MARINElife Survey Report, Felixstowe to Vlaardingen “DFDS Seaways Britannia Seaways” 4th-5th April 2016

Karrie Langdon and Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Outward - mostly overcast, reasonable visibility: westerly wind force 3.
Return - brighter, reasonable visibility with glare at times: westerly wind force 5.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 6

Gannet  Morus bassanus 22
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 156
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 22
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 1
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 31
Guillemot  Uria aalge 39
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 3
Sooty Shearwater  Puffinus griseus 1
Storm Petrel  Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Gull sp 12
Tern sp 2
Goose sp. 15

River Birds
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 188
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 464
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 404
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 11
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 3
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 1
Mute Swan  Cygnus olor 128
Gadwall  Anas strepera 197
Great Crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus 5
Mallard  Anus platyrhynchos 2
Coot  Fulica atra 18
Gull sp. 1
Duck sp. 96
Goose sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds
Barn Swallow  Hirundo rustica 1
Carrion Crow  Corvus corone 9
Egyptian Goose  Alopochen aegyptiaca 1
Starling  Sturnus vulgaris 3
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus 2

We were given a warm welcome when we boarded the Britannia Seaways. The very helpful crew showed us to our cabins so we could get a good night sleep before starting our survey early the next morning.

The overnight crossing eastbound was very smooth and we woke up to a morning of near ideal sea conditions with a sea state of 2 and no swell. We started our formal observations at 6.00am BST from the bridge as the light conditions were good except for a persistent light haze in the distance.  This did not interfere with the action close to the ferry though, with 6 sightings of Harbour Porpoise in the first 2 hours of the survey.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 01

Harbour porpoise (PHOTO: Rick Morris)

The trip was punctuated with a steady stream of seabirds passing the ferry including Kittiwake, Gannet and Guillemot. We also had a few surprises including a couple of Starlings and a Wood Pigeon. Alas we never managed to identify the 'little flitty bird' that kept appearing on the boat; it only stayed still long enough to get the camera to your eye before he would flitter off again.

The river section of the survey was excellent for spotting a wide variety of birds including Sandwich Tern, Oyster Catcher and an Egyptian Goose.  The Mute Swan and Cormorant tested our counting and observations skills with swans disguising themselves as plastic bags - but we were not fooled.

On the westbound trip the sea conditions were not as good and made cetacean watching a little frustrating. However, we did watch a fascinating game of cat and mouse as a Great Skua used the boat as a shield to sneak up on three Gannet full of fish from a feeding trip. He pounced, mobbing a Gannet for its dinner. We watched the tussle until I realised I should take a picture for the report... but it was too late and they melted away into the distance.


iridescence (PHOTO: Karrie Cloud Langdon)

To end a great survey we were treated to an uncommon phenomenon, cloud iridescence which rounded off a satisfying day.

We would like to thank Captain Kim Carlsson and his crew for their kind hospitality and help on this survey.

Karrie Langdon and Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife