring flock. Just before reaching the flood barrier defences of Rotterdam a family of 4 Buzzards lifted from the trees and displayed their hovering ability in the stiff breeze. We then passed Cormorants and Herring Gulls at the Hook of Holland and headed out into the North Sea.

Joanne Surveying (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Little Gull Carol Farmer Wright

Little Gull (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Visibility had improved and we started to record Gannet and Kittiwake. We were delighted to see a couple of Little Gull on their southward migration and record a few Auk species including Razorbill before the autumn sun dipped below the horizon marking an end to the day's survey.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, Captain Luffe, his officers and crew; a special mention must go to the galley crew for feeding us so well and for making this a very enjoyable survey.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Joanne Reynolds, Research Surveyors for MARINElife