MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways “Clipper Point” Immingham-Cuxhaven 6th - 9th February 2015

Carol Farmer-Wright and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Day 1 Wind force NE to ENE 3-4, sea state 1-4, sunny.
Day 2 Wind force NW-W 4-5, sea state 3-5, cloudy
Day 3 Wind force NNE 8-3, sea state 8-3, partial cloud

Marine Mammals
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 136
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 18
Gannet Morus bassanus 12
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 84
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 16
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 35
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 34
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 102
Guillemot Uria aalgae 58
Razorbill Alca torda 67
Auk Sp. 3
Larus Sp. 4
Gull Sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Sanderling Calidris alba 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Redshank Tringa totanus 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 250

Carol and I travelled to Immingham together as she had stayed with me on the Thursday night. We reached Immingham in good time and were straightforwardly checked in. We proceeded on board and were shown to our very well appointed single cabins. We ate early and were pleasantly surprised when we were invited to go onto the bridge before the ship went into the lock.

We started the survey with a cross section of gulls, though already there was more Common Gull amongst them than we might have expected. We also saw two Redshank and two Shelduck on the sand and just as we left the area a Sanderling hurried past, a bird not very common along this part of the Humber, so that was a pleasant surprise!
Immingham Lock-Carol FW

The lock in Immingham (Photo: Carol Farmer-Wright)

Three hours into the survey we saw our first Guillemot and later Gannet and Fulmar, until fading light led to us finishing the days surveying at sunset.

After a good dinner and a pleasant evening writing up our recordings we retired early to our comfortable beds and a quiet night.

Saturday morning dawned clear and moderately calm. Our first sighting was another of the now ubiquitous Common Gull, but this was soon followed by a number of Kittiwake that soon became our most frequent observations. It was good to be able to notice a fair number of juveniles of both species. Guillemot and Gannet were also present in small numbers throughout the morning, but most of them were at a distance. We also saw one Cormorant and were also graced with a total of 8 Harbour Porpoise,
all but one of them were single sightings but a pod of 4 passed by while I was at lunch!

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 18

Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

As we drew near to the dock area a group of 8 Eider was seen and as we entered the estuary two substantial rafts of these beautiful sea ducks were observed, with the second raft containing 97 birds. On the sandbank, lined up in typical close formation were around 250 Oystercatcher. It was time to leave the bridge and proceed below. We wrote up the data, ate our fill of the as usual excellent food, watched a little TV then retired to our cabins.

A storm approached overnight in the northern section of the North Sea, so the captain decided to return to Immingham on a more southerly course than usual to avoid the worst of the weather, so we waited for a couple of hours after sunrise before returning to the bridge. The light was good so we were able to observe quite well and gradually the weather abated. As the day progressed we saw increasingly large numbers of Guillemot and also a fair number of Razorbill, my favourite auk. We also continued to see large numbers of Kittiwake of all ages. We also saw a few Fulmar and Gannet including one very young bird.

The best of the day occurred in mid morning. Carol suddenly spotted a family of three White- beaked Dolphin, two adults and one youngster swam leisurely by and moved off to starboard. About 15 minutes later I was excited by the sight of what quickly became clear as two Harbour Porpoise. One of them, by coming right out of the water in an uncoordinated manner revealed itself to be a calf. It was less than a metre long and it was really delightful to see.
White Beaked-Rick Morris

White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo Rick Morris)

The light greyed out quite early and at 4.30pm we ended the survey. We thanked the kindly crew and made our way back to our rooms. After writing up the data and again enjoying a good dinner we retired to get an excellent night's sleep before our arrival at Immingham.

A very satisfying survey, heightened by the joy of seeing a young Harbour Porpoise as well as quite a number of young birds.

Our thanks go to DFDS Seaways, Captain Alan Leech, his Officers and crew for looking after us so well on the survey.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Angela Needham, Research Surveyors for MARINElife