Immingham-Cuxhaven

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Jutlandia Seaways’ Immingham to Cuxhaven 2-5 September 2016

Posted 08 September 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered , Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Outward - wind WSW-SW sea state 5, cloudy mainly dry, visibility fair to good.
Return - Day 1 wind SW-WNW sea state 2-5 increasing 6 during brief squall, rain a first, visibility poor to good.
Day 2  wind  WNW-S, sea state 2, partial cloud, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 3
Seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 4
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 8
Gannet  Morus bassanus 33
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic Skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull  Larus canus 3
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 15
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 30
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 56
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 1
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 18
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 48
Guillemot  Uria aalge 40
Larus sp. 5
Auk sp. 1
Skua sp. 3
Gull sp. 1
Diver sp. 1

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 7
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1
Wader sp. 6

I arrived at Immingham port just after 6am, my boarding pass was processed quickly and I was taken to join the Jutlandia Seaways. We left the dockside just after 9 am and manoeuvred into the lock to join the Humber. Whilst in the dock I could see many Black-tailed Godwit feeding on the beach next to the port. Black-headed Gull were now in their winter plumage and a few Swallow flew round the bow, reminding me that summer was not quite over.

Once through the lock I joined the bridge crew, was welcomed by Captain Roman and prepared to start the survey. In the Humber estuary Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull young were visible, the occasional Herring Gull passed by and Common Tern were seen. As we entered the North Sea a few Manx Shearwater flew past. Gannet and Kittiwake then started to appear and eventually, 3 hours after the survey began, a raft of Guillemot were seen, the adults had moulted into their winter plumage, viewing distance made it difficult to differentiate them from their offspring.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 11
3rd year Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Shortly after this, my only cetacean sighting of the day, a Harbour Porpoise appeared, swimming in a southerly direction.

I then was able to watch a brief skirmish between a skua and a Kittiwake, the former harassing the latter to try to obtain a meal. This was witnessed by a few Gannet and a Great Black-backed Gull that were also hunting for food in the same area and keeping well out of the way. The afternoon quietened down and only a brief, but intense, 15 minute period of Kittiwake and gulls flying past the ship brought the day's activity to an end.

I awoke during the early hours of the morning as the river pilot was brought on board. By the time dawn broke we had already been moored in Cuxhaven for some hours and were not due to sail again until lunchtime the following day.

The morning of our return sailing started with rain. I watched Black-headed Gull, now in winter plumage with fledged young in attendance whilst waiting for our ship to depart. Once the ship had been turned I was invited back to the bridge to begin surveying. The rain continued for the next three hours, the heaviest burst timed with the river pilot's departure. The poor man must have been soaked by the time he boarded the pilot vessel. Birds were sparse during the afternoon with only a few Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great and Lesser Black-backed gull and Gannet recorded during the day. A pair of Shelduck, a single Grey Plover and six waders were the only terrestrial birds seen. The rain stopped after dinner but only three birds were recorded before the sunset drew the second survey day to a close.

North Sea dawn Carol Farmer-Wright 2016-09
Dawn over the North Sea (Carol Farmer-Wright)

I awoke the following day to calm seas, light winds and a beautiful sunrise. This meant better opportunities to spot mammals. An hour into the survey I recorded two Harbour Porpoise gently swimming to the south. Within ten minutes I recorded another sea mammal, a seal bottling. Birds were more plentiful with Kittiwake, Gannet, Guillemot, terns, a diver and a skua harassing a Guillemot for a meal, (he was unsuccessful).

With Spurn Head in sight I recorded a group of terns looking for food on the east side of the spit. As we entered the Humber, I thanked the captain and left the bridge to prepare for disembarkation.

My thanks as always go to DFDS for allowing us to survey on this route, Captain Roman, his officers and crew for looking after me so well and the chef for his excellent food.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways Immingham-Cuxhaven August 2016

Posted 01 August 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Hafnia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 1-4 July 2016

Posted 30 July 2016

Robin Langdon and Karrie Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Outbound: wind southerly force 4-5, warm with total cloud cover, dry, sea state 4
Return: wind westerly, force 4 dec. 1, mainly overcast, glare ahead from midday, sea state 4 dec. 1

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 20
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 5
Dolphin   Sp.  1
Seal Sp.  2

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Fulmar   Fulmarus glacialis 10
Gannet   Morus bassanus 206
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 44
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 62
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 372
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 27
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 269
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 150
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 122
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Larus sp.  6
Tern sp.   97
Gull sp.  210
Auk sp.   8

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 15
Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

Leaving the port of Immingham is a bit of a tight squeeze. Captain Albertsson's skill in negotiating the lock with only 20cm spare on each side was fascinating. He must be brilliant at parking, but Captain Albertsson assured us that he needs bow thrusters to achieve such accuracy, he is still looking for a car that has them. Cuxhaven approach is tricky so a pilot, delivered by a high speed craft, comes on board to take the ship into port.

Cuxhaven pilot Karrie Langdon 01
Cuxhaven pilot launch (Karrie Langdon)

Armed with our lucky MARINElife poloshirts - all our sightings have been seen while wearing them (hint: they are worn all the time on every survey J) - we hoped for a good trip. As we left Immingham we realised that we also had a lucky Captain. At our initial greeting, while travelling down the river we saw two seals, jokingly we asked if he could arrange for perfect surveying conditions ­- and they were.

There was the normal plethora of seabirds including Gannet, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and Guillemot. A Great Skua was also spotted and added a bit of excitement to proceedings. On the outward trip the Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were nowhere to be seen. We wondered if they were watching the football like the drivers on board the ship. However, on the return journey they were plentiful with eight birds staying with the ship for several hours.

There were plenty of busy Sandwich Tern passing the ship going out to fish and returning with beaks full of fish and there were a number of juvenile Guillemot being escorted by an adult. There were also three owls spotted on a buoy but unfortunately these turned out to be plastic!

The survey had good survey conditions for most of the trip and Grey Seal and Harbour Porpoise were spotted on the outward journey. The return trip was even better. The sea went down to an almost perfect mirror state and in a 'Golden Hour' we saw 12 Harbour Porpoise and a dolphin, which, unfortunately we couldn't identify. We were very reluctant to stop but the fading light drew the survey to a close.

LBB Gull Robin Langdon 01
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Robin Langdon)

Thank you to Captain Albertsson and the crew for looking after us so well and for such an amazing trip.

Robin Langdon and Karrie Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Jutlandia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 6-9 May 2016

Posted 12 June 2016

Robin Langdon, research surveyor for MARINElife

Weather:
Day 1: Sunny, with easterly wind force 4-5
Day 2: Sunny, with southeasterly wind force 5
Day 3: Sunny, with a easterly wind, force 4-5

Summary of Sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Dolphin sp. 1
Seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Gannet Morus bassanus 42
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 110
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 53
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 119
Guillemot Uria aalge 59
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Comic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gull sp.  5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 37
Tern sp.    35
Shearwater sp.  3

Landbirds
Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 2
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 4
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus 2
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Swift Apus apus 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 2
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1

There was only one surveyor for this trip aboard the Jutlandia. The crew as normal were very welcoming and helpful and my thanks to Captain Rogalevits and his crew for making this an enjoyable survey.

There were a few mammal sightings that were all linked by initially being suspected to be something different. I had spotted a ring of bubbles in the water a few metres off the boat and was wondering what caused this, a Guillemot perhaps. I was just considering this when a few metres behind the bubbles a Porpoise surfaced out of the water and disappeared as the boat moved passed its position. So I guess it was the Porpoise that made the ring.

The next sighting was initially thought to be flotsam as it glinted purple. I was just reconsidering this when the 'flotsam' dropped below the surface. I had realised that the flotsam was in fact a seal with the sun glinting off its snout. The other sighting was similar in that there was a glint of red spotted again looking like flotsam. After my experience of the seal I kept a close look and indeed the red glint surfaced again. This time it was a dolphin. Unfortunately I could not identify what type but it surfaced another couple of times each time with a red glint.

Hen Harrier Robin Langdon 01
Hen Harrier on migration (Robin Langdon)

At one stage it seemed that you could have any colour you liked as long as it was black. Lesser black to be precise. There was a period of three hours where the only bird that came near the boat was a Lesser Black-backed Gull. However, things picked up and there were a number of terns seen as well as a single Great Skua that passed in front of the boat. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was seeing two female Hen Harrier fly past on migration, presumably on their way to Denmark.

There was a bit of excitement on the return journey when the ship was involved in a helicopter rescue drill. This involved a helicopter being called out to the ship to rescue an injured crewman - in this case a dummy - the helicopter dropped someone to the deck and then they and the dummy in a stretcher where picked back up and taken away. There had been a couple of stowaway landbirds up until this time but I think all the noise of the helicopter overhead was enough for them.

Migrants Robin Langdon 02
Meadow Pipit and Willow Warbler on board (Robin Langdon)

I think DFDS might be starting up a new side-line of helping terrestrial birds on migration at sea. On board the ship coming back from Cuxhaven, apart from the two that left after the helicopter, were two Meadow Pipit, a Willow Warbler, a Pied Wagtail, a number of pigeon and an Oystercatcher. Here's a photo and tag-line DFDS could use to advertise the new service:

Oystercatcher Robin Langdon 01
Oye! sir, catch a DFDS ferry and save your wings (Robin Langdon)

And the moral of the survey is that this year's colours are lesser black and be careful of glinting flotsam.

Robin Langdon, research surveyor for MARINElife

 

 

 

 

MARINElife survey report: Immingham-Cuxhaven June 2016

Posted 08 June 2016

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Primula Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 1-4 April 2016

Posted 21 April 2016

Robin Langdon and Keith Morgan, research surveyors for MARINElife

Weather:
Day 1: Overcast, with southerly wind force 5-6
Day 2: Overcast, with southerly wind force 3-5
Day 3: Overcast, with a southerly wind, force 3-5

Summary of Sightings:

Seabirds
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 12
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 41
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 27
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 120
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 85
Common Gull Larus canus 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 27
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 30
Auk sp. 6
Gull sp. 581
Skua sp. 1
Shearwater sp. 2

 

Landbirds
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 1
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Blackbird Turdus merula 1

As I think Jimmy Hill once said this was a game (survey) of two halves. The trip also had some strange incidents.

This was the first time Keith and I had been on this route. All went to plan when we met at a transport café just outside the port. We were checked in and taken aboard the ship, this is when I had the first strange incident as I had the distinct impression I had been on this ship before - and recently. When I started to recognise the crew and they remembered me I realised I had been on the ship for the Gothenburg trip a few weeks earlier.

We left around 17:00 and were able to get onto the bridge just before 19:00. This gave us about an hour before it became dark, the conditions were good with no swell but only a few birds were seen.

LBB Gull Peter Howlett 05a
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The following morning we were able to start surveying at 06:00. The conditions were again good with no swell and birds appeared at a steady rate with the usual suspects of Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Guillemots but only 2 Gannets were seen. There were also a number of land birds on board the ship. We identified a couple of Blackbirds and a Pied Wagtail but a couple of other birds never gave good enough views to identify - even though they stayed with the boat the whole way - every now and again they would flit across the boat and disappear behind the containers. We left the bridge just after 13:30 for a well-earned rest.

The ship departed on the return to Immingham at around 22:00 so we had to wait until 06:00 the following morning to start the survey. We soon picked up an escort of a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls that stayed with the ship for a few hours to make sure we knew the way back. We also had a couple more land birds flitting around the ship. This time we got a better look at them and could see one was a warbler and the other a Black Redstart.

Black Redstart Robin Langdon 01
Black Redstart (Robin Langdon)

In contrast to the outbound journey we saw almost 40 Gannet. A racing pigeon, complete with rings, landed on the ship to take a rest. It stayed with us for a few hours until Keith inadvertently scared it away looking out of the window just above where it had rested.

We left the bridge at 19:00 thanking Captain Adriansson's crew for their hospitality and went down to the driver's mess for a rest.

Robin Langdon and Keith Morgan, research surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways Immingham-Cuxhaven March 2016

Posted 13 March 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Jutlandica Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 5-7 February 2016

Posted 15 February 2016

Jenny Boatwright and Elin Pheasant, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather:
Day 1: Overcast, with southwesterly wind force 5-6
Day 2: Overcast, with southerly wind force 5-6
Day 3: A mix of clouds and sunny spells, with a southwesterly wind, force 5-6 inc. 8

Summary of Sightings:

Cetaceans
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6

Seabirds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 3
Eider Somateria mollissima 55
Gannet Morus bassanus 134
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 52
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 69
Guillemot Uria aalge 144
Razorbill Alca torda 17
Puffin Fratercula arctica 11
Auk Sp. 56
Gull Sp. 14
Geese Sp. 32

Landbirds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1
Curlew Numenius arquata 2

Day 1

We arrived at the DFDS gatehouse at Immingham port on the Friday morning and taken to the ship where we were welcomed aboard by a member of the crew who took us up to our accommodation. Once we had left the dock at Immingham and entered the River Humber we contacted the Captain and were greeted with a warm smile and an enthusiastic welcome on entering the bridge.

Still in the Humber we immediately saw several Herring and Common Gull. On leaving the Humber, we had our first sightings of the majestic Gannet within our 300m recording box and were then treated to good views of one or two Gannet every 15 minutes or so.

Once we were clear of the Humber and shipping traffic, Captain Mart Tarang came to talk to us and was enthusiastic about our survey.

Day 2

After a tasty breakfast, we returned to the bridge. This morning brought several more bird species to add to our list, including small groups of Guillemot, Kittiwake, and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Captain Tarang joined us again for a brief chat, as we sighted our first Gannet of the day off the starboard bow. Three small flocks of geese flew across our view, presumably heading for the Danish coast, and just before midday a Starling flew by.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

This morning also brought further excitement in the form of our first cetacean sightings. Elin sighted our first Harbour Porpoise of the day shortly before 9am, just 100m in front of our vessel. Then, just under an hour later, I sighted the next Harbour Porpoise which was a similar sighting immediately in front of the ship crossing to starboard.

As we approached land we enjoyed the sight of several flocks of Eider flying along the coast. In the confluence of currents where the River Elbe meets the North Sea we sighted our third and fourth Harbour Porpoise in quick succession, giving us lovely views as they swam off to the east. I then sighted the final fifth Harbour Porpoise for the day as we entered the river.

With the Captain's permission, we stayed at our workstation on the starboard bridge wing as the Captain and the first mate brought the vessel alongside and moored expertly at our dock in Cuxhaven.

Jenny Boatwright surveying - Elin Pheasant
Jenny Boatwright on survey (Elin Pheasant)

Day 3

Seabird sightings came thick and fast with more than forty birds being sighted in our first half an hour. Late morning, Elin spotted a beautiful Harbour Porpoise just 50 metres off the ship's bow traversing steadily to the starboard side of the ship. Also, during the morning, we saw a total of 11 Puffin in their winter plumage. The highlight of the afternoon was a group of 27 Gannet fishing about a 1km off to starboard.

We would like to thank DFDS seaways for their support of our surveys on this fantastic route across in the North Sea. Our special thanks go to Captain Mart Tarang and his crew who could not have done more to make us feel extremely welcome aboard.

Jenny Boatwright and Elin Pheasant, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Selandia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 4-7 September 2015

Posted 08 September 2015

Fraser Paterson and Robin Langdon; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Day 1: Generally clear but northwesterly wind building to force 7-8, sea state 7
Day 2: Good visibility with some squalls, northwesterly wind decreasing force 6-4, sea state 6-4
Day 3: Good visibility, passing showers and some fog nearer UK coast, northerly wind decreasing force 5-2, sea state 4-2

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
None

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 139
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 23
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 5
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 182
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 12
Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus 3
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 50
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 29
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 519
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 273
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Grey Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius 8
Auk sp.  3
Gull sp.  4
Skua sp.  5
Tern sp.  6

Terrestrial Birds
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1

Due to a change of schedule we travelled to Immingham port together and were greeted at the gatehouse by the DFDS staff, who efficiently checked us in and drove us to the vessel. We received a friendly welcome on-board and, having organised access to the bridge for a 06:00 am start, installed ourselves in our cabin.

We entered the bridge shortly after the ship had entered the river and Captain Poul Erik and the officer on watch helped us to settle into our position and familiarise us with the instrumentation. A few Arctic Skuas and one of several Long-tailed Skuas we encountered crossed our path heading south but Greater Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake predominated in the early morning light.

Pomarine Skua Mike Bailey 01
Pomarine Skua (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

Once clear of the windfarm area, sightings picked up through the morning and, in addition to Kittiwake, we started to see good numbers of Fulmar and Gannet interspersed with more skuas, including the first of several Great Skua, and a Balearic Shearwater. As we proceeded east, we began to pick up groups of birds with Manx, Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters mixed in with Kittiwake and mainly juvenile Guillemot. A lone Grey Heron that failed to land on the ship was something of a surprise; the only other terrestrial bird was a solitary Starling that struggled to stay on board and out of the wind.

Unfortunately, during the day, the strong northwesterly winds continued to build and, with no obstructions from Arctic waters down the North Sea, the swell steadily increased so that the probability of seeing any cetaceans disappeared completely. Despite the lack of any visible cetaceans, the birds continued to keep us busy with another Long-tailed Skua and a Pomarine Skua raising our spirits. We gave up as darkness fell and retreated to our cabin.

We arrived in Cuxhaven early Sunday morning but we decided to forego any birding opportunities around the port, opting to stay on board to rest ahead of the afternoon and evening survey. From the comfort of the ship we watched ducks, geese and waders head out to the exposed sand flats while Cormorant, terns and gulls milled around the river.

Conditions had abated a little by the time we pulled away from the dock and set off down river and we waited on the bridge while the pilot guided the ship through the busy channel. We did manage to see a group of seals hauled out on a distant sandbar but most birds were too distant to identify and we were temporarily stymied by what we assumed to be small flocks of eclipse plumage male Eider that flew close to the Selandia. In the end, we started our survey when it was clear that the pilot was unable to get off the vessel and had to accompany us all the way to Immingham!

Grey Phalarope Peter Howlett 01
Grey Phalarope (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

A small flock of adult and juvenile Grey Phalarope that was feeding close in to the ship was the highlight of Sunday's survey; they had presumably been blown off their migration route and were sheltering southeast of Helgoland. Typical of our luck, the 'Minsmere' Black-browed Albatross which had been commuting between Helgoland and Denmark was a no-show and we had to be content with Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gulls plus some Commic Terns and Common Gulls. In fading light, we retired to our bunks and a slightly more comfortable night's sleep.

On Monday we were back on the bridge at sunrise and happy to see that the swell had reduced somewhat and the sea state for the remainder of the return leg bode well for seeing cetaceans. Fulmar, Gannet and Kittiwake predominated and we had great sightings of more Arctic, Long-Tailed and Great Skua as well as Manx, Sooty and Balearic Shearwater, which were often associated with several rafts of Kittiwake and Guillemot (a more balanced mixture of  adults with juveniles than we had on Friday's leg). Once again, any cetaceans along the route made great pains to avoid being seen and we drew a blank for the whole trip.

Balearic Shearwater Tom Brereton 06a
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

We stopped surveying as we entered the Humber and stayed on the bridge to watch the Selandia negotiate the dock. We thanked the ever-helpful and friendly bridge officers and Captain Erik for making us so welcome on board - and said goodbye to the German pilot who was going straight back to Cuxhaven!

We would very much like to extend our thanks to DFDS Seaways and the Selandia for their continued support for this survey route.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Britannia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 7-9 August 2015

Posted 03 September 2015

Julia Benson and Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Day 1: Cloudy, good visibility, sea state 2-3. Wind, force 3-5.
Day 2: Varying cloud cover with some glare, good visibility, sea state 2-4. Wind, force 4-5
Day 3: Some cloud cover, good visibility to average due to fog for a brief period, sea state 2-4.  Wind, force 4-6

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Minke Whale  Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 3
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 5
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 8
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 4
Gannet  Morus bassanus 142
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic Skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 10
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 25
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 59
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 111
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 754
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 5
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 69
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 1
Guillemot  Uria aalge 121
Razorbill  Alca torda 7
Gull sp.  1
Shearwater sp.  1
Larus sp.  12

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1

We arrived at Immingham on Friday morning and after being checked in we were escorted on to the  'Britannia Seaways' and taken to the drivers mess. We were warmly welcomed by the steward and shown our cabins. After settling into our cabins we enjoyed lunch whilst awaiting the ship's departure. Once the ship had left port and entered the Humber we were allowed on to the bridge where we began surveying.

Bird sightings began fairly quietly with mostly individual birds seen frequently. These included a few different gull species, Common Tern and Kittiwake. Within half an hour, two Grey Seal were briefly seen in the water ahead of the ship. A few hours into the survey we saw an Arctic Skua, some Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Razorbill and Guillemot. Then large groups of Kittiwake began to appear, rafting in groups ranging from 15 up to as many as 110 birds. This raised our hopes of potentially seeing some cetaceans. Sure enough, a Harbour Porpoise appeared followed by another  about an hour later, then a Minke Whale surfaced a couple of times ahead of the ship to the port side.

Minke Whale Mike Bailey 01a
Minke Whale (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

The bird sightings reduced for a while but during the last half hour of surveying a few large groups of Kittiwake were again sighted with the largest being around 180 birds. Due to fading light we left the bridge at around 8.30pm and shortly afterwards we retired to our cabins for a very early night so that we'd be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to resume surveying at 5am the following morning.

Sightings for the morning started off with Great and Lesser black-backed Gull and Gannet for the first few hours. Then a few Guillemot and a number of Kittiwake were observed. As we neared Cuxhaven Herring Gull and a number of tern species were also seen. As we approached the port of Cuxhaven a number of seals were hauled out on the sandbanks exposed by the low tide. Shortly before the ship approached its berth in the port we left the bridge and headed to the mess for a relaxing lunch and await departure. As it was a lovely sunny day we took the opportunity to get some fresh air and relax on one of the outside decks. Unfortunately on our departure it was too dark to survey so it was another early night as we had an early start in store the following morning.

The morning started well with a good sea state of 2 gradually increasing to 4 by late morning. We were seeing the same species on the return to Immingham as on the outbound journey but many more Guillemot and a few Fulmar were a welcome addition. It was fairly quiet in terms of marine wildlife although there were frequent bird sightings though not in huge numbers. The sea state eventually dropped to 2 and, in the early evening, fog came in reducing visibility. Fortunately it only lasted for around 40 minutes. All was quiet until a little after 7pm. Suddenly, there was some action. A series of splashes appeared quite a distance ahead of the ship. As we got closer it became apparent that there was a feeding frenzy of over 40 Gannet spectacularly diving into the water from quite a height. A smaller group of Kittiwake were also feeding with them. Shortly after this sighting a Harbour Porpoise came into sight swimming at speed. It was heading in the same direction as the feeding birds we had just seen so perhaps it was after a piece of the action!

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Things went very quiet with sightings of a few Gannet and Kittiwake. As the sun set and it became too dark to continue we thanked the crew and made our way down to our cabins for another early night as we had to disembark at 4am the following morning.

We are extremely grateful to Captain Jesper Jessing and his crew for making us feel very welcome and to DFDS for their continued support.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways Immingham-Cuxhaven 3-6 July 2015

Posted 05 July 2015

This survey had to be cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife blog: DFDS ‘Hafnia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 5-7 June 2015

Posted 10 June 2015

Graham Ekins and Phil Dutt, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Day 1: pm clear with light winds from WNW; excellent visibility and only a slight swell.
Day 2: am Light, high cloud with good visibility, wind W-WSW 2-3 decreasing during morning; pm wind W-NW 2-3 with excellent visibility and no cloud, slight swell from NW.
Day 3: am wind W-WSW 2 with little cloud and excellent visibility and little swell; pm wind decreasing to almost flat calm; visibility excellent.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 54
Short-beaked Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 7
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 85
Harbour Seal  Phoca vitulina 10

Seabirds
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 16
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 4
Guillemot  Uria algae 119
Razorbill  Alca torda 10
Dark-bellied Brent Goose  Branta bernicla bernicla 10
Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 1
Eider  Somateria mollissima 93
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 31
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 69
Gannet  Morus bassanus 139
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Arctic Skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 38
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 403
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 4
Common Gull  Larus canus 34
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 65
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 512
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 9
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 4
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 126
Little Tern  Sternula albifrons 5

Other species landing on or passing the survey ship
Osprey  Pandion haliaetus 1
Collared Dove   Streptopelia decaocto 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 5

After a trouble free drive up from Boreham, Essex via Stamford, Lincolnshire we arrived at Immingham early afternoon. We left our car at the DFDS car park and had our passports and tickets processed by the very efficient DFDS staff in a couple of minutes. We were then taken to the impressive Hafnia Seaways. The first officer showed us to our cabin after which we had a very enjoyable lunch.

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 02
Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)

We were then shown to the bridge where Captain Stefan Albertsson and his officers made us very welcome. Almost immediately after leaving the dock we saw a Harbour Porpoise in the bay just west of Spurn point. We also had several small flocks of immature Common Gull as we left the mouth of the Humber. A few minutes later we had an Osprey carrying a fish across the bows heading south towards the Lincolnshire coast, a totally unexpected species for a June survey. As we continued eastward we picked up small groups of Sandwich Tern, Kittiwake, a summer plumaged Puffin and increasing numbers of adult Gannets. We then noticed a group of rapidly moving cetaceans off the bows, which proved to be seven Common Dolphin. This species is being seen more regularly in the North Sea, especially in the summer months, an excellent start to the survey. As we travelled further east we recorded two Harbour Seals as well as a steady stream of Kittiwakes and Gannets. One of the adult Gannet sitting on the sea had a dark bird sitting next to it, an immature Pomarine Skua that then took off and crossed the bows giving an excellent photographic opportunity. It proved to be a first summer bird in full moult. An unusual age to be in the North Sea, most summer off West Africa. By dusk we had logged an excellent variety of cetacean and bird species.

The following morning conditions were very similar with excellent visibility, light winds and a mild temperature of 18°C. We were surprised to find a migrant Dark Sword Grass moth Agrotis ipsilon flying around the bridge as well as several Ichneumon wasps and the Hoverfly Eristalis tenax. We added Little and Great Black-backed Gull, two dark phase Arctic Skua and several groups of Eider migrating NE as well as a short staying Collared Dove to the species list.  As we passed 40kms N of the island of Schiermonnikoog we logged increasing numbers of fishing Sandwich Terns, these sightings continued until we approached Cuxhaven. Two nearby shrimp trawlers attracted our attention as they had large numbers of Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed gulls and a few Sandwich, Little and Common Terns in attendance. We also had a few Swallow heading rapidly NE towards Denmark. On the edge of the sandbanks near the harbour we had views of two large groups of Grey and a smaller group of Harbour Seals.

Pomarine Skua Graham Ekins 02
Pomarine Skua (Graham Ekins)

Captain Albertsson had arranged for us to leave the ship and we took the opportunity of an afternoon walk in bright, windy but very sunny conditions. We saw and heard several interesting bird species including Fieldfare, Black Redstart, Common Rosefinch, Icterine and Marsh Warblers. We also recorded many insects feeding on purple-flowered Comfrey including Brimstone, Painted Lady, Orange-Tip and Speckled Wood.

That evening as we left Cuxhaven we had a flock of 10 Dark-bellied Brent Geese fly NE past the ship, the first time we had seen this species migrating in June. We also recorded several more Sandwich and Common Tern as well as further small flocks of Eider and Common Scoter.

Common Seal Graham Ekins 04
Harbour Seal (Graham Ekins)

The following morning dawned bright and clear but quite cool with a light W-WSW wind. As we passed north of Terschelling on the Dutch coast we had a steady stream of Sandwich Tern and Lesser Black-backed Gull heading NW out to sea. Presumably they were breeding birds from the West Frisian Islands, we also logged increasing numbers of Guillemots, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. In the early evening we started to find Harbour Porpoises including a superb pod of 8 close to a large gas rig south of the Dogger Bank. As the sea became flat calm we continued to record Harbour Porpoises until dusk. The final tally for the day being an amazing 53. We also found and photographed nesting Kittiwakes on a manned control rig in the Clipper Field. While recording the Harbour Porpoise we also found many small flocks of summer-plumaged Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Gannets as well as the occasional Razorbill and Puffin often in close association with the cetaceans. At 21.15 we took the last GPS reading and packed away our equipment. It had proved to be a memorable survey with more Harbour Porpoise seen by either of us on any of our previous surveys.

As we left the bridge at dusk we thanked Captain Stefan Albertsson and his officers for their hospitality on this highly successful survey.

We would like to thank DFDS for their continued support of this survey route.

Common Dolphin Graham Ekins 04a
Common Dolphin (Graham Ekins)

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 8-10 May 2015

Posted 16 May 2015

Maggie Gamble and Carolina Doran; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Day 1: Thick fog at times, sea state 3
Day 2: moderate visibility with some rain, sea state 4
Day 3: Good visibility, passing showers, sea state 7 with a 2 meter swell, moderating later

Summary of sightings (counts will be added shortly)

Marine Mammals
None sighted

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 47
Gannet Morus bassanus 38
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 27
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 49
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 14
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Gull sp.  8

Terrestrial Birds
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 4
House Martin Delichon urbicum 2
Small passerine sp.  2

We had the usual efficient boarding arranged by DFDS onto the Clipper Point where we were welcomed by the steward and shown to our cabins. A very welcome and tasty lunch soon followed after which we were allowed onto the bridge in time to watch the manoeuvring of a large modern ship through a lock built on a smaller scale!

Great Skua Rick Morris 01
Great Skua (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

This turned out to be a very quiet survey which possibly had something to do with the storm which had passed through a few days previously. However, there is always something to see (usually the ubiquitous Fulmar and Gannet) if the conditions allow it. Unfortunately it turned very foggy later on in the day and halted the survey until it cleared. We had a good sighting of a single Great Skua and several Kittiwake, many still in juvenile plumage.

Day two of the survey was again quiet but as well as the usual seabirds there were some migrants still to be seen. A single Kestrel and a few Swallows, House Martins and small brown passerines, the last battling along just above the sea surface.

Med Gull Adrian Shephard 01a
Mediterranean Gull (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

The return from Cuxhaven started with a "bit of wind" as predicted by the Captain so the final day of the survey started with a fair swell. During the day we saw a steady if sporadic progression of Fulmar, Gannets and various gulls.

We arrived back in Immingham berth prompt at four am and were quickly off the ship and back in the car for the drive home. Our thanks once again to DFDS Seaways and the Captain and crew of the Clipper Point for allowing us to continue this survey and all their assistance and hospitality.

MARINElife survey report: DFDS 'Corona Seaways' Immingham to Cuxhaven 10th to 12th April 2015

Posted 21 April 2015

Cheryl Leaning and Kate Jones; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Weather
Day 1: Constant light mist. Very limited visibility. Sea state 2-3. Wind, force 7-8.
Day 2: Constant light mist. Very limited visibility. Sea state 2-3. Glare ahead. Wind, force 6-7
Day 3: Overcast, good visibility until evening. Sea state 4-8.  Wind, force 6-10

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 12
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 18
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus Fuscus 66
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 49
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 55
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 8
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 9
'Commic' Tern Sterna Hirundo/paradisaea 63
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Teal Anas crecca 3
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 8
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 4
Auk sp. 23
Larus sp  27
Gull sp.  373
Tern sp.  2

Terrestrial Birds
Small passerines 27
Chiffchaff 1
Rock Dove 2
Wood Pigeon 4

We arrived at the DFDS port gatehouse at Friday lunchtime, where Cheryl, our team leader, was really helpful in getting me orientated as the was my first MARINElife survey. The DFDS port team were quick to arrange our tickets and before we knew it we were being driven by  port security straight on to the ship. We were met by a member of Corona Seaways crew who walked us to the top of the ship, kindly helping us with our bags as he did so. We were shown to our comfortable, well-appointed cabin by the steward and given information on how we could access the bridge once we were underway.

We departed in good time and once we had manoeuvred into the Humber we were able to begin our survey. The first hour was quiet with a few Herring Gull wheeling around the ship and a fleeting glimpse of some fast-moving auks - likely Guillemot or Razorbill. Later, after a tasty dinner, we moved out on to the North Sea and were treated to our first Gannet and Kittiwake, including some Kittiwake in their very attractive first year plumage. We also had our first sighting of a Great Blacked-backed Gull as we travelled further from the coast.

The weather was quite misty, with the sea showing some small wavelets so conditions were not ideal for marine mammal spotting. There were plenty of birds to keep us entertained and as we finished at sundown we had high hopes for the following day. In the evening we decided to spend some time inputting the data together, while treating ourselves to a Cornetto, courtesy of our kind steward. We headed to our cosy cabin for an early night to be well rested for the morning.

On Saturday we began at 06:00 as the sun was starting to rise. The mist we had experienced the day before was still hanging in front of the horizon and we speculated that it could be the effect of Saharan dust, which the Met office had recently reported blowing in our direction.

Brent Geese-Carol Farmer-Wright
Brent Geese (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Although long-range visibility was restricted it was a beautiful, warm day with a gentle sea state and no swell. Continual glare meant most sightings were silhouettes, leaving positive identification impossible. Our first sighting was a Rock Dove, which was unexpected, then some more typical sea-faring birds in the form of Gannet, Kittiwake, Great Black-backed Gull and Red Throated Diver. Later, Brent Geese made an appearance, eight in all,  flying fast in formation across the path of the ship and we also recorded Cormorant and Common Scoter. Around lunchtime we were alerted by the crew to the presence of a bird; not on the sea but on the bridge! A small Chiffchaff had made its way inside  and was darting around the various instrument stations. The bridge crew were very good humoured and offered us time to get a look at our 'friend'. A crew member gently caught the Chiffchaff in a towel and released it.

ChiffChaff-KateJones
Chiffchaff (Kate Jones)

Shortly after this excitement I sighted my first cetacean for MARINElife, a Harbour Porpoise surfacing three times as we entered the Elbe. The final hour brought Common Scoter, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull and a large number of geese, not identifiable at such distance, flocking across the sunlit mudflats of the estuary. With the ship ready to commence port manoeuvres we left the bridge for the comfortable lounge area to input and discuss the day's sightings. A substantial cloudburst coinciding with our arrival convinced us not to venture into the town.

The following morning we were on the bridge at 5.30 to witness a spectacular sunrise. The visibility was improved and although it was slightly overcast we had a good view without the glare of the previous day's sun. The day started with both Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull, a number of which stayed with us for hours, following the ship. More Kittiwake, then Little Gull appeared. At the same time we sighted our first tern, which became a feature of the day, with both Arctic and Common Tern sighted in good numbers. It was wonderful to see these fast, delicate birds with their acrobatic flight patterns. Other spots included Teal, Gannet, Red Throated Diver and Common Scoter.

At around 10am we had our second cetacean sighting and my first dolphin.  Noticing a number of gulls circling in one area we trained our binoculars on it and were rewarded with the brief, but confirmed sight of a Common Dolphin swimming fast, just below the surface.

CommonDolphin-AdrianShepherd,CuxhavenApr15
Common Dolphin (Adrian Shephard)

As the day continued we were pleased to add Great Skua, Guillemot and Razorbill to our list.

By mid-afternoon we observed a change in conditions, with wind speed picking up considerably. This made it  tricky to watch for marine mammals and harder to spot birds resting on the water. We persisted however, and were rewarded with a number of Fulmar over the next few hours, gliding masterfully over the increasing waves. As 18:00 approached we agreed that it was best to stop the survey as the wind had risen to a force 10 according to the instruments and the corresponding wave action made observation difficult. Despite the weather conditions the Corona Seaways was very stable and little effect of the waves could be felt. We thanked the helpful and friendly bridge officers, and Captain Adamson, for making us so welcome on the Corona Seaways and made our way downstairs to the lounge to complete our data recording.

We would very much like to extend our thanks to DFDS for their continued support for this survey route, which is providing excellent data on the marine mammals and birds of the North Sea.

Cheryl Leaning and Kate Jones; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways “Clipper Point” Immingham-Cuxhaven 6th - 8th March 2015.

Posted 15 March 2015

Graham Ekins and Charles McGibney, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Day 1: Clear with light winds from the West, <1m swell, cloud and wind slowly increased towards dusk.
Day 2: Cloudy but dry with a force 3-4 from the SW, 1 metre swell.
Day 3: Wind force 5-6 SW, 3-3.5 metre swell, light drizzle from mid-day then intermittent rain in the afternoon; wind decreasing towards dusk.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 6
Common (Harbour) Seal Phoca vitulina 2

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 12
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Guillemot Uria algae 5
Razorbill Alca torda 11
Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla 15
Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 35
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 43
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Common Gull Larus canus 142
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 92
Gull Sp. 1

Passerines landing on or passing the survey ship
Stock Dove Columba oenas 1

We arrived at Immingham dock to be met by the very efficient DFDS staff who quickly processed our tickets and arranged secure parking for our vehicles. We were then driven to the large and modern MV Clipper Point where we were made very welcome by the staff and shown to our excellent rooms.

After a very enjoyable meal we were shown to the bridge where Captain Alan Leech and his officers made us very welcome. In the excellent visibility and light winds we saw 2 Harbour Porpoise before passing Spurn Point at the mouth of the Humber Estuary. Before we started recording we had great views of an immature Peregrine Falcon sitting on one of the new channel marker posts.  As we travelled east we saw several Red-throated Diver, most of which were in summer plumage. Shortly afterwards we came across a wheeling flock of 100 mainly adult Common Gull feeding above a small pod of Harbour Porpoise. Late afternoon we had excellent views of 2 Harbour Seal, both were swimming steadily east.
WB Dolphin Graham Ekins 03White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

Towards evening I was delighted to see a pod of 5 White-beaked Dolphin approach the ship before turning and diving away, always a great species to see in this part of the North Sea. We also saw several immature Great Black-backed Gull, small groups of Kittiwake, a lone Puffin and unexpectedly a Great Northern Diver. As we left the bridge that evening the setting sun was an impressive sight against the high and diffuse clouds.
GN Diver Pete HowlettGreat Northern Diver (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The following morning we started the survey just after dawn. It was overcast with a moderate SW wind. During the morning we saw a few Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull and the occasional Guillemot. Then late morning 40kms N of the East Frisian Islands we came across some adult Little Gull heading NE as well as a migrating flock of 35 Eider, 12 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and four Red-throated Diver. Then as we headed towards Cuxhaven dock we saw 5 Grey Seal swimming towards sandbanks exposed by the falling tide.

Captain Leech had kindly arranged permission for us to leave the dock and I therefore went for a walk around the rough ground surrounding the harbour in spring like weather. I was pleased to see Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbird presumably on their spring migration while other migrants included a singing Chiffchaff and a Black Redstart. Offshore during the afternoon we could see a steady movement NE of Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Shelduck and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, this movement continued until dusk.
Grey Seal Rick Morris 06Bull Grey Seal (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

The following morning dawned grey with a SW wind force 5-6 and a 3 metre swell. This was quite challenging for surveying yet Charles found a Harbour Porpoise and a bull Grey Seal that spent a minute watching the ship before diving away.

The most unexpected bird species was a Stock Dove that we found keeping pace with the ship, after 30 minutes it accelerated away west into the strong SW wind. Seabirds included a steady passage west of adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Presumably these had migrated N along the French and Dutch coasts before heading across to the UK for the summer. We also saw several groups of Kittiwake, often associating with summer plumage Razorbill, Guillemot and Puffin. We were also delighted to see the rare northern form of Fulmar usually known as Blue Fulmar.

As we left the bridge at dusk we thanked Captain Leech and his officers for their hospitality on this very enjoyable survey and we would also like to thank DFDS for their continued support of this survey route.

Graham Ekins and Charles McGibney Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways “Clipper Point” Immingham-Cuxhaven 6th - 9th February 2015

Posted 17 February 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Day 1 Wind force NE to ENE 3-4, sea state 1-4, sunny.
Day 2 Wind force NW-W 4-5, sea state 3-5, cloudy
Day 3 Wind force NNE 8-3, sea state 8-3, partial cloud

Marine Mammals
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 136
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 18
Gannet Morus bassanus 12
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 84
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 16
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 35
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 102
Guillemot Uria aalgae 58
Razorbill Alca torda 67
Auk Sp. 3
Larus Sp. 4
Gull Sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Sanderling Calidris alba 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Redshank Tringa totanus 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 250

Carol and I travelled to Immingham together as she had stayed with me on the Thursday night. We reached Immingham in good time and were straightforwardly checked in. We proceeded on board and were shown to our very well appointed single cabins. We ate early and were pleasantly surprised when we were invited to go onto the bridge before the ship went into the lock.

We started the survey with a cross section of gulls, though already there was more Common Gull amongst them than we might have expected. We also saw two Redshank and two Shelduck on the sand and just as we left the area a Sanderling hurried past, a bird not very common along this part of the Humber, so that was a pleasant surprise!
Immingham Lock-Carol FW

The lock in Immingham (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

Three hours into the survey we saw our first Guillemot and later Gannet and Fulmar, until fading light led to us finishing the days surveying at sunset.

After a good dinner and a pleasant evening writing up our recordings we retired early to our comfortable beds and a quiet night.

Saturday morning dawned clear and moderately calm. Our first sighting was another of the now ubiquitous Common Gull, but this was soon followed by a number of Kittiwake that soon became our most frequent observations. It was good to be able to notice a fair number of juveniles of both species. Guillemot and Gannet were also present in small numbers throughout the morning, but most of them were at a distance. We also saw one Cormorant and were also graced with a total of 8 Harbour Porpoise,
all but one of them were single sightings but a pod of 4 passed by while I was at lunch!

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 18

Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we drew near to the dock area a group of 8 Eider was seen and as we entered the estuary two substantial rafts of these beautiful sea ducks were observed, with the second raft containing 97 birds. On the sandbank, lined up in typical close formation were around 250 Oystercatcher. It was time to leave the bridge and proceed below. We wrote up the data, ate our fill of the as usual excellent food, watched a little TV then retired to our cabins.

A storm approached overnight in the northern section of the North Sea, so the captain decided to return to Immingham on a more southerly course than usual to avoid the worst of the weather, so we waited for a couple of hours after sunrise before returning to the bridge. The light was good so we were able to observe quite well and gradually the weather abated. As the day progressed we saw increasingly large numbers of Guillemot and also a fair number of Razorbill, my favourite auk. We also continued to see large numbers of Kittiwake of all ages. We also saw a few Fulmar and Gannet including one very young bird.

The best of the day occurred in mid morning. Carol suddenly spotted a family of three White- beaked Dolphin, two adults and one youngster swam leisurely by and moved off to starboard. About 15 minutes later I was excited by the sight of what quickly became clear as two Harbour Porpoise. One of them, by coming right out of the water in an uncoordinated manner revealed itself to be a calf. It was less than a metre long and it was really delightful to see.
White Beaked-Rick Morris

White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo Rick Morris)

The light greyed out quite early and at 4.30pm we ended the survey. We thanked the kindly crew and made our way back to our rooms. After writing up the data and again enjoying a good dinner we retired to get an excellent night's sleep before our arrival at Immingham.

A very satisfying survey, heightened by the joy of seeing a young Harbour Porpoise as well as quite a number of young birds.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, Captain Alan Leech, his Officers and crew for looking after us so well on the survey.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife


MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 5th - 7th December 2014

Posted 26 December 2014

Andy Gilbert and Richard Barnard: Research surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Day 1: NW 3. Day 2: NNW 1-3. Day 3: SW 6-7

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grupus

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 4
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellate 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 129
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 37
Guillemot Uria aalgae 46
Auk Sp. 1
Diver Sp. 1
Gull Sp. 60 

Terrestrial Birds
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 1
Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1

Richard and I met in the DFDS staff car park at Immingham and were soon on-board waiting to sail.  Having been asked to stay in the lounge until out of the docks we ate lunch and watched as the ship negotiated the tight lock. Once out of the lock the Captain welcomed us to the bridge and we commenced our survey.  As we left the Humber estuary around 60 gulls were flocking behind a dredger and we mused as to whether they mistook it for a trawler or were expecting a feed brought up from the sea bed when it started to dredge.  A sea state of 3 and good visibility greeted us in open water, as did mainly Common Gull and Great-black Backed Gull.  Cormorant, Shag and Fulmar broke up the afternoon and we were pleased with a good sighting of a Red-throated Diver.

Red throated diver by MB

Red-throated Diver (Mike Bamford)

Similar numbers of Common Gull continued on the Saturday along with 4 Cormorant flying right across the bow of the ship directly through the 'box'! Another Red-throated Diver, a Common Scoter, a few Kittiwake and Guillemot added to the variety. As we passed the Island of Heligoland, famous for its ornithological history and the development of the Heligoland trap for observation and ringing of birds, as well as its rather grander historical place in the international politics of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Europe, we knew we were now well across the North Sea and heading for the German coast. Cruising into the mouth of the Elbe between coast and sandbanks we had sightings of 3 Eider, a Great-crested Grebe on the water and a Grey Seal. The sea state had dropped to 1 and no sooner had the Grey Seal dived, 2 Harbour Porpoise surfaced and showed brilliantly as they passed the ship no more than 50 meters away. We both agreed it was a great way to finish the second survey of the trip. We had a few hours in port before turnaround so we walked into Cuxhaven to find what seemed like most of Germany doing its Christmas shopping on a cold December evening. We stood at one of the Christmas stalls and enjoyed a hot mug of Gluwein and a bratwurst, as is the seasonal custom in Germany, before it was time to head back to the ship.

cormorant Adrian Shephard 03a

Cormorant (Adrian Shephard)

Sunday morning and we woke to the sound of large seas. A sea state 7-8 with mist and rain put a stop to surveying for the first half of the day. The afternoon reduced the seas to 5-6 and improved visibility which allowed some surveying. The winds had brought the deeper water specialists out as Gannet glided on the breezes and Kittiwake carved magnificently just above the waves as if they were Shearwaters. A large number of Guillemot transited south and 3 more Common Scoter were logged before last light.All in all the survey was relatively quiet but the great showing of Harbour Porpoise and Red-Throated Diver kept our spirits high and we arrived back in Immingham at 3.45 on Monday morning.

Thank you to the Captain and Crew of Clipper Point who made us very welcome and as always thanks to DFDS for their support of this survey route.

Andy Gilbert and Richard Barnard: Research surveyors for MARINElife

 

 

MARINElife Survey Report: Immingham-Cuxhaven November 2014

Posted 13 December 2014

Survey cancelled due to logistical issue

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clementine’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 3rd - 5th October 2014

Posted 21 October 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Day 1: Partial cloud, sea state 1-3 wind SSW-S force 7-5 visibility good.
Day 2: Sunny, sea state 5-6 wind SE force 5-6 with light mist on the horizon
Day 3: Partial cloud, sea state 3-1 wind WNW-SSW force 6-4 visibility good with afternoon glare.

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 29
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Unidentified Seal Sp. 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14
Gannet Morus bassanus 199
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 29
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Pomarine Skua Stercorarious pomarinus 1
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 53
Common Gull Larus canus 12
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 35
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus Fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 76
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 143
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 119
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus 1
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides 5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 206
Razorbill Alca torda 80
Auk Sp. 48
Larus Gull Sp. 33
Gull Sp. 1701
Skua Sp. 1
Shearwater Sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 116
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 15
Blackbird Turdus merula 1
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 1
Wader Sp. 1
Duck Sp. 1

Little Gull Peter Howlett 09Carol came and spent the night before the sailing at my house, which was really lovely as it gave us a chance to get to know each other and it meant I didn't have to worry about negotiating the complexities of Immingham dock on my own.

Day 1
Friday dawned fair and we arrived in very good time to board the Clementine and get settled in before the ship was due to sail. The helpful steward showed us our cabins and we were invited onto the bridge as the ship left the dock. This was certainly an experience worth having as the exit is from a very tight lock and we watched and admired the skill of the captain and crew as they negotiated us out.

Once on the Humber in a gentle sea and pleasant sunshine we immediately began to see birds. At this point, unsurprisingly they were mostly gulls of the Black-headed variety though there were also a few Great Black-backed Gull in evidence.

We looked hopefully through our binoculars towards Spurn, but were not able to make out, at that distance, any of the more interesting migrating birds we knew to be there.

Iceland Gull Peter Howlett 01On this first part of the sailing across the North Sea the most frequent sighting was of migrating Little Gull. They were all in steady flight south and generally passed us in small groups of 1 - 5. It was very pleasant to observe so many of these dainty, fairy-like fliers. Otherwise the most prolific gulls were Kittiwake, presumably leaving their breeding areas around Flamborough Head. There were also a good many Great Black-backed gull as well as a number of Herring Gull.
The other bird which graced us with its presence in significant numbers was Guillemot. We also observed Gannet, in plumage to represent every stage of immaturity as well as many fine adults and we were able to observe them diving on a fair number of occasions. We also recorded one Pomeranian and one Arctic Skua.

We were not blessed with a visit from any cetaceans that day but we saw a Grey Seal, which rolled, just under the front of the vessel. Our absolute last visitor before the failing light was a Lapwing who flew once round the mast before disappearing away off the bow.

Day 2
On the second day, after an excellent nights sleep in the very pleasant single cabins, we completed the sailing to Cuxhaven.

Harbour Porpoise Carol Farmer-WrightWe spotted one Mediterranean Gull when we began to get back to Black-headed Gull territory as we came within the estuary waters of the Elbe. More surprisingly though were the little group of white gulls which were confirmed as Iceland Gull. Their longer wings as well as their lack of black fingers and general appearance of gentleness about the head left me convinced that they must indeed be they. More astonishing however was the large 'white' gull subsequently spotted. This seemed to have unusually broad long wings and to hold them with a greater angle than is usual with gulls. It was certainly the size of a Herring Gull, possibly larger. It was unfortunate we had not been able to get a photograph of this bird. There are only two possibilities, in my view. This was either a Glaucous Gull or a completely leucistic Great Black-backed Gull. The birds' demeanour did not fit with the latter.

Again we saw no cetaceans but we did see three seals, two of them Grey.

We docked in Cuxhaven in sunlight and calm waters. The Captain advised us that he planned to leave Cuxhaven early to reach Immingham by 7pm on Sunday evening.  This meant that we had much more of this crossing in daylight than usual.

Day 3

Brent Geese Carol Farmer-WrightOn the third day the sea became very calm, perfect weather for cetacean observation. And indeed this proved to be so. The first 6 sightings were of individual Harbour Porpoise at a distance. But then a pod of six appeared including one juvenile quite close to the boat, and then swam away fast down the starboard side.  This was my first ever view of a group of these animals really showing more than just their fins above the water. Later we had a second group of five and finally a group of 8 animals, five together and three a little separated from them, who also moved quite fast and clearly away down the starboard side. This was my fourth trip with MARINElife and very definitely the best ever for cetacean sighting. They were exciting to observe.

The latter part of the return journey was also good for birds. We saw a significant number of small groups of Razorbill flying purposefully just above the sea including one group of 16 birds. We also saw Fulmar as well as a goodly number of Gannet and Kittiwake during this time. Interestingly though, we did not see a single Little Gull on the return journey. We did however see a Great Skua and a significant number of migrating Brent Geese passing in mainly quite small skeins over a period of several hours.

Sunset on ClementineWe came into the Humber on a moderate tide and watched Spurn in hopes of some sightings but apart from gulls had little luck. The ship docked at Immingham by 7-30pm, we said our goodbyes to the friendly and helpful captain and crew and the as always cheery steward helped us on our way off the ship.

We had enjoyed a most pleasant trip with warmth and sunshine, a placid sea and some wonderful views of cetacean and birds alike.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, Captain Vladimir Butromenko, his officers and crew for enabling and facilitating this survey.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife survey report: DFDS Seaways 'Clementine' 5-8 September 2014

Posted 12 September 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Sue Lakeman, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Day 1: Slight mist with sea state 1-3 Day 2: Heavy mist/fog, sea state 0-1


 

 

 

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 64
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3
Unidentified cetacean Sp.1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 7
Common or Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 63
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 25
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 50
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 12
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Pomarine Skua Stercorarious pomarinus 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 31
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus Fuscus 18
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 37
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 28
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Common Tern Sterna Hirundo 37
Commic TernSterna Hirundo/paradisaea 36
Guillemot Uria aalge 343
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Auk Sp. 55
Larus Sp 12
Gull Sp. 5
Tern Sp. 3
3Skua Sp. 8

Terrestrial Birds:
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 5
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 1
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla 1
Small passerine Warbler Sp. 1

 

We met up at the DFDS Staff car park at Immingham Port, looking forward to the trip which was to be the first on the 'Clementine' for both of us. We were greeted at the Gatehouse by the DFDS staff, who efficiently checked us in and transported us to our vessel. We received a friendly welcome from the 'Clementine' crew and were escorted on board. The helpful steward showed us our cabins and introduced us to Captain Belousov, who welcomed us and explained how we should access the bridge after departure.

Watching the Russian crew skilfully navigate the small lock never ceases to impress and we were soon on our way, leaving the lock behind and moving into the river Humber.

Friday afternoon and evening provided us with slightly misty conditions, but a fabulous calm sea state, making us hopeful of great sighting opportunities. The initial survey period started quietly, with mainly gulls and Common and Sandwich Tern for company. We noted that the large plastic owls posted on a buoy, presumably to scare off the seabirds, had not deterred the gulls from using it as a roost! As we moved out of the Humber we started to encounter a few skua and several spy-hopping Grey Seal.
Grey Seal Rick Morris 06

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grey Seal (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

The afternoon continued quietly until after dinner time, but at 17.30 we started to encounter a few Harbour Porpoise nervously moving away from the ship. At first in ones and twos, we then started spotting small groups, which culminated in one hour period when we counted over 30 individuals, taking our total for the day to 54. This included a scattered group evidently feeding over a large area, and encouragingly this included at least a few juveniles, although this was hard to judge from the fleeting glimpses the fast moving animals allowed, even despite the excellent conditions.

One of our final sightings before sunset was a large hawker-type dragonfly, who obligingly flew right through the survey box. We then retired to the officers' mess to start some data entry, before an early night to set us up for the day ahead.

On Saturday we were on the bridge for 05:45, greeted by very misty conditions, with the best sighting being a Kestrel perching on the ship's structure, along with elusive glimpses of a very small passerine species, which was probably the male Firecrest which later visited us on the bridge. We luckily were able to usher him out and he was soon back on his way.

Firecrest CFW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Firecrest (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

The mist thickened to fog which seriously limited visibility, eventually making surveying impossible so we closed effort. At least this allowed us a more leisurely lunch break than we had expected, to enjoy the excellent hospitality provided throughout the return journey by Dimitri the steward and the ship's chef. After lunch, we found the Kestrel still sitting on the foredeck area, terrorising another small passerine who was flitting around avoiding identification (and the Kestrel). Still foggy, we used the time for more data entry, but luckily the fog lifted as the pilots joined the vessel to help navigate the busy shipping lane on the approach to Cuxhaven. We were able to add Cormorant and Shelduck to our list, as they flew to and fro towards the coastal tidal flats as we entered the mouth of the Elbe.  As we approached the port, we were treated to excellent views of the impressive STS Sedov, a 4‑masted windjammer that is one of the biggest training tall ships in the world. Truly a 'tall ship' with masts over 50m high, she will celebrate her 95th anniversary in 2015.  We left the bridge before the crew carefully manoeuvred onto the berth.
STS Sedov CFW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


STS Sedov (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

On Sunday we were back on the bridge at sunrise and were pleased to see that the fog had been lifted by the increasing breeze, which gave us moderate seas for the return leg. Another quiet start, with plenty of shipping under the leaden skies, but we were soon adding Kittiwake, Fulmar and Arctic Skua to our tally. The predominant birds of the return journey were auks, with many small rafts of Guillemot including winter plumage adults alongside juveniles.

Guillemot CFW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Winter plumage Guillemot (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

Harbour Porpoise, a fleeting distant glimpse of a probable Minke Whale, brief glimpses of probable Bottlenose Dolphin and a Common Seal who we apparently woke, were to be our only mammals of the day, despite our hopes to see the Humpback Whale that has recently been seen off the east coast, or to re-encounter our porpoise from the outbound trip. We were, however, treated to a glorious sunset in the clearing skies to end a most enjoyable survey.

We thanked the ever-helpful and friendly bridge officers and Captain Butromenko, the Captain for the return leg of our survey, for making us so welcome on the 'Clementine' and retired after our long day, ready for the early arrival at Immingham.

We would very much like to extend our thanks to DFDS Seaways and the crew of the 'Clementine' for their continued support for this survey route, which is providing excellent data on marine mammals and birds of the North Sea.

 

Carol Farmer-Wright and Sue Lakeman; Research Surveyors for MARINElife





MARINElife survey report: DFDS Seaways 'Clipper Point' 1-4 August 2014

Posted 08 August 2014

Joe O'Hanlon and Mark Archer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather:
Day 1: Wind SSW 3, Good visibility, Sea state 3, Hazy sunshine
Day 2: Wind SE 2, Good visibility, Sea state 3, some cloud
Day 3: Wind S 3 swinging to SE 3, Good visibility with glare at times, sea state 3 - 4

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 6
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 15
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 15
Dolphin sp. 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 55
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 13
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 68
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 638
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 247
Common Gull Larus canus 44
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 82
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 654
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 19
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 566
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 47
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 23
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 4
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 71
Guillemot Uria aalge 440
Razorbill Alca torda 11
Duck sp. 3
Skua sp. 1
Large Gull sp. 2
Small Gull sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds:
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina 1
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 6
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 2
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 2
Swift Apus apus 6
Small wader sp. 1

We arrived in Immingham at the DFDS terminal early on Friday morning where we were greeted, then driven through the port to the ship by the DFDS staff. The skies were clear, the winds light and the forecast calm so everything was looking good for the crossing to Cuxhaven.

We were dropped off at the access ramp to the ship where the lorries and trailers were being busily loaded, the First Mate immediately ushered us up the pedestrian walkway and arranged for us to be taken to our cabin's, as we made ourselves comfy the Steward attended our cabin to introduce himself and to check everything was acceptable.

The ship soon left its birth at which point we were taken to the Bridge by the Steward to meet Captain Andy Bradbury. The captain was very interested in our research and explained he had MARINElife researchers on his usual route across the Irish Sea and was particularly interested in our observations, he showed us around the bridge and made us both feel very welcome. He then impressively maneuvered the ship out of the dock's lock system and into the estuary under the direction of the port Pilot.

We set sail out into the North Sea to be greeted with our first marine mammal of the trip in the estuary mouth, a Grey Seal 'bottling'. As the ship entered open water, the sea was calm with bright skies and we were kept busy with Common Tern and Lesser Black-backed Gull moving through. There was a constant stream of birds passing the ship at which point we noted a feeding frenzy of Gannet and Kittiwake, further investigation of the frenzy and Joe spotted three White-beaked Dolphin. It was a rewarding start to our trip followed by sightings of Harbour Porpoise, Short-beaked Common Dolphin and then as the light faded a further two dolphins passed the ship but we did not manage to identify to species.

WB Dolphin Russ Neave 01aWhite-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: Russ Neave)

The following morning started early with us on the bridge at 5am, as we started recording the sky was already bright and we immediately had good numbers of Guillemot and Lesser Black-backed Gull and a couple of small parties of Swift past the ship moving South. We approached Cuxhaven and the species encountered varied slightly with Sandwich Tern and Little Gull noted and the captain made us aware of a Harbour Porpoise.

We docked then disembarked for a couple of hours to have a quick walk round the port. It was a particularly warm afternoon with good numbers of butterflies on the wing and we managed to catch sight of a family of Black Restart and four Common Sandpiper.

We returned to the ship, had our evening meal and were back on the bridge at 7.30pm as we set sail, it was a productive couple of hours before dusk as we departed Cuxhaven with Common Seal, Harbour Porpoise, Bar-tailed Godwit and Shelduck along with various seabirds. As dusk descended, we made our way down to our births for a good night's sleep.

Gannet Joe OHanlon 01Gannet (Photo: Joe O'Hanlon)

We were up earlier for our final day of recording, getting to the bridge for 4.30am to be greeted with a calm sea, ideal for cetacean watching. As the day progressed, the cloud cleared to leave bright sunshine throughout our return trip. The day quickly passed despite recording for sixteen and a half hours on the bridge with constant counts of sea birds and cetaceans. We had a stream of Guillemot and Kittiwake with Gannet ever present. As we steamed into the afternoon we had a particularly active period with Manx Shearwater feeding, a pale phase Arctic Skua past the ship monitoring proceedings and a large feeding group of Gannet, Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gull with at least twelve Short-beaked Common Dolphins actively feeding.

The following morning the ship 'docked' at 3.30am so we were both up early, went to the bridge to thank the Captain for the hospitality, said our goodbyes and made our ways home after a memorable trip.

We would like to thank our captain Andy Bradbury and his crew along with DFDS for their kind support.

Joe O'Hanlon, Mark Archer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No 1110884)

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Immingham-Cuxhaven 4th -7th July 2014

Posted 03 July 2014

Survey cancelled due to a logistical issue!

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clementine’ Immingham-Cuxhaven survey 6-8 June 2014

Posted 13 June 2014

Jenny Boatwright and Margie Holden, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather
Eastbound: W 3-4 dry, partly cloudy, good visibility with some glare.
Westbound: E to SES 2-4, clear, dry and good visibility

Summary of sightings:

Cetaceans and mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 8
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Cetacean Sp. 1
Dolphin Sp. 14

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 110
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 141
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 157
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22
Guillemot Uria aalge 41
'Commic' Tern 6
Unidentified Auk sp. 3
Unidentified Gull sp. 156
Unidentified Small Gull sp. 110
Unidentified Large Gull sp. 5

Terrestrial Birds
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 4
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 8

The Captain welcomed us on board, as we sat down for lunch having been driven to the ship by DFDS shore staff. On leaving the lock gates at Immingham we were welcomed onto the bridge to begin our survey. As we headed up the Humber one of our first sightings was a Sand Martin flying past.

Our day was busy with seabirds, especially Gannet. These included four which spent over 90 minutes floating on the wind above the starboard side of the bridge, an awesome sight! Cetacean highlights of the day were two pods of Common Dolphin (one of 3, the other 5 individuals) surfacing as they swan past the ship.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 06
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Day two of the survey and we were up on the bridge for sunrise. This was a quieter day but we enjoyed watching several Common Tern fishing as we approached the German port. Once in port the Captain kindly arranged for us to borrow two of the ship's bicycles for the journey into town. The hot and sunny conditions meant we soon found an outdoor café and enjoyed freshly pressed juices and ice creams, from the assortment of over fifty flavours available. We then enjoyed a walk around the town's arboretum before the return cycle back to the ship.

We stayed up to watch the sunset as we departed Cuxhaven, before retiring for the night in preparation for day three of the survey. We arrived on the bridge at sunrise to find beautifully calm and sunny conditions and within a few minutes observed a Harbour Porpoise. Before breakfast the first officer informed us we would be arriving at Immingham that evening, rather than the early hours of the morning. As we continued our survey, cetaceans were a common sight throughout the day, including further Harbour Porpoise, and several pods of dolphins, including a group of four White-beaked Dolphin. The conditions remained perfect for cetacean watching right up until we entered the Humber.

WB Dolphin James Phillips 01a
White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: James Phillips)

On arriving back at Immingham, we were quickly ferried back to our dockside cars by the ever obliging DFDS port staff. As I drove out of Immingham, I was delighted to see a Barn Owl out hunting, a lovely end to the trip.

Many thanks as ever to the Captain and crew of the Clementine for their hospitality and assistance on board.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Clementine' Immingham-Cuxhaven 9th - 12th May 2014

Posted 24 May 2014

Elaine Cursons and Cassie Bye, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Eastbound: SW 4-6 dry, fully clouded, good visibility some glare.
Westbound: WSW 5-7 heavy rain in morning, unable to survey, dry and good visibility in afternoon with some periods of strong glare.

Summary of Sightings

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 28
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Common Gull  Larus canus 177
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 57
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 23
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 7
Gull Sp. 94
Tern Sp. 3

 

 

Friday 9th May

We were welcomed aboard The Clementine by Captain Belausov and the crew and were immediately served lunch as it was 12 noon 'ships time'. The survey started about one hour after departure, when the ship was clear of the lock, with sightings of a few gulls. It was then very quiet until we were clear of the Humber and out at sea when there was a steady stream of individual and small groups of birds. Sightings were mostly Common and Herring Gull, but with small numbers of Gannet and Kittiwake. This continued until the light faded at about a quarter to nine.

Common Gull 1
 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Common Gull (archive photo: Rick Morris)

Saturday 10th May

It was light at four thirty when we started surveying, but there were no sightings until later in the morning. There was then a steady stream of gulls, this time mainly Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed, with occasionally a Gannet flying past. As we approached Cuxhaven we saw a small group of Common Scoter. In the evening we watched a James Bond film and retired early ready for another early start on Sunday.                                                                    

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 01            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Lesser Black-backed Gull (archive photo: Graham Ekins)

Sunday 11th May

The wind strengthened overnight and we rose to rougher seas and difficult surveying conditions. At eight twenty we suspended the survey due to continuous heavy rain. By twelve noon the rain had stopped and the wind gradually subsided. Although sighting numbers were still low there was a greater range of species and some larger groups of birds feeding, including some larger gulls squabbling over food.

North Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






North Sea (photo: Elaine Cursons)

We would like to thank captain Belousov and all the crew for their hospitality throughout the entire trip.

Elaine Cursons and Cassie Bye, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 



MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 4th - 7th April 2014

Posted 09 April 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright; MARINElife Research Surveyor
Weather: Day 1 and 2: poor visibility with thick fog, wind strength 0-3 cyclonic. Day 3 Visibility improving throughout the day from under 3km to 15km. Winds SW Force 3-6

Cetaceans and mammals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae 1
Harbour (Common) Seal Phoca vitulina 3

Seabirds:
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis 7
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 56
Eider Somateria mollissima 31
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 26
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 16
Gannet Morus bassanus 237
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 15
Common Gull Larus canus 47
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 23
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 102
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 52
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 283
Glaucous Gull Larus hyperboreus 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 267
Razorbill Alca torda 12
Little Auk Alle alle 15
Unidentified Goose sp. 51
Unidentified Loon sp. 3
Unidentified Auk Sp. 54

Terrestrial Birds (all seen at sea)
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1
Woodcock Scolopax rusticola 1
Starling  Sturnus vulgaris 122
Blackbird Turdus merula 1
Fieldfare  Turdus pilaris 135
Redwing Turdus iliacus 1
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 1
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 2
Unidentified small passerines 87
Unidentified Wader sp. 3
Unidentified duck sp. 4

Friday 4th April

Immingham dock"The mist is lifting slowly" is the first line of one of my favourite songs and this was to prove very appropriate for this survey. The high pressure situated in the North Sea together with pollution and Saharan dust meant that sightings were restricted to under 3 kilometres for the first two days, full visibility only attained at 4pm on the last day of the survey.

That being said, this is one of my favourite routes as I have seen a wide variety of birds and cetaceans in the past. So it was with cautious excitement that I proceeded to Immingham docks to board the Clipper Point on Friday morning. Port formalities were completed quickly and I was taken to the ship, helped with my luggage and settled in to my cabin to prepare for the noon departure.

Immingham Dock (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Clipper Point Bridge Crew

Bridge Crew Clipper Point (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Captain Peeran Dhatigara met me in the drivers lounge, welcomed me on board and invited me to join the bridge team for departure. There was a dense fog in the Humber and I watched the Captain, First Officer and Pilot negotiate the lock that separates the vessels from the River Humber. A spring tide was running and once the ship cleared the lock it picked up speed being partly propelled by the strong current towards the North Sea.

Bird recording began with Herring, Great Black-backed and Lesser Black-backed Gull in the Humber estuary. As the coast was left behind Guillemot, Gannet and the occasional Red-throated Diver and Razorbill were seen. Migrants were also in evidence. A Swallow, Robin and Sandwich Tern were spotted briefly. Three hours into the survey I spotted my first marine mammal. A Harbour Seal watched the ship as it sailed past. Five minutes later two Common Dolphin approached the ship to bow ride. One of the animals turned to watch the vessel, showing me the distinct hour-glass pattern on its flank. As I watched it swim away a Harbour Porpoise appeared briefly in the bow wake making a hasty escape away from the ship. A further two Harbour Porpoise and another Harbour Seal were seen before dusk descended and I retired to my cabin.

Saturday 5th April

I returned to the bridge at 6 a.m. for the second day of the survey. The fog was still limiting visibility to under 3km, but the calm seas afforded good cetacean sighting prospects. The ship was now 40 miles north of the Dutch coast with eight hours sailing time before its arrival at Cuxhaven. In the first half hour of the survey a Harbour Porpoise, one of three to be seen that day, briefly surfaced and made its escape away from the ship into the gloom. The composition of bird sightings had changed. Guillemot and Gannet had given way to migrating species. I recorded a large number of Starling, Fieldfare, Brent and Barnacle Geese. A group of Eider was also seen moving northward. Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull were also seen in good numbers before we berthed at Cuxhaven. The ship remained in Cuxhaven for the seven hour turn-around and nightfall precluded me from surveying until the following day.

Sunday 6th April

I awoke and returned to the bridge for the final day of surveying. The ship was now 17 miles west of Saturday's survey start position and the fog was still limiting visibility to less than 3km. The wind speed had increased overnight from the south west so the possibility of visibility improving over the day was likely. Migrants were still in evidence but sightings were more sporadic as we headed further into the North Sea. Gannet and Kittiwake were appearing in increasing numbers and small rafts of Guillemot were being seen, some males still accompanying last years young. By noon the fog started to lift and the sun briefly appeared through the gloom at 2.30pm. Conditions improved further and full visibility was attained at 4pm. During this time I was starting to see the occasional Fulmar gliding effortlessly over the waves. Two hours before the survey concluded I was delighted to see two small groups of Little Auk rafting on the sea. By 6pm, twelve hours into the survey with less than two hours of daylight remaining I hadn't seen any cetaceans and was beginning to think that none would be spotted before dusk. To my delight I was proved to be wrong.

North Sea Humpback 1Just before 6.30pm, 80 miles east of the Humber estuary, a member of the bridge team brought my attention to a large group of Gannet, Kittiwake and auks sitting on the sea about 400 metres from the starboards side of the ship. In front of these birds a large splash could be discerned. As the ship neared the area a large fluke and tail stock could be seen rising out of the water and slapping down into the sea. 

This was much larger than a dolphin and the shape of the tail fluke and the knuckles seen on the animal's tail made the identification unmistakeable. The animal in front of us was a Humpback Whale! Normally I have to travel to Alaska to see the Pacific Humpback Whale so it was fantastic to view this animal in the North Sea.

Humpback Whale (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Grabbing my camera I was able to record it tail slap, turn to show the pectoral and dorsal fins and finally shallow dive without fluking as it disappeared from sight. An amazing climax to a very enjoyable survey.  As the sun dipped below the horizon I thanked the Bridge crew for their help on this survey, retired to my cabin to compile my sightings and get some sleep before disembarking the ship the next morning.

My thanks go to DFDS Seaways for allowing us to travel this important route across the North Sea. A special heartfelt thanks goes to Captain Peeran Dhatigara, his Officers and crew for looking after me so well whilst I was onboard the Clipper Point.

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 7th - 9th March 2014

Posted 19 March 2014

Maggie Gamble and Jenny Boatwright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Outward: good visibility with glare at times, westerly wind force 2-5.  Return: poorer visibility due to mist with glare at times, southerly wind force 4-6

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Seabirds:
Shoveler Anas clypeata 3
Eider Somateria mollissima 38
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 60
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 42
Gannet Morus bassanus 62
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 27
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 804
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 170
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 55
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 55
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 5
Larus Sp.144
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 188
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Auk Sp.313
Diver Sp. 3
Duck Sp. 42

Terrestrial birds:
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 1
Passerine Sp. 3
Dove Sp. 6
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3

We had a prompt departure from Port and having been invited up on to the bridge by the captain beforehand, we were able to watch the impressive manoeuvring of the ship through that very narrow lock from there.

Pilot joining Clipper PointOverall this was a fairly quiet survey especially for the first few hours, and then we started to pick up on various seabirds and at one point a large concentration of Kittiwake resting or feeding over a large area. Some distant divers were just a little too distant to ID the species, but were probably either Red-throated or Black-throated Diver.

Day two of the survey, and we were up on the bridge shortly before sunrise, conditions were good with just a long swell. A small flock of Little Gull by the bow (not in summer plumage unfortunately!) were a highlight, as this is a species I seldom see. Approaching the German coast we picked up the pilot and joined the line of vessels heading for port. Having remarked that we would be unlikely to see Harbour Porpoise now, this close to a busy shipping lane, I was confounded by the appearance of one, possibly two
individuals ahead and a further two sightings spread over a large area soon followed. The captain or pilot had previously remarked that the tide would soon be on the turn and I presume that the feeding conditions suited them to be in that area.

Once in port the Captain and crew kindly arranged a lift to the dock gates and a walk into town added an impressive fruit ice-cream fruit sundae to our list which was calories we really didn't require, having been very well fed on board!

GuillemotIt's an evening departure from Cuxhaven, so day three of the survey started at sunrise already at sea with much reduced visibility due to mist. It was a day for rafting auks, they seemed disinclined to fly! -mostly guillemots with a couple of close puffins, one in full summer plumage and the other transient.

During the survey we'd observed few migrating passerines and watching a loan chaffinch battling along just above the waves, I could only marvel at the distances and conditions that these birds can navigate.

We arrived early back at Immingham, very early in the morning and leaving the ship as soon as the ramp was down we were quickly ferried back to our dockside cars by the ever obliging DFDS port staff.


Many thanks as ever to the captain and crew of the Clipper Point for their hospitality and assistance on board.

Maggie Gamble and Jenny Boatwright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Photo credits:
Top: 'Pilot' joining the 'Clipper Point' (Maggie Gamble)
Bottom: Guillemot (Archive photo)

 

MARINElife Survey Report: Immingham-Cuxhaven February 2014

Posted 23 February 2014

Survey cancelled due to severe weather

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 10th - 12th January 2014

Posted 21 January 2014

Cliff Morrison and Colin Gill, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Wind, Predominately from the south West

 





Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Diver species Gavia species 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 23
Gannet Morus bassanus 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 155
Common Gull Larus canus 247
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 28
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 104
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 60
Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 84
Auk Sp. 9

Grey Seal 02 Rick Morris This was a midday sailing out of the dock and through the narrow lock, so that after an early lunch on board, we were able to watch and marvel at the skill of manoeuvring such a large vessel out into the river Humber. Once into the main shipping lane, we were invited onto the bridge by Captain James Smith and were offered every assistance by him and the crew throughout the trip.

The afternoon was pleasant with a moderate southwesterly wind and good visibility and so we were able to get three hours observations in before dusk. There were two distinct ebbing currents as we approached and passed Spurn, where many common and black-headed gulls were taking advantage of food being brought to the surface. With them was a second winter Iceland Gull, a good record.  Three Grey Seal were seen over 75 minutes but the Donna Nook colony is only five miles to the west, so were no doubt local animals. Further out, a Shag attempted to land on the forward rails of our vessel, we were close to gas rigs and speculated that the bird probably used these as roost sites, since the afternoon was drawing to a close. Shortly afterwards, a great skua flying close to our vessel ended a good afternoon.

Grey Seal: (Rick Morris)

Little gullThe following morning, the weather was less kind to us, with strong following southwesterly winds and light rain, so most birds were recorded close to the vessel. There were a few kittiwake and Guillemot recorded, but 5 adult Little Gull at sea and a Red-breasted Merganser in the estuary approaches were the birds of particular interest.

Shortly before arrival into the Cuxhaven berth, the wind backed to northeast and blew a gale overnight, subsiding by morning. Even so, there was a large swell for the first few hours of observation on the return trip, but birds could be seen well as there were no breaking waves.

Guillemot, kittiwake and some fulmar were the principle bird species observed, but at 13:00hrs, a single Harbour Porpoise was seen briefly. A little later, once approaching the more undulating seabed on the eastern side of the crossing, small feeding flocks of kittiwake, auks and Great Black-backed Gull were seen, but no cetaceans could be spotted below them.
We arrived back in port at 03:30hrs and so we were early home for breakfast.

Little Gull: (Michael Bamford)

Many thanks to Captain James Smith and his crew for their cooperation and to DFDS Seaways for the continued support.

Cliff Morrison and Colin Gill, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS 'Clipper Point' Immingham-Cuxhaven 13-15th December 2013

Posted 18 December 2013

Duncan Fyfe, research surveyor for MARINElife

 

Summary of Species Recorded:

Cetacea and Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena: 2 from 2 sightings
Dolphin sp: 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus: 1

Seabirds:
Bean Goose Anser fabalis: 14
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna : 3
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos : 2
Eider Somateria mollissima: 323
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra: 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata: 4
Fulmar Fulmaris glacialis: 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo: 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus: 2
Common Gull Larus canus: 61
Herring Gull Larus argentatus: 42
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fucus: 23
Great Black Backed Gull Larus marinus: 17
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus: 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla: 121
Guillemot Uria aalge: 39
Razorbill Alca torda: 1
Little Auk Alle alle: 1
Auk Sp.: 29
Larus Gull Sp.: 2

Wading and Terrestrial Birds:
Knot Calidris canutus: 10
Starling Sturnus vulgaris: 1 

Last week the East Coast of Britain experienced some of the highest tides for over 60 years, with the port of Immingham having been flooded as a result of the tidal surge. With this in mind, leaving home on Friday the 13th did not feel as auspicious as it might. Fortunately, the roads were clear and I checked in on time. It was just myself on this survey, but with short daylight hours, it wasn't to be a problem.

Both DFDS and Sea Truck (who operate the Clipper Point) were hospitable and made me feel welcome. I began the survey just after the ship was free of the harbour lock gates and port of Immingham and managed to get 2.5 hours survey time in before nightfall.

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 01Once beyond Spurn Point and beyond the outer reaches of the Humber Estuary the sea state picked up to a steady 5. There was the usual variety of gulls to be spotted and a Red-throated Diver.  The highlight was a Harbour Porpoise surfacing just 200 metres from the front of the ship and still within sight of land.

Day 2 of the survey began with cloudy skies and a South Westerly wind that predominated the trip and the sea state varied between 3 and 5. The first birds to be seen were Kittiwake and 1 Little Gull flew past on the port side but was sadly to be the only sighting of this species for this trip. I did get a teasing glimpse of a dolphin's dorsal fin but sadly not well enough to identify the species.

Harbour Porpoise (Photo Graham Ekins) 


There was a steady number of Gull species to be recorded throughout the trip and bird numbers and variety, not surprisingly, increased the closer we got to Cuxhaven. 3 more Red-throated Diver were added to the list and a few Common Scoter. As we approached the submerged outer sandbanks that mark the approach to Cuxhaven the bird numbers increased further. The trip highlight was a flock of 14 Bean Geese! I had to look carefully at these birds because they can be easily
confused with the more common Pink Footed Goose that are regularly recorded here. However, their impression of a slightly stockier bird and darker appearance with a slightly darker forewing made me conclude they were Bean Geese, which was rather nice! Shortly after a Harbour Porpoise surfaced and a not long after a Grey Seal could be seen swimming over what would have been sand banks a couple of hours before. A few Knot and a few hundred Eider completed the day's bird tally.

Kittiwake RPJLight was fading by the time we docked so I had a stroll around the harbour then back on board to watch some television. I finally got to see the film 'Tron' that my classmates used to talk about at school, but I missed in 1982 when it first came out (I must have been too young to see it!). Luckily I hadn't missed much!

Day 3 of the survey was a little rougher. Sea state remained a steady force 5-7 with wind speeds often much higher and a swell of over 3 metres. After a very bumpy night, I had wondered if I'd get to survey at all, but fortunately was able to remain on the bridge and complete the survey. This day's highlight was a couple of Little Auk and a steady stream of Kittiwake. A starling kept the ship company for a while but sadly I suspect the high winds ended up taking their toll. Only 1 Gannet and 1 fulmar were recorded for the whole survey.

 

Kittiwake (Photo Rob Petley-Jones)

Once again, my thanks go to the Captain and crew of the Clipper Point who made me welcome on this survey. 

Duncan Fyfe, research surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Clementine’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 15th - 18th November 2013

Posted 24 November 2013

Elaine Cursons and Jenny Boatwright, research surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Outbound: Wind, Southerly 3-5, good visibility. Sea state 2-3
Return: Wind, Easterly 3-5 Good visibility. Sea state 1-3

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds:
Eider Somateria mollissima 4
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 201+
Gannet Morus bassanus 12
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 32
Common Gull Larus canus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 63
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 45
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 31
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Small Gull Sp. 17
Large Gull Sp. 12
Gull Sp. 13
Diver Sp. 2
Auk Sp. 2

Terrestrial birds:
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1
Passerine Sp. 1
Wader Sp. 1200+


Friday 15th November 2013

We were welcomed aboard by the first officer, but a delayed departure and overcast weather meant it was dark when we left Immingham port, so after our evening meal we retired early for a good night's sleep.

Common Scoter Rick Morris 01We were welcomed onto the bridge at first light the next morning, and recorded mainly gull species and kittiwake as they flew past in small numbers. Mid-morning we were surprised to find that a small Tortoiseshell butterfly was on board, as it came to settle on the front of the bridge in the sunshine. Sightings continued throughout the morning at a steady rate, mainly of individual birds.  Approaching Cuxhaven a few Eider flew past and there was a raft of c200 common scoter. A flock of Black-headed Gull were observed fishing in the swell from the ship as we entered the port.




Common Scoter (Photo: Rick Morris)



Sunday 17th November 2013

We were on the Shag 2bridge again at first light on Sunday and again recorded birds in small numbers, but at regular intervals.
Although these again were mainly gull species, there were more Gannet and Shag. Just after 9am a young starling landed on a window sill at the rear of the bridge and rested for 10 minutes before running up and down the sill seemingly looking for a way onto or through the bridge. It eventually flew to another part of the ship but we continued to see it flying around at intervals until the early afternoon. At lunch time a Song Thrush also landed on the ship in front of the bridge and rested there for about 1 hour, although it then flew around the ship, it also stayed 'on board' for several hours. Sightings throughout the afternoon were of mainly gull species and overall were of similar numbers to the previous day, but without Black-headed gull. In the mid-afternoon 3 Shag flew close to the ship heading north. Later in the afternoon, the cloud cover increased and by 4pm, the light was fading fast.
                                                                                                                       Shag (Photo: Michael Bamford)

We would like to thank captain Belousov and all the crew for their hospitality throughout the entire trip.

Elaine Cursons and Jenny Boatwright, research
surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Clementine’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 18th - 20th October 2013

Posted 01 November 2013

Weather: Outward: Wind 5 SE-S Inward: Wind 5 SW




Cheryl Leaning and Lucie Bernardova, research surveyors for MARINElife

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds:
Eider Somateria mollissima 160
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 116
Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca 4
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 15
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 26
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic (Parasitic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 17
Common Gull Larus canus 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 18
Little Gull Larus minutus 22
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Unidentified Gull Sp. 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 21

Terrestrial Birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 7 (at sea)
Feral Pigeon 1 (at sea)
Wood Pigeon 1 (at sea)
Swan Sp. 5 (at sea)
Great Egret 1 (in estuary)
Small Duck Sp. 6 (in estuary)
Pipit Sp. 2 (at sea)
Avocet (3) (in estuary)
Wader Sp. 25

We were whisked on board 'Clementine' by the friendly and efficient DFDS staff and shown to our spacious, comfortable cabins by the ship's Steward. Departure was a little later than scheduled so after a tasty dinner, we took advantage of an early night.

KittiwakeAfter breakfast, we joined the bridge well before dawn and were able to familiarise ourselves with the instruments in time to watch the sunrise. There was a moderate breeze, which made conditions slightly challenging for cetacean spotting. The birds soon started to show with gulls, Gannet (the most frequent initially) and a pair of kittiwake.  Movement of Common Scoter were seen as we started to draw near to Heligoland with 4 Velvet Scoter amongst a larger group of around 70.

A bevy of five swans passed ahead of the bow just slightly too far and too high to positively identify the species. Little Gull became more numerous as the German coastline came into view. The distant sandbanks were littered with seals and large flocks of waders were just visible through the mist. Eider ducks were present in sizeable rafts. We watched a trio of avocet, disturbed by our passage, fly off, the monochrome plumage familiar to any Humbersider. We had a rather special escort as we approached the quay in the form of a Great Egret. It flew languorously alongside us for quite some time before heading east across the vast estuary.

  Kittiwake (Rob Petley-Jones)

We spent the afternoon inputting the data, enjoying more delicious meals and were tucked up in bed long before the ship was fully loaded.

 

Harbour Porpoise Graham Ekins 01
Sea conditions were a little more promising as Sunday dawned. Visibility was varied as was the cloud cover. Guillemot, Fulmar and gulls were joined by a couple of opportunistic Starling, which steadfastly stuck to the ship for a few hours, despite the best efforts of the wind to blow them overboard. A Black-throated Diver was a highlight followed by two separate Manx Shearwater sightings and an Arctic Skua on passage.

A Harbour Porpoise made a brief appearance close in to the bow as we crossed the Friesland Junction, this proved to be the only mammal sighting of the trip. 

With visibility rapidly diminishing, we bade our host's farewell and made a final visit to the Officers' Mess where we were treated to a hearty goulash. Data-entry completed, we turned in and managed a good eight hours before arriving promptly in Immingham at 4am.



   Harbour Porpoise (Graham Ekins)

Captain Butremenko and the crew and officers of the Clementine could not have been more welcoming and attentive hosts. We are very grateful to DFDS for their continued support. 

Cheryl Leaning and Lucie Bernardova, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife Survey Report: Immingham-Cuxhaven “Clementine” 20th-23rd September 2013

Posted 03 October 2013

Maggie Gamble and Lucy Bernardova, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Wind variable later NW-SW 3-4 outbound, with SW 2-4 on the return

Summary of Sightings:

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Unidentified Seal Sp.1

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 94
Eider Duck Somateria mollissima 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 36
Gannet Morus bassanus 91
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 48
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 8
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 15
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Little Gull Larus minutus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 143
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 20
Guillemot Uria aalge 136
Unidentified Auk Sp. 24
Unidentified Skua Sp.1
Unidentified Gull Sp. 1558

Gannet 11a Carol Farmer WrightThe departure for this crossing was scheduled later than usual for 1600 hours. Soon after leaving Immingham we were invited up to the bridge by the Captain of the 'Clementine' which was a new vessel to MARINElife and has a Russian Crew.  I think we were a bit of a surprise to them but they were very welcoming and luckily spoke much better English than my 3 words of Russian. 

We surveyed for a couple of hours that evening and commenced again the next morning at 6.30am. The outward trip was very quiet for birds although we did see some flocks of Common Scoter and brief glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise whose presence was given away by an attentive Gannet.

We stayed on board in Cuxhaven due to the altered timing and recommenced surveying the next morning. This return leg was much busier although made tricky later in the afternoon by the glare from the sun, which turned into a brilliant sunset. 

Gannet (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

Arctic Skua The highlight of this leg was the on- going Skua migration - mainly Arctic Skua. We had excellent views of one group of four who were harrying a small feeding flock of Kittiwake and Gannet. Two of them chased a hapless Kittiwake across our bow in a fantastic high speed acrobatic flying display by all three birds. Another group of four were more distant but again were harrying a mixed feeding flock.  

A single Great Skua flew so close across our bow that we almost missed it. There have been several birds of both species reported from the Mendip Reservoirs near Bristol this week, so now is an excellent time to see them. We arrived back at Immingham at 0400hrs and were met promptly at the ramp by the ever helpful staff from DFDS.


Arctic Skua (Photo: Peter Howlett)

As ever our thanks go to the Captain and crew of the 'Clementine' for all their assistance and allowing us to carry out this survey.

Maggie Gamble and Lucy Bernardova, Research Surveyors for MARINElife.

MARINElife Survey Report: Immingham-Cuxhaven DFDS ‘Finlandia’ 19th-21st August 2013

Posted 24 August 2013

Dick Lorand and Cliff Morrison Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Wind variable later NW 2-3 outbound with SSW 3-4 on the return

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 64
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 10 

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 47
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 19
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 9
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 165
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 61
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 10
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1887
Common Gull Larus canus 42
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 117
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 361
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6086
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 20
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 101
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 65
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 166
Puffin Fratercula arctica 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 2038
Razorbill Alca torda 103

Terrestrial Birds:
Dunlin Calidris alpina 8
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 5
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 5
Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 7
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 1

After efficiently being booked onto the 'Finlandia', we were welcomed onto the bridge by Captain Oresko Andrej, not long after we left the lock pits at Immingham. Our first sightings were of 21 Common Scoter heading up river and a Grey Seal asleep just outside the dock. Once we had cleared the Humber estuary, we were recording a few Arctic and Common Tern and after about 10 miles, we encountered a steady stream of Large White butterflies and thousands of Common Jellyfish along a line of flotsam.

Minke Whale Peter Howlett 01aWe were soon picking up small numbers of Harbour Porpoise in the flat calm conditions, amounting to 34 for the day. At about 50 miles out, we came upon large flocks of Kittiwake and Guillemot totalling 4955 and 1495 respectively. In amongst these birds were 4 Sooty and 8 Manx Shearwater. Brief views were also had of 2 singles of Minke Whale. From close up views of feeding birds, it appeared they were catching sand eels. Terns and Kittiwake were being harried by 3 Arctic Skua, then after two or three miles of frantic activity, recording settled to a slower pace and we finished for the day at 20:00hrs. A look at the ship's Admiralty charts showed that the rafts of birds had been at the northern extension of the Inner Dowsing sand ridge.

Minke Whale (Pete Howlett)

Back on the bridge by 06:00hrs Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gull were much in evidence as we neared the German coast plus a couple of hundred Guillemot with quite a few juveniles in tow as we passed Heligoland and we managed to log another 5 Harbour Porpoise. Good numbers of Sandwich, Common, Arctic and "Commic" and a single Little Tern were seen in the environs of Cuxhaven. Several Tortoiseshell butterflies and a Painted Lady butterfly also joined the ship in the vicinity of Heligoland and stayed until docking at Cuxhaven.

Yellow Wagtail (Cliff Morrison)Starting our last day of the survey at 05:30hrs, half way across the North Sea we had a constant trickle of attendant Gannet with Common and Black-headed Gull overtaking the ship heading towards the UK. Again we passed through the Kittiwake and Guillemot flock but the numbers were much reduced with 934 and 332 respectively, but we did see a Pomarine Skua along with 6 Arctic Skua and singles of Manx and Sooty Shearwater plus 11 Puffin. With stronger winds on the return trip, spotting cetaceans was not easy but we did log a total of 27 Harbour Porpoise. Within sight of the English coast, a Yellow Wagtail joined the ship along with several Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies. Small numbers of Common and Arctic Tern were seen in the Humber estuary and finally, a party of 26 Common Scoter were seen flying up river, mirroring the 21 seen as we had left port at the start of the journey. It is assumed that Scoter migrate up river and then fly cross-country to the Irish Sea.

Yellow Wagtail (Cliff Morrison)

Once again, our gratitude extends to all the staff, both on and offshore at DFDS for their help in making this yet again a very successful survey.

Cliff Morrison and Dick Lorand: Research Surveyors for MARINElife.

MARINElife Survey Report: Immingham-Cuxhaven June 2013

Posted 01 June 2013

Survey cancelled due to severe weather

MARINElife Survey Report: Immingham-Cuxhaven DFDS ‘Finlandia’ 17th-19th May 2013

Posted 24 May 2013

Weather: Eastbound: NW 5 Westbound: W 1

Dick Lorand and Robert Graves Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

 


Summary of Sightings:

Cetaceans and Seals:
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 3
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocena 69
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 26

Seabirds:
Eider Somateria mollissima 37
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 19
Gannet Morus bassanus 124
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 12
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 213
Common Gull Larus canus 196
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 134
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 227
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 4
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 11
Guillemot  Uria aalge 109
Razorbill Alca torda 36
Greylag Goose Anser anser 7
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula 3

Terrestrial Birds:
Dunlin Calidris alpine 7
House Martin Delichon urbicum 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 10
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis 2
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus 2
Yellow Wagtail Moticilla flava thunbergi 1
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur 1
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 1

The new parking and check in near Nordic House on the Immingham Terminal were much better and we were welcomed aboard the 'Finlandia' with a wholesome midday meal.

After tight manoeuvring, we joined the bridge an hour after we left the quayside. 3 Tufted Duck were flushed by the Finlandia as we were heading down river and we were soon into the North Sea. Just after leaving, the Humber Mouth 2 Harbour Porpoise were spotted.

Razorbill 1There was a steady stream of Gannet and Kittiwake and to a lesser extent Guillemot and Razorbill, with Guillemot being the commoner of the two auks. Despite the choppy conditions, another brief view of a probable Harbour Porpoise was seen in the late afternoon, when weather conditions started to deteriorate with persistent rain. Briefly taking shelter from the weather were 1 House Martin, 2 Swallow and 2 Tree Pipit. The best bird of the day occurred just before the survey finished at 20:30 when a second year intermediate Pomarine Skua flew past the bows of the ship.

05:00 the next morning saw us running along the north German coast. 2 Wood Pigeon were resting on the roof of a container on deck. 7 Greylag Geese were flying north and a thunbergi Yellow Wagtail made a brief appearance over the bow of the ship, while 4 Swallow and a House Martin hawked around the super structure. At the entrance of Common Sealthe Elbe River, we encountered good numbers of Lesser Black-backed and Common Gull and 26 Common Seal were hauled out on the sand bars.

After docking Robert braved the inclement weather and spent 3 hours looking at the habitat around the dock perimeter where his highlights were 16 Common Sandpiper, 1 Honey Buzzard, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 5 Black Redstart and 3 Icterine Warbler. Heavy rain and cool temperatures persisted for the rest of the day. The 'Finlandia' left Cuxhaven just before dusk.

Another 5am start on the bridge saw much calmer conditions. A Turtle Dove was resting on the bridge railings and an hour and a half into the survey saw the first of a total of 11 Puffin. Guillemot and Razorbill were more in WBDevidence than the eastbound leg so too were Gannet and Kittiwake plus a total of 6 Red-throated Diver and a single Black-tailed Godwit flying north over the ship. The undoubted highlight of the survey were the cetaceans. In 31 sightings, we logged 66 Harbour Porpoise plus good views of 3 White-beaked Dolphin. There could have been more recorded but at 15:15 dense fog descended and the survey was curtailed.

A very worthwhile survey and if the sea conditions are right demonstrates what can be seen in the North Sea.

The survey was made possible with the generosity of DFDS and the help of Captain Gintaras Kucinskas and his very friendly crew to which we extend our thanks.



Dick Lorand and Robert Graves Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife survey report: DFDS ‘Longstone’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 19-22 April 2013

Posted 24 April 2013

Peter Howlett and Rob Lidstone-Scott, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 48
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Harbour (Common) Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 29
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 21
Diver Sp. 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 76
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 172
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 50
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 361
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 9
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 115
Large gull Sp.17
Guillemot Uria aalge 230
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 13
Auk Sp. 305

Terrestrial Birds
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 6
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 3
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 2
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 1
Dunnock Prunella modularis 2
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1

MARINElife surveyors may be a new experience for the crew of the 'Longstone', but we received a friendly welcome as we were shown to our spacious cabin. After a good lunch, we were able to watch the conclusion of loading, the skilful squeezing of the ship through the lock, with apparently only inches to spare on either side and then enjoy the transit along the Humber. Once out of the estuary and with the pilot having left the ship, we were able to access the bridge and were given every assistance in setting up for our survey.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 01There was still a northerly swell running from the high winds of the previous days but during the three hours of surveying possible before dusk, there were good numbers of Kittiwake, Guillemot and Gannet; the single Manx Shearwater was a nice bonus. Four Harbour Porpoise were seen during this session but despite being close to England's second largest Grey Seal colony, we saw only a single seal.

The following morning, we were able to survey from first light until early afternoon, when the pilot came aboard to negotiate the ship's passage up the Elbe River into Cuxhaven. Sea conditions improved throughout the day and three more Harbour Porpoise; a flock of 26 Common Scoter, 66 Common/Arctic Terns and 12 Little Gull were some of the highlights of the day. Watching the sunrise over the sea from the elevated viewpoint afforded by the bridge and with a day's 'sea-watching' in prospect, is not a bad way to start a weekend!

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01A very early start was made on the final day, thanks largely to someone's smart phone self-changing to German time. What a fantastic day! The sea just got calmer and calmer, until even the trainee- surveyor was able to spot Harbour Porpoise; 41 were seen during the day. A single Great Skua and 56 Common/Arctic Tern were amongst the highlights of the seabirds seen and there was the added distraction of occasional passerines such as Dunnock and Blackcap flitting amongst the containers.

Our thanks to Captain MacLeod and his crew for their hospitality and to DFDS for their continued support of MARINElife's work.



Peter Howlett and Rob Lidstone-Scott, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

 

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘ClipperPoint’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 15th-18th March 2013

Posted 26 March 2013

John Perry and Cliff Morrison, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of sightings
Cetaceans:
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 5
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 2
Common (Harbour) Seal  Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds:
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus 1
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 46
Eider Somateria mollissima 41
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 14
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 98
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 63
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 129
Shag Phalacrocoraxaristotelis 1
Arctic(Parasitic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 125
Common Gull Larus canus 25
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 57
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 23
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 34
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 12
Guillemot Uria aalge 108
Razorbill Alca torda 6
Auk Sp.10
Diver Sp. 9
Grey Goose Sp.10

Terrestrial Birds:
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1
Pintail Anas acuta 46
Wigeon Anas penelope 14
Goosander Mergus merganser 34
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 84
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Dunlin Calidris alpine 6
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 3
Skylark Alauda arvensis 1
Blackbird Turdus merula 3
Song ThrushTurdus philomelos 2
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 119
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 10 

We were welcomed aboard the 'ClipperPoint' by the crew and were provided with an excellent lunch, a good start to the trip. We were able to visit the bridge at 13:30hrs and were greeted by Captain Jameson, who very helpfully described the outbound route. Predicted southerly gales meant he had decided to take a more southeasterly route so that the ship would benefit from the protection of the Dutch and German coasts, before it then turned towards Cuxhaven the following morning. Scheduling meant a similar return route was planned.

Fortunately, the strong winds blew overnight, but did not disturb a good night's sleep and we were able to observe throughout all the daylight hours each day.

Harbour PorpoiseOn the Friday watch, we were very pleased to see a Harbour Porpoise just a couple of minutes out of Immingham port, being the first record of the day. Interestingly, two just off Grimsby on the previous week's Esbjerg - Immingham trip was also the last record of that trip. With regular porpoise records now from the shore on the south bank of the Humber mouth, it would appear that there is a local population here. Two other Harbour porpoise and two Grey Seal were also seen during the afternoon, along with 55 Gannet, moving mainly in a northerly direction, 46 Guillemot, 11 Little Gull and, surprisingly, a Shag on the water well out to sea.

The following morning was excellent for a northeasterly duck migration, with 95 Red-breasted Merganser, 34 Goosander, 46 Pintail, 12 Wigeon and 36 Brent Geese being counted. An early light phase Arctic Skua moving north was also interesting.

Three individual Harbour Porpoise Little Gulland a Common Seal were recorded on the return trip. A flock of 124 Cormorant were assumed to be  birds flighting from the Dutch coast to feeding areas, whilst 23 Little Gull were also in this area. There was an easterly passage of 54 Black-headed Gull and a southeasterly passage of 90 Lesser Black-backed Gull, but the main feature of the day was a migration of terrestrial birds towards the Dutch coast, including 119 Starling, some resting on the ship, along with a Robin, Blackbird and Wood Pigeon. Lapwing also regularly flew past the ship with 72 being counted in small groups.

Our thanks to Captain Jameson and his crew and to DFDS for the continued support.

 


John Perry and Cliff Morrison, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 15th-17th February 2013

Posted 22 February 2013

Cheryl Leaning & Sue Lakeman Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Southbound NE-SE 2-4 Northbound E-SE 2-4 Visibility: Moderate to poor

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 18
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 6
Seal Sp. 5
Unidentified small cetacean 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 70
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 17
Eider Somateria mollissima 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 19
Common Gull Larus canus 53
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 91
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 31
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 162
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 173
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 2
Unidentified Duck Sp. 3
Goose Sp. 1 (possible pink-footed)
Unidentified Diver Sp. 2
Unidentified Auk Sp.74
Unidentified Gull Sp.181

Terrestrial birds:
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 60
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 1
Skylark (probable) Alauda arvensis 1
Wader Sp.1

Grey Seal 1After a week of snow, wind and rain, it was a pleasant surprise to arrive in Immingham in hazy sunshine for our crossing to Cuxhaven. The efficient DFDS staff made sure we were quickly aboard and shown to our comfortable cabins. Once the Clipper Point had been expertly manoeuvred through the lock, Captain Pearce welcomed us to the bridge to begin our survey.

In the Humber, we were soon accompanied by seals and Black-headed Gull. The seabird count was steady as we started our crossing of the North Sea and we saw several Grey Seal and Cormorant fishing some distance from shore. Conditions were calm and bright and we were soon rewarded with our first sighting of Harbour Porpoise, followed by several more before we closed for the day as the light faded, descending to the airy passenger area for a tasty fish and chip supper provided by the friendly catering crew.

Harbour PorpoiseOn the bridge at first light, we encountered three Starling sheltering on the ship for several hours. The day again provided calm seas, but misty conditions meant that identification of distant sightings was challenging. The highlight of a quiet morning, as well as the numerous Guillemot, were a couple more Harbour Porpoise surfacing briefly and a flight of Eider crossing ahead of the ship, before we entered the shipping lane on the approach to Cuxhaven. After another tasty meal, we retired early, hoping for a busy day ahead.

Day three's visibility was slightly improved and we were accompanied by numerous Kittiwake, including a few of the beautifully marked juveniles. We were also surprised to see a single Lapwing fly in front of the bridge and at one point to be briefly visited by what appeared to be a rather ruffled Skylark.

The Kittiwake, busily searching the waters for food, cued us onto several Juv-Kittiwakeof our Harbour Porpoise sightings, which they had obviously spotted sub-surface long before we were treated to tantalisingly brief glimpses of these small and elusive cetaceans.

Despite the misty conditions, this was a very smooth and interesting trip and we would like to thank Captain Pearce, his officers and crew for their hospitality and once again, extend our appreciation to DFDS for their continued support that allows us to conduct our survey work on these North Sea routes.

Cheryl Leaning & Sue Lakeman Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife blog: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 18th-20th January 2013

Posted 25 January 2013

Adrian Shephard and Cliff Morrison, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: E/ENE 3-7

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans & Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 15
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Unidentified Seal Sp. 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 24
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 9
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 192
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 31
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 44
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 116
Guillemot Uria aalge 165
Eider Somateria mollissima 13
Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis 3
Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 3
Red-Throated Diver Gavia stellata 4
Gull Sp. 6
Diver Sp. 16
Auk Sp. 28

Estuary Birds:
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 58+
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 500+
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 21
Unidentified Swan Sp. 1  

Black-tailed GodwitWe boarded promptly in the sunshine but with the imminent threat of snow. We enjoyed a nice lunch and watched a group of waders including Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck and Lapwing feeding on the mud flats near the dock.

Once through the lock, we headed for the bridge to start our survey.

The wind conditions were due to get stronger as the survey progressed, so we set to work recording seabirds with Common Gull and Guillemot dominating before we got a fleeting glimpse of a Harbour Porpoise, followed by a Grey Seal. As it turned out, these were the only marine mammals of the day.

Barnacle GeeseAfter a good sleep, we were back on the bridge the following morning at 7.30am, but again the sea state was not on our side, but the sunshine was with us. We encountered a slow stream of birds, primarily Common Gull and the occasional Kittiwake and Guillemot. As we neared Cuxhaven, three Barnacle Geese flew alongside the bridge providing some nice views.

In the estuary, good numbers of birds were seen including Divers, Eider and other ducks and even a distant Swan in flight. We got off very briefly in Cuxhaven to stretch our legs, but the sub-zero temperatures soon had us back onboard to tally up sightings to date.

Common SkoterThe return crossing saw similar sea conditions with gradually increasing swell, but as this was primarily behind us, it didn't feel uncomfortable. A steady stream of seabirds was encountered and then mid morning, we had a series of Harbour Porpoise sightings, their dark forms standing out against the brown white-capped seas.

One group of seven porpoises was seen feeding in association with Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Gannet. In the same vicinity, we also saw a number of Guillemot, which were already in their breeding plumage.

By 4pm, the swell was causing too much spray on the windows to continue, so we finished our survey and thanked the crew for their support.

Adrian Shephard and Cliff Morrison, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham - Cuxhaven 16-18 November 2012

Posted 23 November 2012

Janet Shepherd and Jane Gray, MARINElife Research Surveyors

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 35
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 113
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 13
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 106
Common Gull Larus canus 19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 39
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 117
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 243
Greylag Goose Anser anser 5
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus 13
Eider Somateria mollissima 10
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Gull Sp. 30
Diver Sp.1
Duck Sp. 33
Goose Sp. 10

Terrestrial Birds:
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 3 (accompanying the ship)   

Friday 16th November: Immingham to Cuxhaven
On arrival at Immingham we were  escorted through check in and to the ship whereupon we were welcomed on board by the crew. We took the opportunity to identify the different species of gulls in their winter plumage around the dockside. As the ship made its way through the lock, we were entertained to a wonderful display, a murmuration of around 700 Starling. We then met Captain Jamieson, who we had met before on the Warren Point route and as the light was fading, we retired ready for the next morning.

Saturday, 17th November: Immingham to Cuxhaven
There had been strong winds overnight, decreasing from a southerly Force 6 first Turnstone 1thing in the morning, to Force 4 on arrival at Cuxhaven.

Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull and Guillemot were seen in large numbers with other species included divers, and three Starling, which had appeared to have hitched a ride on the ship. We also saw Pink-footed and Greylag geese on their migration south as we approached Cuxhaven.Storm Petrel

During our time in Cuxhaven, we took the opportunity to walk around the docks and observed many gulls, crows, two Turnstone and our second murmuration of Starling.

Sunday, 18th November: Cuxhaven to Immingham
Departing Cuxhaven during the evening, the second survey started again in the morning with winds from the west, with good visibility. We had good sightings of Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Fulmar, as well as sightings of Great Skua and Storm Petrel. Unfortunately, we did not encounter any cetaceans.

Thanks again to Captain Jamieson and his crew for looking after and feeding us so well!

Janet Shepherd and Jane Gray, Research Surveyors for MARINElife