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

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