Sightings Archives: December 2013

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

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