MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways vessel 'Anglia Seaways' Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 2nd April 2019

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jamie Smith, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outbound: Cloudy with good visibility and occasional glare. Sea state 3, Force 4-5 with the wind starting S moving to SSE.
Inbound: Once again cloudy with moderate visibility and intermittent rain. Sea state 3, Wind force 3 rising to 7 and down to 5 during the survey, SW moving to W.

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Unidentified Seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Auk sp. Alcidae 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 54
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 1
Common Gull Larus canus 50
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 18
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 247
Eider Somateria mollissima 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 49
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 2
Gull sp. Laridae 50
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 475
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 17
Larus sp. Larus sp. 297
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 289
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 129
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 19
Tern sp. Sternidae 8

River Birds
Coot Fulica atra 32
Duck sp. Duck 1
Gadwall Anas strepera 425
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 19
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 55
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 14
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 6
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1
Teal Anas crecca 12
Wigeon Anas penelope 19

Terrestrial Birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 1
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis 1
Goose sp. Anatidae 10
Greylag Goose Anser anser 20
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 6
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 2

 

Just before the sun rose, we headed up to the bridge to take our places for what we hoped to be a good day's surveying. Within two minutes we had our first sightings… Unfortunately, this was flotsam in the form of a plastic bucket and plastic carrier bag. Things could only get better! Very shortly after that, they did, with numerous Kittiwake sightings and our first Harbour Porpoise of the day, Carol expertly picking it out with what could only be described as a fleeting glimpse. A steady flow of birds then followed with Kittiwake, Gannet, Common Scoter and regular Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-back Gull appearances.

There was a surprising number of Little Gulls seen migrating, their migratory season being April-May; a pleasure to watch and a definite highlight for our trip. Sandwich Tern were also a regular sighting. Not long before we entered the river, Common Scoter sightings became much more numerous, as did the Cormorants. A single Goldfinch flitted around the boat before heading away, an unexpected visit but nevertheless a nice sighting.

As we entered the river we began to ready ourselves for the inevitable gathering of Mute Swan, but this never came and we recorded very few for the whole trip. Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Common Gull seen in abundance with the occasional Black-backed Gull. Other highlights of the river section included two Whimbrel (the unmistakable sight of the male Eider with a female), numerous Great-crested Grebe and large numbers of Gadwall, with occasional flocks of Wigeon.

As we docked, we retired to the canteen area, where we were treated to a glorious lunch topped off with some delicious homemade ice cream! After a few hours' rest, we were back at the bridge and ready for the return leg of our journey.

The river section didn't produce any additional species to what we had recorded just a few hours before, although seemingly more Common Gull and Eider present than the outward section. As we left the river section the weather turned showery with the wind beginning to pick up.

The Open Sea - JS
The Opean Sea (Jamie Smith)

Within an hour of leaving the river we were treated to fantastic views of two Harbour Porpoise as they effortlessly evaded the ship's path and upping the count to three Harbour Porpoise for the trip. Shortly after, a common seal was seen swimming roughly 500m from the ship, with another one sighted soon afterwards. Again, much like the outward journey, we began to record good numbers of Little Gull, with a flock of 50+ coming past the boat at one point. A few highlights from then on included a single Black-throated Diver, a few Fulmar, more Kittiwake and a cracking view of a Great Skua as it flew in front of the boat with purpose. Possibly the most bizarre sighting of our trip was the unmistakable sight of a Grey Heron flying to our right side and past the boat. Certainly something we had never expected to see roughly 34nm off the Suffolk coast! As the sun began to set, the bird sightings slowed and we packed up and took ourselves down to have a well earned cuppa and more tasty food. Just a few hours later we disembarked the ship and, thanks to the minibus driver, were able to make a swift exit.

We would like to thank Captain Kekus, the officers and crew of Anglia Seaways for their willingness to help and making us feel welcome and comfortable at all times.