Sightings Archives: June 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham - Cuxhaven 15 – 17 June 2012

Posted 08 July 2012

Carol Farmer-Wright Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Weather: Eastbound: Day one, WSW 6 to NNE 1 sunny with increasing cloud cover, Day two: SW 6-2 Westbound: SW 8 to SSE 2 variable cloud

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates 5
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 6          
Unidentified cetacean sp. 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Seal Species 32

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 25
Gannet Morus bassanus 78
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 84
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 41
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 33
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 233
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 652Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 133
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Unidentified small gull sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Curlew Numenius arquata 3
Swift Apus apus 3
Goosander Mergus Merganser 4

After being welcomed aboard the 'Clipper Point' by the crew, I was given a lovely dinner before starting the survey once the ship had left the lock in Immingham just after 4pm. As we left the Humber estuary a flock of Common Scoter crossed our bow and a few Herring Gulls could also be seen, then four hours out into the North Sea I managed to get a brief glimpse of a Grey Seal as it watched us travel eastward. As the ship moved further into the North Sea a few Gannets, Guillemots and Fulmars appeared, the light started to fade so I left the bridge as the following morning I intended to be surveying from 4am to see the sun rise.

BH Gull 1Saturday morning; I returned to the bridge and started to record the first of many Lesser Black-backed gulls over the next 8 hours. As the ship passed to the south of Heligoland I saw a Guillemot with its offspring in the water, the chick still appeared more like a puff ball than anything else but was able to dive under the water when urged by its parent. Then as we neared the islands of Scharhorn and Neuwerk many seals and birds could be seen on the mudflats, although the distance made positive identification frustratingly impossible. With Cuxhaven in sight, Black-headed Gulls appeared together with some Common Terns and a flock of Cormorants. The ship docked at 2:30pm BST and as it was not due to sail until 9pm so I wrote up my notes and decided to have an early night as I would be up again at dawn the following day.

Dawn saw me on the bridge to start surveying the return leg in more choppy seas. My eyes were soon drawn to a bird flying just in front of the starboard wing and to my surprise it was a Swift heading towards the United Kingdom. A couple more Swifts were seen in the first few hours of daylight, all heading west. The weather was exciting enough for the Fulmars and Gannets to soar over the sea swell with ease. Bottlenose dolphin came in to bow-ride just after 1pm, first two animals appeared, spotted by the Officer on Watch and then a third animal, its approach to the bow somewhat masked by the sea swell.
The afternoon was further peppered with regular sightings of Fulmar, Gannet, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Kittiwake and I stopped recording to go to dinner before the last section of the survey.

Minke 4I returned to the bridge at 5:15pm to much calmer seas and sightings of Kittiwakes, Gannets and Guillemots. Two hours into this part of the survey I was alerted to a feeding frenzy of Gannet, Guillemot and Kittiwakes to the port side, this was a good sign that interesting waters may lie ahead. Sure enough over the next hour many birds were seen feeding on the water and just before 7:45pm the first whale sighting occurred, initially I thought it was a Northern Bottlenose Whale but I eventually realised it was in fact, a Minke Whale feeding. Six animals appeared in total, the majority of them surfacing next to or in a group of Guillemots or Kittiwakes. Near the end of this feeding area further sightings of a Bottlenose Dolphin and some Harbour Porpoises occurred and my last sighting of the evening was seeing yet another Guillemot parent with its chick looking for food in the North Sea, a superb way to end the survey.

My thanks go to Captain Suharevs, his Officers and Crew for being so helpful in enabling this survey to go so smoothly and to DFDS Seaways for allowing MARINElife to survey on this very interesting route.

Carol Farmer-Wright Research Surveyor for MARINElife