Sightings Archives: October 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham - Cuxhaven 19-22 October 2012

Posted 24 October 2012

Mike Bamford and Graham Ekins, Researchers for MARINElife
D1 Overcast, visibility: moderate, Wind SE Force2; D2 Overcast, visibility: good, Wind SSW/SW Force 2-3; D3 Overcast, visibility good. Wind NE force 3-6

Cetaceans and Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Common (Harbour) Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Birds seen at sea:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 15
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 137
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 15
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 3
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 153
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 15
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 88
Little Gull Larus minutus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 95
Puffin Fratercula arctica 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 160
Razorbill Alca torda 25
Auk Sp.2
Gull Sp. 1000+
Brent goose Branta bernicla 13
Eider Somateria mollissima 61
Teal Anas crecca 1
Red throated Diver Gavia stellate 2
Coot Fulica atra 1
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Bar tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 1
Redshank Tringa tetanus 9

Terrestrial birds:
Merlin Falco columbarius 1
Turtle dove Streptopelia turtur 1
Skylark Alauda arvensis 72
Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis18
White wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Robin Erithacus rubecula 15
Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros 5
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1
Redwing Turdus iliacus 56
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris 3
Blackbird Turdus merula 5
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 9
Goldcrest Regulus regulus 19
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 815
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 136
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla 24
Siskin Carduelis spinus 9

Starlings North SeaWe arrived in Immingham in good time for a midday sailing on Friday and were kindly and efficiently shown on board, to separate comfortable cabins. Our departure time was delayed to 16:00hrs and setting off from the berth through a rather tight lock, we had just a couple of hours in rather murky visibility before dark, as we were leaving the Humber Estuary.

The light was good enough next morning at 07:00hrs and soon after arrival on the bridge we had a brief view of a Harbour Porpoise and through the morning saw three others briefly, but unfortunately also the bodies of two young seals, probably Grey Seals. Nearing Cuxhaven we also saw a Common seal.

The rest of the trip was a superb chance to see bird migration in action. On the outward leg we saw several large, dense flocks of starlings - a total of 782 birds. We also saw many Chaffinches and Skylarks, and just before Cuxhaven a Merlin at full throttle, flashed past.

Crossing the trailer park in Cuxhaven, a large owl flew up and perched on a trailer, a magnificent Long-Eared Owl. Obviously pretty exhausted it gave us superb views and a heart stopping photo opportunity.

Long-eared owlWith not many other birds on offer ashore we re-boarded to tot up the day's sightings and settle in for an early night.

On Sunday the forecast was for North-Easterly winds, and with fog around. We climbed smartly up the stairs hoping for good things. What followed was a magnificent show of migration in action, early on we saw several Black Redstarts round the ship, followed by a spectacular mix of other species, with Redwings and Fieldfares going by, or resting briefly on the ship.  Bramblings landed to forage on the deck and in front of us on the bridge, and tiny Goldcrests struggled onto the ship, particularly with the onset of rain, perching in the open and giving more wonderful chances for photos. There were many more species, but among the more unlikely were a Wren and a Turtle Dove which rested on board for an hour or so before setting off again in entirely the wrong direction - the North West. The bridge crew drew our attention to a brambling which had come in and was perched on the bridge console. Exhausted as it was it was quite easy to catch and release. In hand it was very thin and sadly, its chances looked slim.

Seeing tiny warblers, after pausing on the ship, setting off again and climbing steadily over the sea with many miles to go, was deeply inspiring.

On the water the grimmer side of migration showed as a Great Black-backed Gull picked up a downed Starling and swallowed it whole.


GoldcrestMid-north Sea; One notable Fulmar had dark, bluish wings and a dark head, but a pale belly suggesting at least a 'dark' classification, and indicating it came from the high Arctic.

Sadly no Cetacea showed, but we couldn't have asked for more.

We docked promptly at 04:00hrs and were able to leave the ship promptly, suspecting that there might be a significant fall of migrants that day.

We were looked after very kindly by the crew and the food on board was excellent.  With many grateful thanks to Captain David Peers and all his crew.

Michael Bamford and Graham Ekins: Research Surveyors for MARINElife