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