MARINElife Survey Report, Felixstowe-Vlaardingen, "DFDS Selandia Seaways" 27-28th April 2015

Graham Ekins and Derek Eaton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Monday 27th April pm: wind force 2 NW, cool and dry.
Tuesday 28th April: clearing skies with wind force 2-3 WNW, cool. In the evening the wind decreased to a light NW with clear skies.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise   Phocoena phocoena 5

Red-throated Diver (Loon)   Gavia stellate   3
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 12
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 32
Guillemot   Uria algae 1
Razorbill   Alca torda 1
Fulmar    Fulmarus glacialis 16
Gannet  Morus bassanus 12
Herring Gull    Larus argentatus 171
Lesser Black-backed Gull   Larus fuscus 701
Great Black-backed Gull   Larus marinus 25
Common Gull   Larus canus 10
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Kittiwake   Rissa tridactyla 4
Gull:sp   80
Arctic Skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Sandwich Tern    Sterna sandvicensis 34
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea   24
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 6

Passerines /waders landing on or passing the survey ship
Swallow  Hirundo rustica 1
Bar-tailed Godwit  Limosa lapponica 13

Birds seen on the Nieuwe Waterweg.
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 56
Red-breasted Merganser   Mergus serrator 1
Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus 8
Coot  Fulica atra 48
Mute Swan  Cygnus olor 257
Egyptian Goose  Alopochen aegyptiaca 3
Greylag Goose  Anser anser 4
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 2
Mallard Anas platyrhynchus 20
Gadwall  Anas strepera 236
Tufted Duck  Aythya fuligula 1
Herring Gull    Larus argentatus   154
Lesser Black-backed Gull   Larus fuscus 363
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Common Gull   Larus canus 82
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 43
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea     8
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 26
Dunlin  Calidris alpina 2
Little Ringed Plover   Charadrius dubius 1
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 8
Common Sandpiper  Actitis hypoleucos 1
Jackdaw  Corvus monedula 13
Carrion Crow  Corvus corone 5
Woodpigeon  Columba polumbus 3

We arrived at Felixstowe Dock late evening to find the impressive DFDS Selandia Seaways already docked.  Our passports and tickets were rapidly processed by the very efficient and friendly DFDS booking staff.  We were then driven to the Selandia where the purser showed us to our well-appointed rooms.

Early the following morning, after an excellent breakfast, we were welcomed on to the bridge by Captain Jens Stryn Olsen and his officers.  The viewing conditions were excellent and we started the day by recording the steady passage of northerly migrating Arctic and Sandwich Terns, alongside the occasional Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Great Black-backed Gull.  Close to 08.00 two different Harbour Porpoise were seen close to the bows before diving into the depths.  Once we were within 50kms of the Dutch coast we started to see small flocks of Common Scoter flying north as well as two dark phase Arctic Skua and a flock of 13 Bar-tailed Godwit, several of which were in summer plumage.  We also saw a lone Swallow fly over the bridge before heading rapidly north.  Close to the mouth of the Nieuwe Waterweg we recorded our only Little Gull and a Razorbill; both were in full summer plumage.

Great Crested Grebe (PHOTO: Graham Ekins)

We then entered the impressive and very busy Nieuwe Waterweg which at Vlaardingen joins the confluence of the Oude Maas and Nieuwe Maas Rivers. At this time of year the many hundreds of Mute Swan present from late summer had mostly dispersed. This also applies to Cormorant, the majority of those left on the outer breakwaters were immatures.  As we continued to travel east we recorded many adult Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Common Gull; the majority of these gulls nest either on the industrial buildings or on the large outer earth banks. Along the edges of the waterway were many flocks of Gadwall with lesser numbers of Mallard and Great-crested Grebe, we also saw a few Egyptian and Greylag Geese, the latter with large broods of goslings as well as singles of Tufted Duck and Red-breasted Merganser.


Arctic Tern (PHOTO: Graham Ekins)

On reaching our berth at Vlaardingen Derek and I started to enter data and by the time the ship sailed mid-afternoon all of this was complete.  After an excellent meal we went back on to the bridge as we travelled east towards the mouth of the Nieuwe Waterweg.  In the rough water off shore we recorded three more Harbour Porpoise close to the ship, the choppy water making the location of these small Cetaceans quite difficult to determine.  As we travelled west we had several groups of Lesser Black-backed Gull over take the ship; it was not clear if these were birds migrating across to the UK or searching for fishing boats well offshore. We also came across a beam trawler with several hundred, mainly adult, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull.  We continued to see small flocks of Arctic and Sandwich Tern heading north as well as another Arctic Skua and two red-throated Diver. Offshore numbers of seabirds gradually decreased but we continued to find the occasional Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet as well as the continual westerly movement of Lesser Black-backed Gull.

At dusk we thanked Captain Jens Stryn Olsen and his officers for their hospitality on board the DFDS Selandia Seaways.  We packed away our equipment and went below for another excellent evening meal.  By the time we docked at Felixstowe the last of the data had been entered.

We would like to thank DFDS for their continued support of this important survey route.

Graham Ekins and Derek Eaton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife