Sightings Archives: September 2014

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

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 (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