MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe to Vlaardingen 7th February 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright and Hannah Claydon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outbound - Moderate visibility with mist and light rain, Wind East-southeast force 4-5, sea state 2-3
Return - Moderate visibility with fog, Wind East force 2-4, sea state 2-3

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5

Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 307
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 44
Common Gull Larus canus 66
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 284
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 41
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Guillemot  Uria aalge 3
Diver sp. 1
Larus sp. 285
Gull sp. 5

River and Terrestrial Birds
Greylag Goose Anser anser 5
Duck sp. 106
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 55
Gadwall Anas strepera 360
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 5
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 300
Goose sp. 7
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 1
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 2
Coot Fulica atra 75
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 7
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 4
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 31
Teal Anas crecca 5
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 1
Grebe sp. 1
Great White Egret Casmerodius albus 1

This was to be the first survey of the year on this route. Hannah and I met at Dooley terminal in Felixstowe on Monday evening. Our papers were quickly processed and we were taken to the Anglia Seaways shortly after it docked. We had a brief chat over a cup of tea before retiring to our cabins to sleep before our survey began at dawn on Tuesday.

On waking we had a hearty cooked breakfast before going to the bridge. The morning was cloudy with mist, limiting our visibility to less than 6 kilometres. Within half an hour we saw the first of our four cetacean sightings; a female Harbour Porpoise with a juvenile moving slowly away from the ship. It took two hours (32 miles) to get to the Maas River, and saw a host of birds including Black-throated Diver, Gannet, Common Gull, Herring Gull and Cormorant.

Harbour Porpoise Carol Farmer-Wright 03

Harbour Porpoise (Carol Farmer-Wright)

The survey along the river to Vlaardingen takes an hour and a quarter and in the summer months the river is populated by many Mute Swan, but in early February we did not spot one. Instead, we recorded Mallard, Gadwall and Coot in reasonable numbers with Herring Gull, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull also present. We were also fortunate in seeing a Sparrowhawk and a Great White Egret cross our path, the latter differing from the Little Egret by being larger in size with black legs and feet. A flock of Lapwing were resting on a shingle bank in the river before the ship flushed them into the air. We docked at Vlaardingen and remained on the ship to have a lovely lunch before returning to the bridge for the return survey.

Sparrowhawk_Graham Ekins

Sparrowhawk (Graham Ekins)

The mist had thickened into fog whilst we were docked and we were only able to record the birds on the closer northern bank as the opposite bank was in silhouette. The same birds were to be seen along the river on our return. One of the only noticeable changes was the absence of many of the Cormorants on the breakwater as we returned to the North Sea. Within half an hour of entering the North Sea we recorded our final Harbour Porpoise for the day; a single animal surfaced and rolled quickly within 200 metres of the ship, not to be seen again. As the light failed, we thanked the captain and officers of the bridge and retired to the drivers mess to write up our survey.

Our thanks, as always, goes to DFDS Seaways for enabling us to survey this route and the captain, officers and crew of the Anglia Seaways for making our survey so pleasurable.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Hannah Claydon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife