MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of York) Hull to Zeebrugge (24 – 26 June 2017)

Angela Needham and Kelly Chaplin; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Weather: Outward - good visibility, wind force 5. Return - fog and mist initially, with good visibility later in the journey.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1 (Casual sighting)

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 16
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 72
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 47
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 9
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Auk sp. 4
Gull sp. 19

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 14
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 70

After a swift boarding, we were welcomed up to the bridge by Captain Kevin Alcock and crew shortly after the ferry departed the port and we commenced the survey. As we proceeded slowly through the lock and out into the Humber we were accompanied by a large mixed flock of terns and gulls. There were several other ships passing on the Humber and we admired the skill of Captain Alcock as they patiently waited and navigated this lock.

As we left the port we saw lots of gulls, mainly Herring, nesting on the roof of a building at the port, most now with young. Gulls were certainly the theme of the day with the majority of sightings being of Herring and Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull as we sailed down the Humber.

By 22:00 the light had disappeared, so we departed from the bridge and sat in the comfortable foyer area to upload the data from the first leg of the survey before resting.

LBB Gull Peter Howlett 07

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Peter Howlett)

The following morning we headed to the bridge at 04:30 to continue the survey, as the light improved. Recording continued where it left off the previous evening with a number of gulls and Gannet. We docked in Zeebrugge around 09:30 and left the ship to head for the bus to take us into Bruges for the day.

The weather was cloudy to begin with but brightened up during the day, the sunshine made Bruges look even lovelier! Angela was able to watch a family of Great Crested Grebe on the river for some time. It was amusing to see them deciding whether to ride on mothers back or explore in the water. Later the other parent arrived with food so we could also watch the food pass. We headed back to the bus at 17:30 to take us back to the ferry.

We were boarded onto the ship swiftly and continued with some data entry from the morning's survey. Shortly afterwards, we were once again warmly welcomed onto the bridge to continue surveying. As we left harbour three Black Tern appeared from around the corner of the port - what a great start. Then, soon after leaving the port, the bridge officer spotted a Harbour Porpoise on the port side of the ferry, which was well spotted as it appeared too briefly for either of us to move across and observe it.

The rest of the evening's survey was quiet. The sun was very attractively sparkling through the cloudy and slightly misty skies. Lovely to look at but not so good for wild life spotting! We called the survey to a close at 21:15.

Arctic Tern Peter Howlett 17

Arctic Tern (Peter Howlett)

We awoke at 04:00 the next day to calm seas and beautifully clear skies for the last part of the survey, where we saw a number of gulls, Gannet, including a spread of immature birds and Guillemot.

As the ferry pulled into St. George's Dock, Hull, we left the bridge and thanked Captain Kevin Alcock and the officers for their warm hospitality and for taking an interest in MARINElife's work. We especially appreciate the kindness of this crew for allowing us on the bridge for both docking and leaving procedures, these glimpses into port life and sometimes the extra birds thereby observed are much appreciated.

Thank you to P&O for their continued support of this survey.