P&O Ferries Pride of Bruges Hull to Zeebrugge 23rd and 25th April 2016

Angela Needham and Maggie Gamble; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Outward - good visibility: North-easterly wind force 5- 6.  Return - good visibility with glare at times: south-westerly wind force 5-6.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2 (1 casual sighting)

Gannet Morus bassanus 23
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Common gull Larus canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 131
Gull sp 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 577
Common tern Sterna hirundo 16
Commic tern 1
Tern sp 2

Terrestrial Birds
Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2

Angela and I arranged to meet close to the port so that we could combine cars.  We were soon welcomed on board and once clear of the lock gates we were up on the bridge to commence surveying.  A Harbour Porpoise was spotted by the crew as we exited the lock and apparently their colloquial name for this species is "Brown Fish".

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 01Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)

We passed down the River Humber to commence a rather quiet first leg of the survey.  Initially a single Black-backed Gull was our sole sighting. However as we approached the mouth of the estuary there was a short flurry of Kittiwake commuting back towards the coast between Flamborough and Bempton.  Slightly later than the adults there followed a large group of first winter birds heading in the same direction. By 2030 hrs (BST) the light was pretty much gone so we thanked the bridge team and headed down for a brief spell of data entry and a good night's sleep.

KittiwakeOnWaterGrahamEkinsKittiwake (Graham Ekins)

We awoke for an early start at 6am to continue the survey as we approached the Belgian coast. There was a bit more bird activity with gulls, Kittiwake, terns and the occasional Gannet. A nice dark phase Artic Skua passed right in front of us in distant pursuit of a small party of Lesser Black-backed Gull. Half an hour later we spotted another dark phase bird further out. Just as we approached the harbour we saw a Harbour Porpoise moving away from the ship which made a nice end to this outward leg of the survey.

BrugesMaggieGambleBruges (Maggie Gamble)

We docked in Zeebrugge and left the ship for the day, enjoying a day in Bruges before re-boarding for the early evening departure. The evening crossing also generated a number of bird sightings (with a few more Gannet than we had seen on the outward leg) before finishing the survey for the evening and heading to bed.

The last survey period commenced early on Monday as we approached the Humber but the sea state wasn't conducive for spotting porpoise and even the seals were keeping a low profile.

As we left the bridge we thanked the Captain and his officers for their hospitality and interest in our survey.

We would like to thank P&O for their support for this survey.

Angela Needham and Maggie Gamble; Research Surveyors for MARINElife