Sightings Archives: October 2015

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Anglia Seaways Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 27th October 2015

Posted 30 November 2015

Andy Gilbert and Jennifer Shearing, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Good visibility, but often overcast.  Sea state 1-3 throughout survey.  Wind North-East.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Gannet  Morus bassanus 10
Lesser Black- backed Gull  Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 20
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 96
Common Gull  Larus Canus 16
Black Headed Gull  Larus ridibundus 26
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 187
Little Gull  Larus minutus 1
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 314
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 6
Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus 3

River Birds
Mute Swan  Cygnus olor 245
Wigeon  Anas Penelope 197
Teal  Anas crecca 53
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 31
Moorhen  Gallinula chloropus 2
Coot  Fulica atra 1
Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 5
Gadwall  Anas strepera 9
Little Grebe  Tachybaptus ruficollis 1
Goose sp.  50

Terrestrial Birds
Fieldfare  Turdus pilaris 25
Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea 1
Starling  Sturnus vulgaris 63
Marsh Harrier  Circus aeruginosus 1

After meeting up at Felixstowe Port and checking in at the DFDS office we were transported to our ship and boarded a little after midnight.  The crew made us very welcome and we were soon settled into our comfortable cabins for the night, whilst the ship loaded and prepared for sailing.  During the night I was woken in the middle of the North Sea by the sound of geese migrating overhead.  Despite an almost full moon I was unable to see the birds from my cabin window but concluded that the numbers must have been large to be able to hear them from inside the ship and above the noise of the engines.

LesserBlackBacked6-GrahamEkinsLesser Black-backed Gull (Graham Ekins)

We rose at first light and after coffee made our way to the bridge to introduce ourselves to the watch officer and start surveying.  We were pleased to find relatively good visibility, if a little overcast, and a sea state 3.  Our first sightings weren't seabirds but a couple of flocks of migrating Fieldfare that passed directly ahead.  These were swiftly followed by 3 Lesser-Black Backed Gull and 6 Common Scoter.

Kittiwake, Great Black-Backed Gull and an occasional Gannet made up the bulk of the seabirds across much of the North Sea.  At around 8 am we picked up a single Grey Heron moving west.  As we approached the Dutch Coast we started to find Starling heading out and also a Great Crested Grebe.  The magnificent sight of a Marsh Harrier heading out to sea in a south-westerly direction was our final sighting of note before we reached the mouth of the Niewe Waterweg.

Hundreds of Cormorant were resting on the sea defences as we entered the river and we proceeded to count Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Teal and Mute Swan in large numbers as we cruised up the river.

Cormorants3-Graham EkinsCormorants (Graham Ekins)

After a great lunch on board and a quick turnaround at Vlaardingen we were back up on deck as we headed back down the river.  We counted similar river birds and a number of Common and Black-Headed Gull.  In the distance across the lowlands we spotted a group of 40 geese heading towards us, sadly they turned away whilst still too far off to attempt to identify.  As we moved from the mouth of the river to the open sea in a sea state 1 we were very pleased to pick up the only marine mammal sighting of the trip which was a Harbour Porpoise showing well as it passed down the side of the ship.  Soon after a single Little Gull was spotted but the last couple of hours of daylight were relatively uneventful sightings wise.  We signed off in the fading light with a lonely migrating Starling walking around the railings in front of the bridge windows.  The final few hours we spent in the lounge looking at the data and recalling travel and wildlife experiences until we docked at around 10.30 and we made our way back to our vehicles.

Many thanks to DFDS and the captain and crew of Anglia Seaways for supporting our surveys and making us welcome on board.

Andy Gilbert and Jennifer Shearing, Research Surveyors for MARINElife