MARINElife Blog: P&O Ferries (Pride of Bruges) Hull to Zeebrugge (7 – 9 October 2017)

Alan Sumnall and Nicola Simpson, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Largely overcast, but dry with very favourable sea conditions with sea states most commonly at 2

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) - 8

Gannet (Morus bassanus) - 16
Great Skua (Stercorarius skua) - 2
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) - 40
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) - 8
Guillemot (Uria aalge) - 5
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - 142
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - 4
Little Auk (Alle alle) - 1
Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) - 3
Curlew (Numenius arquata) - 11

Due to the time of year, departing Hull at 18:30 limited our first opportunity for surveying with suitable light conditions quickly diminishing. However, we took the opportunity to meet the crew and introduce ourselves. We spoke to our very friendly and helpful Captain, Roland Maes, who was extremely positive about our attendance and arranged for us to arrive early the following morning so we could set up on the Bridge just before first light to increase our surveying duration. We had an excellent evening buffet very kindly provided by P&O Ferries before having an early night ready for the next morning.

Surveying PoB 2

We were up early the next day and on the Bridge before first light where the crew met us with hot drinks and biscuits. The wait was well worth it. There was a beautiful sun rise and we were treated to excellent sightings of three individual Harbour Porpoise. Seabirds were also plentiful with Little Auk, Great Skua, Gannet, Guillemot and Great Black-backed Gull recorded.

Surveying PoB

After a lovely day in Bruges, with travel kindly provided by P&O Ferries, we returned and did not expect to survey in the evening due to rapidly declining light. However, our Captain, Roland Maes had sent his excellent team to come and find us as we departed earlier than planned. This turned out to be even better than the morning with fantastic Harbour Porpoise sightings (five recorded), and a large flock of Common Scoter being the highlights. With beaming smiles we had another excellent buffet meal and then took to our beds with Harbour Porpoise fresh in our heads.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 02

Harbour Porpoise (Peter Howlett)

The following morning, we were again up early and on the Bridge for first light. By this time, we were well along the estuary and had numerous bird sightings including a small flock of Curlew, Velvet Scoter and large numbers of Black-headed Gull.

We arrived back in Hull ahead of schedule and after an impressive job of manoeuvring into port by the ship's crew we left the Pride of Bruges following a wonderful trip. Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew for making our trip enjoyable and productive and for being extremely welcoming and helpful.