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