MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Anglia Seaways’ Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 14th May 2019

Stephen Hedley, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Outward - clear and sunny, good visibility: easterly wind force 4-5.  Return - clear and sunny, good visibility with glare at times: north-easterly wind force 4.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 8
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 14
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 66
Eider Somateria mollissima 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 15
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 327
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 9
Gull sp. Laridae 167
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 324
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 440
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 41
Tern sp. 2
Wader sp. 1

River Birds
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 36
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1029
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3
Greylag Goose Anser anser 166
Gadwall Anas strepera 35
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 3
Coot Fulica atra 10
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 5

Terrestrial Birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6
Stock Dove Streptopelia turtur 1
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 1
Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 1
Rook Corvus frugilegus 1

After a comfortable night I woke early and was taken to the bridge just prior to dawn. I could see that the sea was reasonably calm, as forecast, and the visibility was pretty good; just behind us I could see an offshore windfarm in the distance.

The first bird spotted when I arrived on the bridge was a Kittiwake, although this was before starting the survey. Little did I know that it would be another 20 minutes before the first bird of the survey was seen, a lone Fulmar skirting over the waves. Further sightings were rare, as though all were having a lie in, with the only sightings an occasional Gannet. As we were heading east there was glare from the rising sun in front of us. When we approached land with the Europort in sight Sandwich Tern were seen plus a Great Black Backed Gull. Bird sightings were further boosted by eighteen Common Scoter flying across the bow.

Dawn - Stephen Hedley
Dawn heading to Vlaardingen (Stephen Hedley, 2019)

We arrived at the entrance to the waterway just before 09.00 hours and observed the first of many Mute Swan and Cormorant close to the sea wall. As we passed along the waterway towards Vlaardingen bird numbers increased almost exponentially, making it hard to count numbers and note details. Other species observed included Great Blacked Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Common Tern, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Eider, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Stock Dove plus a lone male Pheasant on the river bank.

The return journey started around four hours later and we retraced our journey back along the waterway to the sea, observing similar species to those listed earlier, plus Arctic Tern and Rook. In all more than a thousand Mute Swan were estimated to have been seen. It is therefore good to note that the clean-up efforts after last year's oil spill were successful (

The sun was in front for the return and so there was some glare ahead. At sea we encountered Gannet, Gull species, Sandwich Tern, Fulmar and Kittiwake. Almost half an hour after leaving the waterway the first Harbour Porpoise was seen. An unidentified wader species was also briefly glimpsed shortly afterwards. There were then three further separate Harbour Porpoise sightings in the next hour and a quarter. Two fishing vessels were also spotted on the return; both were accompanied by numerous gulls, including Herring and Lesser Black Backed.

The survey ended as we approached Felixstowe, having watched the sun dip down over the Suffolk coast. I would like to thank DFDS, Captain Kekus and the crew for an enjoyable trip and supporting MarineLife surveys.