MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Clipper Point’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 5th - 7th December 2014

Andy Gilbert and Richard Barnard: Research surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Day 1: NW 3. Day 2: NNW 1-3. Day 3: SW 6-7

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grupus

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 4
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellate 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 6
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 129
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 37
Guillemot Uria aalgae 46
Auk Sp. 1
Diver Sp. 1
Gull Sp. 60 

Terrestrial Birds
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 1
Great-crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1

Richard and I met in the DFDS staff car park at Immingham and were soon on-board waiting to sail.  Having been asked to stay in the lounge until out of the docks we ate lunch and watched as the ship negotiated the tight lock. Once out of the lock the Captain welcomed us to the bridge and we commenced our survey.  As we left the Humber estuary around 60 gulls were flocking behind a dredger and we mused as to whether they mistook it for a trawler or were expecting a feed brought up from the sea bed when it started to dredge.  A sea state of 3 and good visibility greeted us in open water, as did mainly Common Gull and Great-black Backed Gull.  Cormorant, Shag and Fulmar broke up the afternoon and we were pleased with a good sighting of a Red-throated Diver.

Red throated diver by MB

Red-throated Diver (Mike Bamford)

Similar numbers of Common Gull continued on the Saturday along with 4 Cormorant flying right across the bow of the ship directly through the 'box'! Another Red-throated Diver, a Common Scoter, a few Kittiwake and Guillemot added to the variety. As we passed the Island of Heligoland, famous for its ornithological history and the development of the Heligoland trap for observation and ringing of birds, as well as its rather grander historical place in the international politics of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Europe, we knew we were now well across the North Sea and heading for the German coast. Cruising into the mouth of the Elbe between coast and sandbanks we had sightings of 3 Eider, a Great-crested Grebe on the water and a Grey Seal. The sea state had dropped to 1 and no sooner had the Grey Seal dived, 2 Harbour Porpoise surfaced and showed brilliantly as they passed the ship no more than 50 meters away. We both agreed it was a great way to finish the second survey of the trip. We had a few hours in port before turnaround so we walked into Cuxhaven to find what seemed like most of Germany doing its Christmas shopping on a cold December evening. We stood at one of the Christmas stalls and enjoyed a hot mug of Gluwein and a bratwurst, as is the seasonal custom in Germany, before it was time to head back to the ship.

cormorant Adrian Shephard 03a

Cormorant (Adrian Shephard)

Sunday morning and we woke to the sound of large seas. A sea state 7-8 with mist and rain put a stop to surveying for the first half of the day. The afternoon reduced the seas to 5-6 and improved visibility which allowed some surveying. The winds had brought the deeper water specialists out as Gannet glided on the breezes and Kittiwake carved magnificently just above the waves as if they were Shearwaters. A large number of Guillemot transited south and 3 more Common Scoter were logged before last light.All in all the survey was relatively quiet but the great showing of Harbour Porpoise and Red-Throated Diver kept our spirits high and we arrived back in Immingham at 3.45 on Monday morning.

Thank you to the Captain and Crew of Clipper Point who made us very welcome and as always thanks to DFDS for their support of this survey route.

Andy Gilbert and Richard Barnard: Research surveyors for MARINElife