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