Sightings Archives: March 2015

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways “Clipper Point” Immingham-Cuxhaven 6th - 8th March 2015.

Posted 15 March 2015

Graham Ekins and Charles McGibney, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Day 1: Clear with light winds from the West, <1m swell, cloud and wind slowly increased towards dusk.
Day 2: Cloudy but dry with a force 3-4 from the SW, 1 metre swell.
Day 3: Wind force 5-6 SW, 3-3.5 metre swell, light drizzle from mid-day then intermittent rain in the afternoon; wind decreasing towards dusk.

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 6
Common (Harbour) Seal Phoca vitulina 2

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 12
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Guillemot Uria algae 5
Razorbill Alca torda 11
Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla 15
Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 35
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 43
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Common Gull Larus canus 142
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 3
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 92
Gull Sp. 1

Passerines landing on or passing the survey ship
Stock Dove Columba oenas 1

We arrived at Immingham dock to be met by the very efficient DFDS staff who quickly processed our tickets and arranged secure parking for our vehicles. We were then driven to the large and modern MV Clipper Point where we were made very welcome by the staff and shown to our excellent rooms.

After a very enjoyable meal we were shown to the bridge where Captain Alan Leech and his officers made us very welcome. In the excellent visibility and light winds we saw 2 Harbour Porpoise before passing Spurn Point at the mouth of the Humber Estuary. Before we started recording we had great views of an immature Peregrine Falcon sitting on one of the new channel marker posts.  As we travelled east we saw several Red-throated Diver, most of which were in summer plumage. Shortly afterwards we came across a wheeling flock of 100 mainly adult Common Gull feeding above a small pod of Harbour Porpoise. Late afternoon we had excellent views of 2 Harbour Seal, both were swimming steadily east.
WB Dolphin Graham Ekins 03White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

Towards evening I was delighted to see a pod of 5 White-beaked Dolphin approach the ship before turning and diving away, always a great species to see in this part of the North Sea. We also saw several immature Great Black-backed Gull, small groups of Kittiwake, a lone Puffin and unexpectedly a Great Northern Diver. As we left the bridge that evening the setting sun was an impressive sight against the high and diffuse clouds.
GN Diver Pete HowlettGreat Northern Diver (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The following morning we started the survey just after dawn. It was overcast with a moderate SW wind. During the morning we saw a few Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull and the occasional Guillemot. Then late morning 40kms N of the East Frisian Islands we came across some adult Little Gull heading NE as well as a migrating flock of 35 Eider, 12 Dark-bellied Brent Geese and four Red-throated Diver. Then as we headed towards Cuxhaven dock we saw 5 Grey Seal swimming towards sandbanks exposed by the falling tide.

Captain Leech had kindly arranged permission for us to leave the dock and I therefore went for a walk around the rough ground surrounding the harbour in spring like weather. I was pleased to see Fieldfare, Redwing and Blackbird presumably on their spring migration while other migrants included a singing Chiffchaff and a Black Redstart. Offshore during the afternoon we could see a steady movement NE of Black-headed Gull, Cormorant, Shelduck and Dark-bellied Brent Geese, this movement continued until dusk.
Grey Seal Rick Morris 06Bull Grey Seal (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

The following morning dawned grey with a SW wind force 5-6 and a 3 metre swell. This was quite challenging for surveying yet Charles found a Harbour Porpoise and a bull Grey Seal that spent a minute watching the ship before diving away.

The most unexpected bird species was a Stock Dove that we found keeping pace with the ship, after 30 minutes it accelerated away west into the strong SW wind. Seabirds included a steady passage west of adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Presumably these had migrated N along the French and Dutch coasts before heading across to the UK for the summer. We also saw several groups of Kittiwake, often associating with summer plumage Razorbill, Guillemot and Puffin. We were also delighted to see the rare northern form of Fulmar usually known as Blue Fulmar.

As we left the bridge at dusk we thanked Captain Leech and his officers for their hospitality on this very enjoyable survey and we would also like to thank DFDS for their continued support of this survey route.

Graham Ekins and Charles McGibney Research Surveyors for MARINElife