MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe to Vlaardingen 'Suecia Seaways' 7th August 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Outward - misty, moderate visibility: south-easterly wind force 4-1 SE to S with frequent glare.
Return - misty, visibility moderate to good with glare at times: south-westerly wind force 3-5 ESE to SSW.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 14

Seabirds
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 214
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 2
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 265
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 24
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 89
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gull sp. Laridae 35
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 876
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 10
Larus sp. Larus sp. 1730
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 413
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 23
Tern sp. Sternidae 14

River Birds
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 9
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 3
Duck sp. 5
Goose sp. Anatidae 8
Grey Heron Ardea cinereal 1
Greylag Goose Anser anser 58
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 59
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 922
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 53
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Columba livia 5
Wader sp. 10

The long spell of hot and dry weather was still continuing as I drove down Monday evening to Felixstowe to join the Suecia Seaways for this month's survey. The ship had already docked when I arrived and the team at Dooley Terminal issued me with my boarding ticket and arranged for the security van to take me through to the quayside. Once on board, I went to my cabin to get some rest before beginning the survey at dawn the following morning.

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 03

Harbour Porpoise (Rick Morris)

I awoke to flat, calm seas and misty conditions, as there was hardly any wind to move the air. Bird sightings were slow with only a couple of Gannet, Black-backed Gull and one sighting of a Great Skua being recorded in the first hour. During that time, I also recorded my first Harbour Porpoise of the day swimming slowly away from the ship. Two further sightings of Harbour Porpoise were recorded whilst we were approaching the Dutch coast, the latter being of a mother and juvenile.


Bird numbers increased as we reached the entrance of the Maas River and the sun made these birds more difficult to identify as the majority were being seen in silhouette so no wing colours could be discerned. The large number of Larus sp. recorded consisted of Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull of various ages grouped in large numbers on the water or resting on the river bank.

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 01

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Graham Ekins)

In July, Robin Langdon and I surveyed the river and commented on how few birds were seen. Captain Neilsen advised me that 10 days before our July survey there had been a large oil spill at Rotterdam Port and hundreds of Swans, Geese, Cormorant and Gulls had been affected and collected for treatment. The number of birds counted in August was definitely higher than July, a tribute to the hard work of conservation organisations in the area.

We docked at Vlaardingen and spent a few hours basking in the summer sun. By the time of departure, the sun was less harsh and more birds could be positively identified. The tide had dropped a little and Mute Swan were spending more time feeding than on our inward passage. A few Sandwich and Common Tern were seen close to shore on fishing expeditions. After travelling 14 miles from the shore the number of birds dwindled to a handful of Gannet, Herring Gull, Black-backed Gull and solitary Fulmar, Guillemot and Kittiwake. However, this lull in bird species was accompanied by six separate sightings of Harbour Porpoise spread over a two-hour period, again including a sighting of a female with a juvenile.

As we neared the English Coast, weather closed in and the subsequent reduced visibility resulted in me ending the survey and returning to my cabin to prepare for disembarkation.

My thanks go to Captain Ole Neilsen, his officers and crew for looking after me so well and to DFDS Seaways for enabling this survey to go ahead.

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife