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

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