MARINELife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Selandia Seaways’ Felixstowe to Vlaardingen survey 6th August 2019

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jamie Smith, Research Surveyors for MARINELife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Outbound: Survey started cloudy with small amount of glare but gradually increased with good visibility. Sea state 3-4 dropping to 2 just off the Dutch coast. Force 4-5 winds, SW moving to the W.

Inbound: Strong glare with clouds bubbling up towards the end of the journey with good visibility. Sea state starting at 2, up to 6 by mid-point and dropping to 4 as we approached the Suffolk coast. Force 4 winds rising to 8 during journey, SW-SSW.

Marine Animals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Unidentified Seal sp. 1

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 171
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 38
Common Gull Larus canus 37Common Tern Sterna hirundo 72
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 777
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 24
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 116
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Gull sp. Laridae 327
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 258
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Larus sp. Larus sp. 912
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 367
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 14
Tern sp. Sternidae 6

River Birds
Coot Fulica atra 15
Duck sp. 126
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 7
Gadwall Anas strepera 7
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Greylag Goose Anser anser 10
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 71
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 1731
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 32

Terrestrial Birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 84
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 8
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Magpie Pica pica 2
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Columba livia 60


We boarded the ship late on Monday ready for Tuesday's survey, with 4:45 am alarms set we headed into our cabins for some sleep. The next morning, slightly bleary eyed we got up to the bridge ready for the outward section of our survey. Weather conditions were good with no glare, though after a few hours the sun burned through the clouds and glare became an issue for the rest of the survey. Gannets and Lesser Black-backed gulls was certainly the order of the day for the first few hours of the survey. Something that became apparent was the potential for Gannet Bingo!! With different age codes of Gannets being recorded, we wondered whether we could record a full house (a bird of every age).

View over the Ship Jamie Smith
View over the ship (Jamie Smith, 2019)

As we approached the Dutch coast bird numbers increased with regular sightings of Common and Sandwich Terns flying back and forth from their breeding area, along the sightings of Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Cormorant. Two Great Crested Grebe provided a slight moment of head scratching as they flew off and behind us to avoid the ship. As we approached the river section of the survey we took to our positions on opposite sides of the bridge. Here we picked up the usual suspects; more Lesser Black-backed gulls, Great Black-backed, Herring Gull, notably good numbers of Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Cormorant and Mute Swan. Whilst travelling along the river we were able to view the latest project on the Maas, a new tunnel being built to ease traffic under the river. We then docked and headed down to the canteen for a much needed and delicious lunch, quickly followed by a few hours rest and a chance to catch up on some kip.

After our much needed rest and a quick trip down to see border control we took our positions once again ready for the inbound trip. Once more the river section provided the usual species with the addition of a Kestrel who provided a nice flyby of the bridge just as we were exiting the river. Carol managed to spot a seal, but such was the fleeting nature of the sighting not even the hugely experienced Carol could identify which species of seal it was.

Works on tunnel
Works on the new tunnel
(Carol Farmer-Wright, 2019)

As we exited the river section we then came to the busiest part of the survey yet. We witnessed a large group of Larus sp., Common Terns and Sandwich Terns, many of the Terns being seen with beaks full of fish as they headed back to their nests. This was quickly followed by the sighting of two Harbour Porpoise and a few minutes after that another sighting of an individual Harbour Porpoise. The latter providing a lovely view as it evaded the ship just under the surface of the water.

Sunset at sea Jamies Smith
Sunset at sea (Jamie Smith, 2019)

And then…GANNET BINGO!!! Finally after recording the many different age codes we got the last age of six, a three year old (I3), which gave us a lovely view of it as it came up close to the bridge. With the glare still an issue, the wind began to pick up at the midpoint, quickly changing the sea state as it rose to a six. During this period the first and only sightings of Great Skua and Fulmar were recorded, as they elegantly flew by the bridge a matter of minutes apart. The sightings then began to slow down and clouds gathered and gave our eyes a rest from the glare. As we passed the wind farms the Suffolk coast came into sight just as the sun was setting. After a period of fifty mins without a bird sighting we decided to call it a day and head down for a well-earned cuppa! We docked and made a swift exit from the ship and then the port.

We would like to thank the captain, officers and crew for their hospitality and support during our survey.