MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of York) Hull to Zeebrugge (20 – 22 August 2016)

Angela Needham and Jenny Ball; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather and Species Recorded

Outward: wind south west to west. Fresh breeze to moderate. Gale force 7. Good visibility.
Inward: wind west south west. Fresh to strong breeze. Visibility good with some glare.

Marine Mammals
Dolphin sp. 1

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 11
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 20
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 13
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 92
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 70
Little Tern Sternula albifrons 90
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 17
Auk sp. 50
Gull sp. 1
Tern sp. 3

Terrestrial birds
Stock Dove Columba oenas 2
Swift Apus apus 7
Duck sp. 1

We arrived in good time at the port in Hull and were very efficiently and quickly booked in. Once settled in on-board we were able to speak to reception to ask for access to the bridge. Captain Alcock very generously invited us up which meant we were able to watch the ship turn and make its way through the lock. A variety of gulls of all British species wheeled round us as we did so. The Pride of York is a large and rather splendid ferry, watching her manoeuvre through the lock is a pleasure.

We made our way down the Humber steadily in a stiff breeze spotting a good scattering of gulls, the occasional Gannet and a few Oystercatcher. As we moved out into the sea we had the pleasure of seeing two good-sized cotillions of Little Tern flying past southwards. It seems migration from the two colonies at Spurn must be well underway. The light faded in time for us to dine together at the tremendously varied smorgasbord provided in the self-service restaurant on board.

Gannet Steve McAusland 02

Gannet (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

The next morning we rose early and watched the Belgian coast draw near. The birds were again mainly gulls, though we had a few Gannet of varying ages and one Cormorant. We were efficiently whisked into Bruges, as the weather brightened; where we spent a lovely day, admiring the architecture which continues to delight even after several visits, relaxing on a boat trip round the canals and exploring some very interesting modern art in a small private gallery we lit upon. We also savoured the meditative atmosphere around the Beguine monastery before catching the bus back to the ship and getting back to work.

Cormorant Peter Howlett 01

Cormorant (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The evening's watch gave us our only cetacean of the trip, though too briefly for identification. We also enjoyed some adult and juvenile Arctic Tern. Perhaps the biggest bird highlight of the trip was the dark phase or blue Fulmar. Of course we often see many Fulmar on these surveys but I have never before looked down on a dark phase and really seen what an amazingly deep blue they really can be.

Arctic Tern Graham Ekins 02

Arctic Tern (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

After another excellent dinner and a good night's sleep we finished off the survey the next morning as the Pride of York made her way back up the Humber to the lock. On this short watch a vast flock of Oystercatcher were to be seen and we also observed several Swift, presumably also demonstrating that migration is underway.

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

Angela Needham and Jenny Ball; Research Surveyors for MARINElife