Hull-Zeebrugge

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of Bruges) Hull to Zeebrugge (15 – 17 July 2017)

Posted 18 July 2017

Stephen Dunstan and Bryony Dunstan; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Good visibility throughout, winds variable force 3-5

Marine Mammals
Unidentified whale 1 (casual sighting)
Unidientified dolphin or porpoise 2 (casual sighting)

Seabirds
Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 42
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 30
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 53
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 92
Common Gull Larus canus 14
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 12
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 130
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 18
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Auk sp. 3

What turned out to be an exceptionally eventful survey for this route started innocuously enough on a pleasant Saturday afternoon in Hull.  We enjoyed a nice meal in the restaurant before being transferred to the bridge as the ship left the lock. Over the next couple of hours, we saw mostly gulls in the Humber, then a handful of seabirds including Gannet and a Fulmar before the light faded.

The following morning Stephen was on watch alone as Bryony was a bit seasick. The watch was again fairly uneventful until both crew on deck saw what they were convinced was the tail of a whale, with either two animals involved or the same animal showing its fluke twice.  Unfortunately, it was not seen by Stephen and whilst his assumption is that it was a Humpback (or two) this cannot be proved).

Stephen was still smarting a little about this when a large seabird headed past at the range of the edge of the recording box.  Expecting to see a Gannet he was gobsmacked to be looking at a Black-browed Albatross, presumably the bird summering at Sylt in Germany.  Grabbing his camera, he succeeded in getting some record shots.  As the boat was nearing Zeebrugge we were in Belgian waters, and it transpires this is likely to be the first accepted record of the species for the country!

Black-browed Albatross 5

Black-browed Albatross (© Stephen Dunstan)

After docking in the port, we headed into Bruges on the coach shuttle, enjoying a trip the Dali Museum and a city bus tour whilst SD also began to get news of our remarkable seabird sighting out on the internet.

Returning to the boat we surveyed until dusk.  Once the initial flurry of gulls and terns had subsided we saw a few Gannet and a single Common Scoter.

Common Scoter Adrian Shephard 03

Common Scoter (Adrian Shephard)

Early morning on Monday saw a repeat of the whale incident, with the crew spotting two fins but the animals were unfortunately not seen by the survey team.  We did however see several Kittiwake, and a flock of eight Common Scoter as we neared Spurn Point.
The crew of the Pride of Bruges and the dockside staff at both ends were excellent and we would like to thank them for their contribution to what in different ways was a very memorable survey of the route, both greatly frustrating and massively satisfying at the same time!

MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of York) Hull to Zeebrugge (24 – 26 June 2017)

Posted 07 July 2017

Angela Needham and Kelly Chaplin; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Weather: Outward - good visibility, wind force 5. Return - fog and mist initially, with good visibility later in the journey.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1 (Casual sighting)

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 72
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 47
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 9
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Auk sp. 4
Gull sp. 19

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 14
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 70

After a swift boarding, we were welcomed up to the bridge by Captain Kevin Alcock and crew shortly after the ferry departed the port and we commenced the survey. As we proceeded slowly through the lock and out into the Humber we were accompanied by a large mixed flock of terns and gulls. There were several other ships passing on the Humber and we admired the skill of Captain Alcock as they patiently waited and navigated this lock.

As we left the port we saw lots of gulls, mainly Herring, nesting on the roof of a building at the port, most now with young. Gulls were certainly the theme of the day with the majority of sightings being of Herring and Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull as we sailed down the Humber.

By 22:00 the light had disappeared, so we departed from the bridge and sat in the comfortable foyer area to upload the data from the first leg of the survey before resting.

LBB Gull Peter Howlett 07

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

The following morning we headed to the bridge at 04:30 to continue the survey, as the light improved. Recording continued where it left off the previous evening with a number of gulls and Gannet. We docked in Zeebrugge around 09:30 and left the ship to head for the bus to take us into Bruges for the day.

The weather was cloudy to begin with but brightened up during the day, the sunshine made Bruges look even lovelier! Angela was able to watch a family of Great Crested Grebe on the river for some time. It was amusing to see them deciding whether to ride on mothers back or explore in the water. Later the other parent arrived with food so we could also watch the food pass. We headed back to the bus at 17:30 to take us back to the ferry.

We were boarded onto the ship swiftly and continued with some data entry from the morning's survey. Shortly afterwards, we were once again warmly welcomed onto the bridge to continue surveying. As we left harbour three Black Tern appeared from around the corner of the port - what a great start. Then, soon after leaving the port, the bridge officer spotted a Harbour Porpoise on the port side of the ferry, which was well spotted as it appeared too briefly for either of us to move across and observe it.

The rest of the evening's survey was quiet. The sun was very attractively sparkling through the cloudy and slightly misty skies. Lovely to look at but not so good for wild life spotting! We called the survey to a close at 21:15.

Arctic Tern Peter Howlett 17

Arctic Tern (Peter Howlett)

We awoke at 04:00 the next day to calm seas and beautifully clear skies for the last part of the survey, where we saw a number of gulls, Gannet, including a spread of immature birds and Guillemot.

As the ferry pulled into St. George's Dock, Hull, we left the bridge and thanked Captain Kevin Alcock and the officers for their warm hospitality and for taking an interest in MARINElife's work. We especially appreciate the kindness of this crew for allowing us on the bridge for both docking and leaving procedures, these glimpses into port life and sometimes the extra birds thereby observed are much appreciated.

Thank you to P&O for their continued support of this survey.

MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of Bruges) Hull to Zeebrugge (22 – 24 April 2017)

Posted 29 April 2017

Vince Green and Karen Francis; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: N 1-3

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2

Seabirds
Common Gull Larus canus 57
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 65
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 7
Gannet Morus bassanus 229
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 70
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 70
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 74
Guillemot Uria aalge 1
Gull sp. 159
Tern sp. 41
Duck sp. 13

Terrestrial birds
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1

On arrival at hull port the weather was looking fairly good with a slight breeze and once on board the Pride of Bruges, we had dinner and were escorted up to the bridge. Met by Captain Roland Maes and his crew, we were greeted with coffee and were put at ease ready to start our four part survey.

Herring Gull_Vince Green

Herring Gull (Vince Green)

Bird sightings at first were mostly Black-back Gull, Herring Gull and occasional Gannet with a sea state that was fair. We managed to a good number of birds in the time we had which great.

We were up at 5.30am Belgium time to start on the bridge the next morning, after a coffee, we started and as light was approaching we started to see Gannet and Lesser Black-back and Herring Gull, and surprisingly a Grey Heron a fair way off shore which leisurely flew past the bridge heading East.

We saw a lot of Common Tern and plenty of Kittiwake also. On the way in to the port of Zeebrugge, we also saw some Oystercatcher and several other waders.

After breakfast we grabbed our binoculars and headed in to Bruges for the day, soaking in some sunshine, and managed to walk 20,000 steps around the lovely City, we saw a juvenile European Shag above the canal resting, and also Black Cap perched on a tree singing away. We relaxed for an hour or two looking around the flea markets and some Canal Boats.

Tulips in Amsterdam

Tulips (Vince Green)

Back on board and on the bridge just after 7 pm it was exciting as we had calm seas. A slow start, but then near the turbines not too far off the Belgian coast we saw Gannet and gulls feeding and diving , which was a great display with an abundance of sea birds.

Within twenty minutes to half an hour, off the starboard side in clear light we had the pleasure of seeing both Harbour Porpoise and Bottlenose Dolphin only 100 to 700 metres from the ship.

BND Adrian Shephard 05

Bottlenose Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

That really did end the night in a spectacular and unexpected way, although not a lot of seabirds were around at that time.

In the Morning back to Hull on the final part of the survey we were on the bridge by 6am and saw various birds again, the sea state was moderate and we finished off the survey seeing plenty of juvenile gulls.

A big thank you again to the Captain and all of the crew for their hospitality as always it was a brilliant trip, and really pleasing to see both Harbour Porpoise and Bottlenose Dolphin in the North Sea.

Vince Green and Karen Frances; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of York) Hull to Zeebrugge (20 – 22 August 2016)

Posted 11 September 2016

Angela Needham and Jenny Ball; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather
Outward: wind south west to west. Fresh breeze to moderate. Gale force 7. Good visibility.
Inward: wind west south west. Fresh to strong breeze. Visibility good with some glare.

Marine Mammals
Dolphin sp. 1

Seabirds
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 11
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 20
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 92
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 70
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 90
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 17
Auk sp. 50
Gull sp. 1
Tern sp. 3

Terrestrial birds
Stock Dove Columba oenas 2
Swift Apus apus 7
Duck sp. 1

We arrived in good time at the port in Hull and were very efficiently and quickly booked in. Once settled in on-board we were able to speak to reception to ask for access to the bridge. Captain Alcock very generously invited us up which meant we were able to watch the ship turn and make its way through the lock. A variety of gulls of all British species wheeled round us as we did so. The Pride of York is a large and rather splendid ferry, watching her manoeuvre through the lock is a pleasure.

We made our way down the Humber steadily in a stiff breeze spotting a good scattering of gulls, the occasional Gannet and a few Oystercatcher. As we moved out into the sea we had the pleasure of seeing two good-sized cotillions of Little Tern flying past southwards. It seems migration from the two colonies at Spurn must be well underway. The light faded in time for us to dine together at the tremendously varied smorgasbord provided in the self-service restaurant on board.

Gannet Steve McAusland 02

Gannet (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

The next morning we rose early and watched the Belgian coast draw near. The birds were again mainly gulls, though we had a few Gannet of varying ages and one Cormorant. We were efficiently whisked into Bruges, as the weather brightened; where we spent a lovely day, admiring the architecture which continues to delight even after several visits, relaxing on a boat trip round the canals and exploring some very interesting modern art in a small private gallery we lit upon. We also savoured the meditative atmosphere around the Beguine monastery before catching the bus back to the ship and getting back to work.

Cormorant Peter Howlett 01

Cormorant (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The evening's watch gave us our only cetacean of the trip, though too briefly for identification. We also enjoyed some adult and juvenile Arctic Tern. Perhaps the biggest bird highlight of the trip was the dark phase or blue Fulmar. Of course we often see many Fulmar on these surveys but I have never before looked down on a dark phase and really seen what an amazingly deep blue they really can be.

Arctic Tern Graham Ekins 02

Arctic Tern (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

After another excellent dinner and a good night's sleep we finished off the survey the next morning as the Pride of York made her way back up the Humber to the lock. On this short watch a vast flock of Oystercatcher were to be seen and we also observed several Swift, presumably also demonstrating that migration is underway.

As we left the bridge we thanked the Captain and his officers for their hospitality and friendliness during the survey on the excellent "Pride of York".  We would like to thank P&O for their support for this survey.

Angela Needham and Jenny Ball; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of Bruges) Hull to Zeebrugge (16th- 18th July 2016)

Posted 30 July 2016

Vincent Green and Elin Pheasant; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded
Weather
Sea state 1-3. South-westerly winds 12 - 18 knots.

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Common Eider Somateria mollissima 10
Common Gull Larus canus 10
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 17
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 16
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 184
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 127
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Gull sp. 70
Tern sp. 9

Terrestrial birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 4

It was an evening start on a lovely sunny day. We were kindly invited on board by the crew and they settled us in for a lovely meal and some refreshments.

We spent a few hours on the bridge in the evening recording various sea birds and the following morning we were awake at 4.30am to carry on with our survey. The journey to Zeebrugge was interesting and we spotted a lot of Lesser Black-backed Gull and a number of Common Tern.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 01Sandwich Tern (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

In Bruges we tried some of the famous waffles, walked along the canals and saw a number of Treecreeper. On the way back in to Hull we had brilliant sightings of a Grey Seal which finished our great journey.

Grey Seal Ruth Griffith 03Grey seal (Archive photo: Ruth Griffith)

Many thanks to Captain Jonkman and all of the crew aboard the Pride of Bruges.

Sunset (Photo: Vincent Green)

Vincent Green and Elin Pheasant; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Hull to Zeebrugge 28th - 30th May 2016 P&O Ferries Pride of York

Posted 30 June 2016

Cassie Bye and Jenny Boatwright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather
Outward - good visibility: Return - fog and mist.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Common Seal Phoca vitulina (1 casual sighting)

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 30
Common gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 23
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 78
Gull sp   31
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1

Terrestrial Birds
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 1
Wood pigeon Columba palumbus 2

Once clear of the lock gates and into the Humber, the Captain welcomed us onto the bridge. The Humber was quiet, with just the occasional Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull. The Captain explained we were taking the North Channel down the river as we were on low water. Once out into the North Sea the occasional Gannet was sighted. As night closed in we retired to our cabin for some sleep.

We awoke for an early start to continue the survey as we approached the Belgian coast. A couple of hours into the survey, Jenny spotted a Harbour Porpoise, which gave us a couple of nice views as it surfaced swimming across towards the starboard side. There was also a bit of bird activity including gulls, Fulmar, and Gannet including some actively fishing. We were also given close up views of a Chiffchaff that flew about in front of the windows on the bridge, perching on the railings outside.

HarbourPorpoiseAdrianShepherd16Harbour Porpoise (Adrian Shephard)

We docked in Zeebrugge and left the ship for the day, enjoying a walk and lunch in the main square in Bruges before re-boarding for the early evening. We watched a group of Common Tern fishing at the dockside as we waited for departure, after which we were welcomed again onto the bridge for the evening survey. We saw several gulls and the occasional Gannet before visibility fell as darkness approached.

We awoke to find the ship surrounded by fog and were unable to completed a morning's survey but as we approached the Humber estuary spotted a lone Common Seal.

Our thanks go to the Captain (Captain Mcfayden) and his officers for their hospitality and continued interest in our survey.

We would also like to thank P&O for their support for this survey.

Common Tern Graham Ekins 02Common Tern (Graham Ekins)

Cassie Bye and Jenny Boatwright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges Hull to Zeebrugge 23rd and 25th April 2016

Posted 17 May 2016

Angela Needham and Maggie Gamble; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather
Outward - good visibility: North-easterly wind force 5- 6.  Return - good visibility with glare at times: south-westerly wind force 5-6.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2 (1 casual sighting)

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 23
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Common gull Larus canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 131
Gull sp 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 577
Common tern Sterna hirundo 16
Commic tern 1
Tern sp 2

Terrestrial Birds
Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2

Angela and I arranged to meet close to the port so that we could combine cars.  We were soon welcomed on board and once clear of the lock gates we were up on the bridge to commence surveying.  A Harbour Porpoise was spotted by the crew as we exited the lock and apparently their colloquial name for this species is "Brown Fish".

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 01Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)

We passed down the River Humber to commence a rather quiet first leg of the survey.  Initially a single Black-backed Gull was our sole sighting. However as we approached the mouth of the estuary there was a short flurry of Kittiwake commuting back towards the coast between Flamborough and Bempton.  Slightly later than the adults there followed a large group of first winter birds heading in the same direction. By 2030 hrs (BST) the light was pretty much gone so we thanked the bridge team and headed down for a brief spell of data entry and a good night's sleep.

KittiwakeOnWaterGrahamEkinsKittiwake (Graham Ekins)

We awoke for an early start at 6am to continue the survey as we approached the Belgian coast. There was a bit more bird activity with gulls, Kittiwake, terns and the occasional Gannet. A nice dark phase Artic Skua passed right in front of us in distant pursuit of a small party of Lesser Black-backed Gull. Half an hour later we spotted another dark phase bird further out. Just as we approached the harbour we saw a Harbour Porpoise moving away from the ship which made a nice end to this outward leg of the survey.

BrugesMaggieGambleBruges (Maggie Gamble)

We docked in Zeebrugge and left the ship for the day, enjoying a day in Bruges before re-boarding for the early evening departure. The evening crossing also generated a number of bird sightings (with a few more Gannet than we had seen on the outward leg) before finishing the survey for the evening and heading to bed.

The last survey period commenced early on Monday as we approached the Humber but the sea state wasn't conducive for spotting porpoise and even the seals were keeping a low profile.

As we left the bridge we thanked the Captain and his officers for their hospitality and interest in our survey.

We would like to thank P&O for their support for this survey.

Angela Needham and Maggie Gamble; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

P&O Ferries (Pride of York) Hull to Zeebrugge (29th – 31st August 2015)

Posted 15 September 2015

Vincent Green and John Perry; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Good visibility and sea state.

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 343
Common Gull Larus canus 7
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Great Black-backed gull Larus marinus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 290
Lesser Black-backed gull Larus fuscus 35
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2

We were escorted on to the bridge at about 18:30 to meet Captain Kevin Alcock and his crew, who gave us a friendly welcome.

The first leg of surveying went really well, as in the first thirty minutes we saw two Grey Seal not too far from the shore and just off the port side of the vessel. For the next couple of hours we saw a variety of gulls and we were pleased that both visibility and sea state were very good for surveying. As soon as the sun set we went to the restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely meal.

GreySeal-AdrianShephard04

Grey Seal (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

On the second leg of the survey, we woke early and headed to the bridge for a 05:30 start. We surveyed for two hours with sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. Once in Zeebrugge I departed the ship and enjoyed visiting a maritime museum and a flower show in Blankenberg.

Gannet Peter Howlett 06

Gannets (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The return crossing to Hull was clear and calm. We managed to see a good number of gull species, Gannet, a Sandwich Tern and a Harbour Porpoise which gracefully breached off the port side of the ship.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17

Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A big thank you to the wonderful crew of the Pride of York and to Captain Alcock for a very enjoyable survey.

Vincent Green and John Perry; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

P&O Ferries (Pride of Bruges) Hull to Zeebrugge (25 – 27 July 2015)

Posted 31 August 2015

Stephen Dunstan and Jane Dunstan; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Outward - variable force 4-5. Visibility mostly good.
Return - variable force 3-5. Visibility limited on 26th, good on 27th.

Marine Mammals
Seal sp. 2

Seabirds
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 40
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 4
Common gull Larus canus 35
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 20
Great Black-backed gull Larus marinus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 39
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Lesser Black-backed gull Larus fuscus 53
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Auk sp. 1
Gull sp. 128
Tern sp. 2

 

Terrestrial birds
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 51
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 2
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 19
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

We arrived at Hull in good time, and were efficiently transferred onto the Pride of Bruges.  Having put our bags in the well-appointed cabins and eaten well in the restaurant, we went to start the survey on the bridge.  There were a few groups of Black-tailed Godwit flying north over the river, and a group of seals were hauled out on the north bank.  As we left the estuary, a few seabirds were seen, including Gannet and Kittiwake as well as a small flock of Scoter flying east.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 01Gannet (Archive Photo: Carol Farmer Wright)

Early morning as we neared the Belgian coast we resumed the watch at 5am and saw Fulmar as well as more Kittiwake and Gannet.  After the survey effort ceased many Common Tern were seen in Zeebrugge harbour.

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 08

Kittiwake (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

After a pleasant trip into Bruges we returned to the vessel in the early evening and, as we ate in the restaurant, we saw a juvenile Mediterranean Gull in the harbour as well as many more Common Tern.  When we joined the bridge at sea we soon saw the best birds of the trip; three Black Tern in front of the ship.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 01Common Tern (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

We resumed the survey in the early morning as we approached the Humber estuary.  A couple of Little Egret heading south were a bit of a surprise, and a few more Gannet, Fulmar and Kittiwake were added to the tallies.  In the estuary there were again a couple of seals hauled out.

Thanks to the crew of The Pride of Bruges and P&O shore staff in Hull and Zeebrugge for making this a very enjoyable survey.

Stephen Dunstan and Jane Dunstan; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: P&O Ferries Hull-Zeebrugge 27-29 June 2015

Posted 05 July 2015

This survey had to be cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife blog: P & O Ferries (Pride of Bruges) Hull - Zeebrugge (29th – 31st May 2015)

Posted 07 June 2015

Jon Butterfield and Kate Jones; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outward - overcast, decent visibility. Primarily south-westerly wind force 5-6. Return - overcast with light rain, poor visibility at times, improving on final morning towards Humber. South-westerly to west south-westerly wind force 4.

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds
Great Black-backed gull Larus marinus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 25
Guillemot Uria aalge 12
Razorbill Alca torda 5
Lesser Black-backed gull Larus fuscus 35
Common gull Larus canus 15
Herring gull Larus argentatus 3
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Unidentified auk Sp 3
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 13

Grey Seal Rick Morris 04Once on board the impressive "Pride of  Bruges" we were shown to our well-appointed cabin before being introduced to the Captain, Fred Jenkman, who allowed us on to the bridge as soon as the ship departed.

As we passed down the River Humber we saw a number of seabirds, primarily gulls feeding and,  on the outer reaches, two Grey Seal were spotted.

 

 

 

Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

 

After passing Spurn Point and entering the North Sea, sightings picked up and we logged various seabirds; Guillemot and Gannet and a variety of gull species. There were a number of juvenile gulls and it was a great opportunity to practice identifiying these younger birds by their varied plumages.  As darkness descended, we thanked the bridge team and headed down for dinner and a good night's sleep.

We awoke for an early start (at 5am) to survey as we approached the Belgian coast. We recorded increasing numbers of  Lesser Black-backed Gull which followed the ship for some time and afforded us close-up views of these masterful flyers. On the approach to Zeebrugge we also saw a number of Gannet, some of which were busy plunge diving for fish which was a real treat to see, along with a couple of Great Black-backed Gull.

We docked in Zeebrugge and left the ship for the day; enjoying the culture in Bruges before re-boarding for the early evening departure. During the evening crossing we were followed by a number of Lesser Black-backed Gull, 12 in all, circling the ship and providing us with plenty of entertainment. Gannet were visible again, at a similar point, on the crossing and the First Officer informed us that they were regularly sighted there, a few kilometers from a wind farm. 'They love windmills!' he joked with us. At the end of the day the mists lifted and we were treated to a glorious sunset before we ended the survey and made our way to bed.

We awoke early on Monday to clear skies as we approached the Humber, encountering a number of Guillemot and Razorbill, as well as a Puffin and some attractive juvenile Kittwake and an all-round increase in sightings. The highlight was a large group of Tern dip-feeding in their unmistakable acrobatic style.

Spurn Point_Kate Jones

Spurn Point (Kate Jones)

As we left the bridge we thanked the Captain and his officers for their hospitality and friendliness during the survey on the excellent "Pride of Bruges".

We would like to thank P&O for their support for this survey.

Jon Butterfield and Kate Jones; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: P & O Ferries (Pride of York) Hull - Zeebrugge (25th – 27th April 2015)

Posted 07 May 2015

Cheryl Leaning and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Weather
Outward: variable. Mainly calm. Visibility mostly poor. Wind: Northerly. Sea State 3.
Return: variable. Mainly calm. Visibility good. Wind: North Westerly. Sea State 3-4.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 3

Seabirds
Gannet   Morus bassanus 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 25
Great Skua Stercorarious skua 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 191
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 104
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 10
Common gull Larus canus 1
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 46
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 14
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 176
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 11
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Common guillemot Uria aalge 11
Auk sp. 3
Gull sp. 61

Terrestrial birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 2
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 3
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flava 2
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 3
Feral pigeon Columba livia 3
Passerine sp. 2
Hirundine sp. 1
Wader sp. 36

As soon as we had settled into our comfortable cabins, we went to the bridge where we were warmly welcomed by Captain Kevin Alcock and his crew. We began to survey as soon as were on the estuary. In the last hour of usable light we were able to observe a variety of gulls and a solitary Starling.

The next morning we were on the bridge at 5.30am to greet the dawn. Unfortunately it was a foggy morning and poor visibility affected our ability to survey. A number of terrestrial birds were seen around the ship including three Meadow Pipit, a Robin and two Yellow Wagtail that appeared to be demonstrating courting behaviour on the foredeck for quite some time. They were positively identified as a male and female of the flava or continental race (not the British race flavissima).

We also had the dubious pleasure of watching a Great Skua successfully harassing a pair of tern. There were a number of other tern, though we were unable to determine whether they were Common or Arctic. Most of the birds seen were gulls, especially Great Black-backed. Six Common Scoter put in a brief appearance as did one adult Gannet. As we approached Zeebrugge in improving light we spotted three Harbour Seal.

Common Seal Graham Ekins 01

Harbour seal (Archive Photo: Graham Ekins)

Thanks to the hospitality of P&O we travelled into Bruges on the visitors' bus where we passed an enjoyable day exploring its amazing architecture. At 5.30pm we returned to the ship and, for the remaining daylight hours, we watched the steady passage of lots of Great Black-backed Gull interspersed with the occasional view of Herring Gull and a few Common Tern. In addition to a single Gannet we observed a flock of 30 waders flying fast into the greying light.

Common Tern Peter Howlett 01

Common Tern (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

Visibility was greatly improved on our final morning. Our first sighting was of a small group of Arctic Tern. After these most of the terns were not easy to positively identify. We did spot a few Little Tern. We had a goodly number of Fulmar, a handful of Guillemot, some Gannet and a Puffin. Being so close to the coast the gulls we saw were mainly Herring Gull.

Puffin Peter Howlett 02

Puffin (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

The strangest sighting was that of a Whooper Swan in the mouth of the Humber. We watched anxiously as this large bird struggled to get out of the way of the ship. Small numbers of Whooper do winter on and around the Humber estuary but usually migrate together and this is late in the year. A trio of Shelduck were the final spot before we disembarked.

We would like to thank the Captain and crew of the Pride of York for their consistent friendliness and helpfulness throughout the trip and we look forward to the possibility of sailing with them again.

Cheryl Leaning and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge

Posted 14 October 2014

Due to the short daylight hours in the winter months the next survey on the Hull-Zeebrugge route will be April 2015.

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges' 6-8 September 2014

Posted 16 September 2014

Helen Turnock and Jenny Boatwright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Hull to Zeebrugge: SW1-0. Zeebrugge to Hull: WNW 2

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Seabirds
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 125
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo  5
Gannet Morus bassanus  4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus  4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus  18
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus  51
Little Tern Sternula albifrons  3
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis  3
Gull species 65

Terrestrial birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone  1
Shelduck  Tadorna tadorna  4
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe  1
Wader species 12

LBBG_Helen TurnockWe arrived on board the Pride of Bruges in the early evening and had a wonderful dinner in the restaurant before being invited up to the bridge at about 7pm. We were introduced to Captain Lex van der Wal and the First Officer.

 

We had calm conditions and made the most of the remaining light by managing to spot Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed gull and other gull species, plus a Cormorant before calling it a day.

 

At first light on Sunday morning, at around 6am, as we were approaching the Belgian coast, we returned to the bridge for our next round of surveying. After only about half an hour, First Officer Roland caught sight of a Harbour Porpoise on the port side. It was great to have the crew participating in the wildlife spotting.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Helen Turnock)

 

Keeping our eyes peeled, we were excited when we saw what was definitely another Harbour Porpoise. It surfaced several times which was a real treat.

 

Wheatear_Helen TurnockWe also saw a variety of bird species. We sighted Lesser Black-backed gull, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Sandwich Tern and Gannet. We also spotted a species of bird that we weren't quite expecting; a small feathered passenger on the bow of the boat in the form of a Wheatear.

After a scrumptious breakfast, we docked in Zeebrugge and left the ship for the day. We enjoyed a relaxing day exploring the delights of Bruges before returning to the Pride of Bruges in the early evening.

With calm conditions and atmospheric skies we started our evening of surveying as the Belgian coastline faded behind us. We managed to see some gull species including Lesser Black-backed Gull plus some Gannet before finishing the survey and heading down from the bridge.

Wheatear (Helen Turnock)

Our Monday morning round of surveying brought us a whole host of birds, particularly the Black-headed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. We were particularly pleased with sightings of Little Tern. On sighting a Carrion Crow flying over the river we knew we were deep into the River Humber so decided it was time to call it a day.

We very much thank Captain Lex van der Wal and all the crew for a pleasant and very hospitable crossing on the 'Pride of Bruges'.

We would like to thank P&O for their support of this survey.

Helen Turnock and Jenny Boatwright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of York' 16-18 August 2014

Posted 08 September 2014

Nik Grounds and Jon Butterfield; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Hull to Zeebrugge: Wind WSW, force 7. Overcast but good visibility
Zeebrugge to Hull: Wind WNW, force 7. Overcast with good visibility

 

 

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 56
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 20
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 34
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 10
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 2
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 7
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Gull species c250

Terrestrial birds
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1   

Sunset Humber_Jon ButterfieldOn a sunny Saturday afternoon we joined the impressive "Pride of York" and were shown to our cabin. After a quick buffet dinner we went to the bridge and introduced ourselves to the captain and his team.

It was dark as we approached Spurn Point where we could start recording, but we were able to see the 1915 Humber forts that were used to guard the river and were regarded as a triumph of engineering at the time.

The following day we arrived on the bridge at first light to survey into Zeebrugge. Sightings consisted of the usual smattering of large gulls and Gannet along with Common and Sandwich Tern.

The highlight of the first morning was seeing Great and Arctic Skua trying to catch terns; it finished two-nil to the terns. A Harbour Porpoise was also sighted close to the ship.

Once in dock, P&O gave us free transfers into the historic medieval town of Brugge, where we were able to visit the church that contains the Michelangelo masterpiece the Madonna and Child.

Sunset (Jon Butterfield)

Kittiwake Peter Howlett 03That evening we returned to the ship and recommenced surveying. We were rewarded with good views of a further two Harbour Porpoise, once again, close to the ship and a Great Skua that was frustrating the local gannets soaring around the bridge.

The last morning saw us up on the bridge for 06:30 to survey 1 hour before Spurn. This increased our species total for the trip adding a Fulmar and several Kittiwake to the tally along with a lone Manx Shearwater that was meandering through the waves. Around the shallows of the Point we were also able to sight a Little Egret fishing in the turbid waters, this marked the end of our MARINElife survey.

Kittiwake (Pete Howlett)

As we left the bridge we thanked Captain Kevin Alcock and his officers for their hospitality and friendliness during the survey on the excellent "Pride of York".

We would like to thank P&O for their support of this survey. 

Nik Grounds and Jon Butterfield ; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges' 12-14 July 2014

Posted 16 July 2014

Cassie Bye and Angela Needham; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Day 1 there was a calm sea and good visibility. Day 2 was calm with fog in the early morning

Summary of Sightings
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 60
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 146
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 142
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 28
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 29
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 7
'Commic 'Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 7

On a warm late afternoon, Carrie and I met at the check-in at the P&O ferries terminal. The staff were very friendly and expressed a real interest in what we were doing. We rapidly boarded the ship and settled into our cabin which had a grand view through the good-sized window.

Surveying Pride of Bruges_Angela NeedhamWe decided to eat while the vessel was negotiating its way out of the Humber, so we repaired to the restaurant where we found ourselves spoilt for choice with the good variety of salads, cheeses, hot foods and desserts available.

After our meal, we were welcomed onto the bridge by the Captain and soon settled into watching sky and sea looking for birds and cetaceans. Very soon after we reached the open sea we saw our first (and last) Harbour Porpoise of the trip. The sea was calm and visibility was good but not ideal due to the light being quite flat. We saw a cross section of gulls, including two Kittiwake, and also one Gannet before dusk fell. After a fruit drink in the Moonlight Lounge we retired to bed.

Cassie Bye on bridge of Pride of Bruges (Angela Needham)

The next morning we woke to a dawn darkened by fog and a calm sea. On the bridge very little was to be seen for the first hour or so. Then, as the light lifted, the clouds moved and the sun forced itself out, we began to observe more activity, including an increasing number of Gannet, more gulls, and, as we approached the Belgian coast, 7 Common Tern. We also observed quite a few homing or feral pigeons.

We enjoyed the restaurant's excellent breakfast and travelled into Bruges for the day where we went on a boat trip on the canal. I was amused to see, on the lake near the Beguine House, one Cormorant looking very out of place amongst the large flock of swans and ducks. After exploring a few of the many historical buildings in this very lovely city, we returned to the ship for another excellent dinner before going back onto the bridge as the ship left the dock.

The light was quite good now, as the rain clouds had gone. The sea remained pleasantly placid and we were able to spot more Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and, most notably, Lesser Black-backed Gull, in some numbers.

Majestic Maersk_Angela NeedhamMajestic Maersk (Angela Needham)

On this watch there was a fishing boat with well over 200 birds following it. At least 200 were gulls but around 50 of them were Gannet of all ages. We also saw one Fulmar.

On Sunday morning the crew shared with us a moment of excitement as the world's largest container ship, the Majestic Maersk, out of Denmark and en route for Morocco, passed by, emerging out of the mist like a giant ghost. Then as the light cleared we were able to enjoy Guillemot flying by as well as a few more Gannet and, of course, a further cross section of gulls.

The Pride of Bruges sailed smoothly up the Humber on a high tide and docked slightly ahead of schedule. It had been a very enjoyable journey.

Cassie Bye and Angela Needham; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges' 14-16 June 2014

Posted 27 June 2014

Janet Shepherd and Abigail Bruce; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Winds were Force 4 from the NW on day 1, strengthening to Force 5 on day 2. On day 3 winds were more northerly and again Force 5. Sea state was generally 3 and visibility good

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 12
Gannet Morus bassanus 10
Great Skua Stecorarius skua 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 121
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 31
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 17
Razorbill Alca torda 4

Terrestrial Birds
Grey heron Ardea cinerea 2
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 11
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 50

We arrived early at the Hull terminal for the P&O ferry to Zeebrugge. The Check-in staff made us feel very welcome and we found our way on to the excellent Pride of Bruges, our cabins and dinner. OBS Manager, Erik Lindholm, was very helpful in organising our visits to the Bridge at convenient times for everyone.

Gull ChicksAs we left Hull we undertook a casual survey from the 'Quiet Room' and saw a number of gull species, including Black-headed, Common and Lesser Black-backed, and a Harbour Porpoise (plus three plastic owls on a marine buoy!). An hour on the bridge, where we were introduced to the Master, Fred Jonkman, resulted in a few more sightings.

The following day, we awoke for an early start at 5am, as we approached the Belgian coast. We recorded a number of sea birds including Lesser Black-backed Gull, Fulmar and Gannet and were pleased to see Great Skua and two Grey Heron. On our entry into the buoyed channel at Zeebrugge we encountered two Harbour Porpoise and many Common Tern. We particularly appreciated seeing gull chicks on the pillar directly below the starboard wing of the ship as the Captain skilfully brought the ship alongside in Zeebrugge.

Gull Chicks (Abigail Bruce)

LBBG Abi BruceWe docked in Zeebrugge and enjoyed a lovely day in Bruges, with a canal trip, waffles and chocolate.  We departed Zeebrugge with a number of sightings of Lesser Black-backed Gull, and Gannet before retiring for the night.

Another early start on Monday morning and we encountered, amongst others, Guillemot, a flock of Shelduck and Kittiwake. On the approaches to the Humber there was a sighting of a Grey Seal, 'bottling', as we passed.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Abigail Bruce)

Special thanks to Captain Fred Jonkman and his crew for being so hospitable, friendly, informed (and for keeping us alert with many cups of coffee!). We had a very enjoyable experience on the 'Pride of Bruges' and would like to thank P&O for their support for this survey.

Janet Shepherd and Abigail Bruce; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges' 17-19 May 2014

Posted 28 May 2014

John Perry and Jan Ozyer; MARINElife Research Surveyors
Outward - no wind. Return - ESE Force 3. Good visibility and calm seas on both crossings.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena  6
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 15
Gannet Morus bassanus  7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus  31
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 52
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus  5
Common Gull Larus canus  9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 4
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1

We arrived at the port in good time and once on board The Pride of Bruges we were met by the Customer Services Manager.  We had an excellent dinner in the restaurant before starting our duties on the bridge. 

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 13The weather was sunny, flat calm with good visibility and as the ship made its way out of the Humber and passed Spurn, we were accompanied by small numbers of mixed gulls (mainly immature and non-breeders) until we reached the open sea.  When the light became too poor for surveying we retired to our comfortable cabins for a good night's sleep.

We were back on the bridge at 05:00 with the weather still flat calm; perfect for cetacean sighting and we were duly rewarded with good views of 6 Harbour Porpoise. We also saw Fulmar, Gannet and a hitch-hiking Collared Dove.  As we approached Zeebrugge we spotted a Common Tern overhead.

Harbour Porpoise (Pete Howlett)

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 03After a super breakfast, we joined the other foot passengers on the coach trip to Bruges where we were delighted with the beautiful old buildings, excellent street cafes and shops.  We were lucky enough to be there on the day of a music festival and after sampling the delights of Belgian waffles and apple cake, we sat in the sunshine listening to an excellent band playing dance music for the locals.  Before returning to the coach, we succumbed to the temptation of buying some excellent Bruges chocolates to take home to our families.

Back on the ship, we enjoyed another good dinner before heading for the bridge and watching until the light disappeared.  Once again, the birds were mainly non-breeding gulls which was only to be expected given that most adult seabirds were on their breeding grounds.

After another peaceful night we returned to the bridge at 05:00 and noticed that the sea had taken on a slight swell.  Birds were quite scarce on the homeward journey and it wasn't until we got close to Spurn that we began to see them in any numbers.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Graham Ekins)

The ship docked on time and we thanked Captain Van de Pol and his crew for a very pleasant and enjoyable survey.

John Perry and Jan Ozyer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

  

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of York' 26-28 April 2014

Posted 07 May 2014

Stuart Murray  and Mark Archer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Southbound, SE 5, Northbound, no wind. Good visibility and calm seas but thick fog on the 28th

Summary of species recorded
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 68
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 46
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 47
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus  3
Common Gull Larus canus 23
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 11
Unidentified wader species 12
Unidentified gull sp. 6

Terrestrial Birds
Coot Fulica atra 1
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Bar Tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 1
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1

Birds from the ship while docked
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides 1   (Hull)
Common Tern Sterna hirundo c50   (Zeebrugge)

The 'Pride of York' was a new survey experience for both of us, never having joined a passenger ferry as surveyors before. Checking in at reception with the queue of happy holiday-makers we waited our turn to explain who we were and what we were onboard to do. It was then rather gratifying to be escorted straight to meet the Captain, Mark Rolie, who could not have been more friendly and welcoming. After coffee and an engaging conversation in his cabin we were taken up to the bridge and shown around, even invited to watch the ship maneuvering out of the dock. The chance to see a 30,000 ton vessel going through a lock system with only 10cm of clearance on either side was not to be missed.

Iceland Gull Stuart Murray

Iceland Gull (Stuart Murray)

While I peered down taking pictures, Mark was being more conscientious and carefully scanning a scrum of gulls around us. He was well rewarded when one turned out to be an Iceland Gull. Although not quite fully adult, it was very pale grey, almost white in the bright sunshine, strongly contrasting with the much darker grey of the adult Herring Gulls. This was an excellent start but once out in the Humber river things became much quieter, gulls seemed to prefer life in the docks and there were very few of them down to Spurn Point, where the estuary becomes the North Sea proper. By then we were not far off sunset and had to finish for the day.

The following morning saw us early on the bridge, but it took until 5.30am for the light to be good enough to work. The run into Zeebrugge gave us steady numbers of Gannet and good numbers of terns, most were Common with a few Sandwich Tern mixed in. The more distant and less certain identifications probably included Arctic Tern also.

Once inside the dock we had good, close views of the terns. Attracted by the surge of the bow thrusters churning the water they swooped and dipped below our cabin window; all 50 or so of them were recognizably Common Tern.  

LBB Gull Stuart Murray 01Once berthed we reverted to being holiday makers for the day and were whisked off to Bruges with everyone else to enjoy the town. It certainly is a beautiful city, but as first timers we hardly had time to do it justice before returning to the ship in the afternoon. We quickly made our way to the bridge to take advantage of all the available daylight as soon as we sailed. We followed the same track as our inward route but bird numbers had dropped considerably, with fewer Gannet and many fewer gulls and terns. Hints of migration came with a line of waders led by a Curlew and a Bar-tailed Godwit and small numbers of Common Scoter, all flying north. The latter probably the remnant of the large numbers that winter off the Dutch and Belgian coast.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Stuart Murray)

Our final morning saw us up early but frustrated by fog so dense we couldn't survey. Peering into it as it slowly started to disperse Mark topped his sighting records for the trip by spotting a Coot right under the bows. A waterbird yes, but totally unexpected to find one bobbing on the open sea. Minutes later the fog cleared and we found ourselves just off Spurn Point and were able to resume surveying for the last lap into Hull. The Humber was as quiet as it had been on the way out but we did get a Grey Seal and a last few Common Scoter to end the trip.

We would like to thank our Captain Mark Rolie and his bridge officers Aaron Nicholls, Davis Houston and Richard Brindle for the warm welcome they gave us to their ship, not forgetting the excellent coffee and sea stories that went with it.

Stuart Murray  and Mark Archer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge

Posted 23 February 2014

The first survey in 2014 will be in April.

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of York' 31 August - 2 September 2013

Posted 11 September 2013

Cheryl Leaning and Abby Bruce; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward: NW 5. Return: W 6 

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise (casual sighting by crew) 1

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 5
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea  11                
Common Gull Larus canus  2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 54
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 66
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 14
Unidentified Gull sp 62

Herring GullWe were warmly welcomed on board the 'Pride of York' and left Hull promptly Saturday evening.  Captain Kevin Alcock and all his crew were very accommodating and keen to share past cetacean sightings they had experienced with us. 

The weather conditions were good as we descended down the river Humber.  With no swell and good visibility we recorded various gull species until sunset and we retreated to our cabins for an early night.

The next day we were in position at 6 o'clock with binoculars at the ready.  As we neared the coast of Belgium the most unexpected thing recorded was a stray beach ball!  This surprise was only over shadowed by a sudden influx of Black-headed Gull and 'Commic' Tern just as we called an end to the survey.

Herring Gull

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 01Once in Zeebrugge we disembarked and were kindly transported into beautiful Bruges for the day.  We enjoyed taking in the sights in this 'fairy-tale' city in various methods of transport from canal boats to Segways!  A sensational way to tour round, a must try for all!

Back on the boat we surveyed till dusk counting numerous Lesser and Greater Black-backed Gull with the odd Gannet mixed in.  Excitement bubbled as the Officer on watch 'Davis' called a Porpoise from the port side as we crossed the shallows of Thornton Bank -  as we headed across the bridge to catch a glimpse of a triangular fin, it quickly disappeared into the deep.

As our trip drew to a close we were back up on deck before sunrise for our last spotting opportunity.  The weather, although a little overcast, stayed fair throughout and more gulls, terns and finally a couple of Cormorant were spotted.

Great Black-back Gull (Pete Howlett)

A big thank you to all the P&O staff on board the 'Pride of York' for making our trip so pleasant.

Cheryl Leaning and Abby Bruce; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of York' 3 - 5 August 2013

Posted 08 August 2013

Cheryl Leaning and Elaine Cursons; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward SW4; Return SW4-5

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena     1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra   5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis   4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo   8
Gannet Morus bassanus   7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus   46
Common Gull Larus canus    3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus    29
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus    59
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus    30
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla    2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo    1
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea    2
Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea    16
Gull species   842
Tern species   2

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica    28
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus   11
Small Wader species   100
Wader species   30
Owl species   1

From the moment we entered the terminal building at St George's Dock in Hull, we received efficient, friendly service and were being welcomed on board the Pride of York within minutes. The Reception staff confirmed the Captain was expecting us and we were invited to visit the bridge as soon as we heard the 'ready for departure' announcement.

Captain Marc Rolie and his crew were incredibly obliging and interested in our work. Quite a few of the officers were former Pride of Bilbao staff. Simon, the Chief Officer, particularly wished to be remembered to Emma Webb and her colleagues.

HP Adrian SThe passage down the Humber towards Spurn was pleasant and would have been quite unremarkable were it not for the presence of a large, owl perched prominently atop a navigation buoy in the middle of the channel close to Bull Fort. It was taking a great interest in the incoming tide. It was not possible to confirm the species with any certainty but most likely a Long-Eared Owl given its appearance and the fact that similar sightings have been reported at Spurn and Sammy's Point in recent months.

Light began to fade as we called an end to the survey after crossing Sliver Pit without anything more unusual than a lost beach ball.

We were back on the bridge the following morning just in time to see Cunard's Queen Victoria pass by on her way back to Southampton. We enjoyed a solid four hours surveying which included a selection of gulls and a brief sighting of a lone Harbour Porpoise. Terns began to appear as we neared the Belgian coast and prepared for disembarkation.

Sunday was spent leisurely in Bruges, wandering through the contemplative Beguinage, stretching mocha coffee in the Markt to a soundtrack of bell-rung modern day classics, admiring the handsome horses and their inventive dropping-diapers. After lunch by the canal, we made our way back to the Station, pausing to watch two Great-Crested Grebe and their zebra-headed chicks on the Minnewater.

Common GullSurveying on the return leg was more challenging due to the glare from the evening sun leading to a higher than usual proportion of sp records. Large numbers of gulls could be seen feeding just off the Belgian coast within sight of Zeebrugge harbour but at too great a distance to detect any accompanying cetacean activity.

A few tantalising glimpses of possible 'footprints' failed to turn into anything more definite. Some wader and hirundine passage was evident as we drew close to home port in warm summer rain.

This route is already proving to be surprising and unpredictable, thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to start the working week.

We are most grateful to Captain Rolie and all the P&O staff for their hospitality and kindness.

Cheryl Leaning and Elaine Cursons; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges' 13 - 15 July 2013

Posted 19 July 2013

Nik Grounds and Jon Butterfield; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Winds: Westbound: ESE 0 to 2 Eastbound: NE 0 to 2. Calm seas and good light.

Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 19

Seabirds:
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 30
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 6
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 12
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 92
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 47
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified auk sp 32
Unidentified gull sp 352

Terrestrial birds:
Feral / Racing Pigeon Columba livia 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 19
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 4
Unidentified duck sp 1
Curlew Numenius arquatus 1

Harbour Porp by GEAfter a smooth transition through the ferry terminal, we boarded the impressive "Pride of Bruges". A quick stop off at the splendid onboard restaurant and we off to the bridge to meet Captain Arie Kanneworff, conditions were foggy and visibility down to 200m as we began surveying just after Spurn Point and fog persisted until we left the bridge around 10pm.

The following morning we woke too much improved sea conditions, extremely calm and good light and we were rewarded with views of nine Harbour Porpoise on the outward-bound journey. Other highlights also included Common, Arctic and Sandwich Tern that were feeding very successfully close to the Zeebrugge harbour and a flock of Common Scoter flying in formation northwards.

Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)

We docked in Zeebrugge and left the ship for the day, enjoying the culture and magnificent gothic architecture in Bruges before re-boarding for the early evening return journey. As the evening sun lit up the tranquil North Sea many more Harbour Porpoise were seen, several of which were juvenile or calves. A Belgian pigeon decided to hitch a ride on the ship with us back to Hull, particularly after a Great Skua flew passed hunting for an evening meal. Lesser Black-backed Gull were also recorded in large numbers.

Kittiwake 03 Graham EkinsWe awoke early on Monday to survey the approaches to Spurn Point; where we encountered our first Kittiwake of the trip. Once into the River Humber our stowaway pigeon, did a once around the ferry to stretch its wings and flew south, presumably to meet relatives.   

As we left the bridge, we thanked the Captain and his officers for their kindness and friendliness during the survey on the excellent "Pride of Bruges".

Kittiwake (Graham Ekins) 

We would like to thank P&O for their support for this survey. 

Nik Grounds and Jon Butterfield; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Hull-Zeebrugge 'P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges' 30 June - 1 July 2013

Posted 06 July 2013

Stephen Dunstan and Sabine Dunstan; MARINElife Research Surveyors
Southbound:  W 2-3;  Northbound: SW 4-5

Cetaceans and mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus                                     4

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra                                 37
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis                                          9
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus                             1
Gannet Morus bassanus                                            16
Great Skua Stercorarius skua                                     2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus                                     21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus                       127
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus                       10
Large Gull sp.                                                        17
Common Gull Larus Canus                                         11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla                                            1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus               4
Common Tern Sterna hirundo                                     28
Puffin   Fratercula arctica                                           2
Guillemot Uria aalge                                                 1
Razorbill Alca torda                                                  9
Auk sp.                                                                 3

Terrestrial Birds during survey effort

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos                                        1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus                          1
Curlew Numenius arquatus                                         4
Stock Dove Columba oenas                                         2
Swift Apus apus                                                        6

Bridge of Pride of BrugesWe arrived at the P&O terminal on a lovely summer evening.  The launch of a new survey route is always a mixture of excitement and uncertainty, with no previous protocols to follow.  However the crew couldn't have been more helpful, and made sure we had something to eat from the restaurant before joining the crew on the bridge until dusk.

Conditions were calm as we left the Humber Estuary.  We saw a few Grey Seal in the flat conditions, and a number of seabirds including a couple of welcome Puffin.  When we resumed the outward survey nearing the Belgian coast several more species of seabirds were added, the pick of which were a couple of Great Skua attracted to groups of feeding Lesser Black-backed Gull.

P&O kindly allowed us to join the bus to Bruges and we had a great time looking round this fantastic city.  We kept any eye open or wildlife as we did so, though it was difficult to miss the gathering of 50 or so Mute Swan on a fenced off grass area near the river.  Other birds seen included most notably a Great Crested Grebe on the nest.

We had more daylight to play with leaving Zeebrugge early evening than on any of the other three legs of the survey.  Unfortunately this coincided with the strongest winds that put paid to any cetacean observations.  Several Fulmar were recorded, and a few Common Tern which had also been conspicuous in the port of Zeebrugge itself.

Early Monday morning observations as we approached Spurn Point and the Humber again included a single Manx Shearwater and small groups of Common Scoter returning from their breeding grounds to the north.  A few Swift were off the point, and more surprisingly perhaps a couple of Stock Dove also passed the ship.

Our thanks to Captain Favier and his colleagues for excellent hospitality on this new route.

Stephen Dunstan and Sabine Dunstan; Research Surveyors for MARINElife