MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways vessel ‘Anglia Seaways’ Felixstowe-Vlaardingen 29 September 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jo Collins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Outbound: wind E,  sea state 3-1, sunny.
Return: wind ENE, sea state 1-4, sunny.

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 3

Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 9
Sooty Shearwater  Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 20
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 687
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 151
Common Gull  Larus canus 31
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 357
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 21
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 42
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 4
Larus sp.  337
Gull sp.  3

Terrestrial birds
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 461
Wigeon Anas penelope 3
Gadwall Anas strepera 5
Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 46
Duck sp.  71
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Coot Fulica atra 20
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 44
Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 400
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 19
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 4
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus  3
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2

We arrived at Felixstowe on Monday evening and we were taken to the dockside to board the Anglia Seaways after our tickets were quickly processed by the DFDS office staff. We quickly settled into our cabins to get some sleep before the survey the following day.

We awoke to clear skies and proceeded to the bridge to begin our survey. With the breeding season over the initial sightings were sporadic and it was almost an hour before we recorded our first birds; a small group of Common Scoter. This was quickly followed by our only sighting of cetaceans for the day. Three Harbour Porpoise were recorded rushing away from the ship, their bodies moving low in the water with little of their dorsal fins showing above the surface of the waves.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 03
Sooty Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

With the Dutch coast in sight we started to see more birds, some were difficult to identify fully as the bright autumn sunshine left many in silhouette. As we entered the Niewe Waterweg Cormorant and Herring Gull together with Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull were seen resting on the shingle banks near the river mouth. Nearer Vlaardingen Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot and Gadwall hugged the river bank in small groups. On reaching Vlaardingen we retired to the drivers mess to start compiling our sightings.

The return leg of our survey began four hours later. The river birds were still present and were joined by a small group of Oystercatcher on the lower section of the Maeslantkering, the automatic storm surge sea defence barrier for Rotterdam.

Back in the North Sea the Gulls were replaced by Gannet of all ages, a small group were seen to search together unsuccessfully for food. Four hours later, the setting sun called a halt to our survey. The last sighting was a solitary Sooty Shearwater gliding in a southerly direction.

Our thanks go to captain Orphy Kekus, the officers and crew of the Anglia Seaways for making our survey so enjoyable.