Jon Butterfield and Kate Jones; Research Surveyors for
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.
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
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
Once 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)
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