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

Steve Morgan and Mary Norden, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
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

Seabirds
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