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

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