MARINElife Survey Report: Felixstowe to Vlaardingen 19th February 2019

Robin Langdon and Jeff Higgott, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Outbound - Wind South West force 3, sea state 3
Return - Wind South West force 3, sea state 2

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8
Unidentified Seal sp. 2

Seabirds
Auk sp. Alcidae 29
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 187
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 1
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 10
Diver sp. Gaviidae 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gull sp. Laridae 224
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 323
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Larus sp. Larus sp. 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Razorbill Alca torda 37

River and Terrestrial Birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Coot Fulica atra 30
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 56
Duck sp. Anas sp. 120
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 6
Gadwall Anas strepera 196
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4
Greylag Goose Anser anser 108
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 23
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 5
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 5
Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1
White-fronted goose Anser albifrons 2
Wigeon Anas Penelope 298
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 1
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 2


This was Jeff's first trip on a MARINElife survey, though he has had plenty of experience of wildlife spotting over the past 40 years. This was my first of the year but also the first for this week as I have a second one starting Thursday, so hopefully there will be no delay.

Departing Anglia Seaways
Deaprting Anglia Seaways (Jeff Higgott)

This was quite a good survey for the porpoise. We spotted 8 in total which, considering the time of year and the conditions, was a bit of a result. This was more than I had seen on any previous trip to Vlaardingen. The captain had said over the past weeks he had seen quite a number of small dolphins, which we took to mean porpoise. It seems he was correct.

As for the birds the normal array were seen but not in great numbers. There were only a few gannets and black-backed gulls. There were plenty of gadwall, greylags and wigeon in the river. There was also a couple of white-fronted geese seen flying over the river.

We also got to see the digging of a new road tunnel that is being dug under the river. This will replace a ferry that currently transports vehicles across the river. We got quite excited coming back up the river as we saw what could be a seal splashing in the water, until we realised it was right behind the digging so presumably some outflow pipe.

Approaching Vlaardingen - JBH
Approaching Vlaardingen (Jeff Higgott)

As usual we were well looked after on the ship. We were late down for dinner but they still prepared us something when we did arrive in the mess. We would like to thank the captain and his crew for looking after us.

One of the highlights came right at the end of the day. We were picked up from the ship and taken to border control. We pulled up and the driver said to the Border officer "I have a couple of passengers off the Anglia". With much pleasure and surprise on our part he officer replied "Yes I know about the two scientists." Not sure when we got promoted to scientist, but hey who cares.

Sunset JBH
Sunset (Jeff Higgott)

So what did we learn from this survey?

  • Always listen to what the captain has to tell you, they are normally correct
  • Don't get your outflow pipes mixed up with your seals
  • MARINElife volunteers are easily flattered