MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Jutlandica Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 5-7 February 2016

Jenny Boatwright and Elin Pheasant, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather:
Day 1: Overcast, with southwesterly wind force 5-6
Day 2: Overcast, with southerly wind force 5-6
Day 3: A mix of clouds and sunny spells, with a southwesterly wind, force 5-6 inc. 8

Summary of Sightings:

Cetaceans
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6

Seabirds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 3
Eider Somateria mollissima 55
Gannet Morus bassanus 134
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 52
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 69
Guillemot Uria aalge 144
Razorbill Alca torda 17
Puffin Fratercula arctica 11
Auk Sp. 56
Gull Sp. 14
Geese Sp. 32

Landbirds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1
Curlew Numenius arquata 2

Day 1

We arrived at the DFDS gatehouse at Immingham port on the Friday morning and taken to the ship where we were welcomed aboard by a member of the crew who took us up to our accommodation. Once we had left the dock at Immingham and entered the River Humber we contacted the Captain and were greeted with a warm smile and an enthusiastic welcome on entering the bridge.

Still in the Humber we immediately saw several Herring and Common Gull. On leaving the Humber, we had our first sightings of the majestic Gannet within our 300m recording box and were then treated to good views of one or two Gannet every 15 minutes or so.

Once we were clear of the Humber and shipping traffic, Captain Mart Tarang came to talk to us and was enthusiastic about our survey.

Day 2

After a tasty breakfast, we returned to the bridge. This morning brought several more bird species to add to our list, including small groups of Guillemot, Kittiwake, and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Captain Tarang joined us again for a brief chat, as we sighted our first Gannet of the day off the starboard bow. Three small flocks of geese flew across our view, presumably heading for the Danish coast, and just before midday a Starling flew by.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

This morning also brought further excitement in the form of our first cetacean sightings. Elin sighted our first Harbour Porpoise of the day shortly before 9am, just 100m in front of our vessel. Then, just under an hour later, I sighted the next Harbour Porpoise which was a similar sighting immediately in front of the ship crossing to starboard.

As we approached land we enjoyed the sight of several flocks of Eider flying along the coast. In the confluence of currents where the River Elbe meets the North Sea we sighted our third and fourth Harbour Porpoise in quick succession, giving us lovely views as they swam off to the east. I then sighted the final fifth Harbour Porpoise for the day as we entered the river.

With the Captain's permission, we stayed at our workstation on the starboard bridge wing as the Captain and the first mate brought the vessel alongside and moored expertly at our dock in Cuxhaven.

Jenny Boatwright surveying - Elin Pheasant
Jenny Boatwright on survey (Elin Pheasant)

Day 3

Seabird sightings came thick and fast with more than forty birds being sighted in our first half an hour. Late morning, Elin spotted a beautiful Harbour Porpoise just 50 metres off the ship's bow traversing steadily to the starboard side of the ship. Also, during the morning, we saw a total of 11 Puffin in their winter plumage. The highlight of the afternoon was a group of 27 Gannet fishing about a 1km off to starboard.

We would like to thank DFDS seaways for their support of our surveys on this fantastic route across in the North Sea. Our special thanks go to Captain Mart Tarang and his crew who could not have done more to make us feel extremely welcome aboard.

Jenny Boatwright and Elin Pheasant, Research Surveyors for MARINElife