MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Jutlandia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 6-9 May 2016

Robin Langdon, research surveyor for MARINElife

Day 1: Sunny, with easterly wind force 4-5
Day 2: Sunny, with southeasterly wind force 5
Day 3: Sunny, with a easterly wind, force 4-5

Summary of Sightings:

Marine mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Dolphin sp. 1
Seal sp. 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 42
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 110
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 53
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 119
Guillemot Uria aalge 59
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Comic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gull sp.  5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 37
Tern sp.    35
Shearwater sp.  3

Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus 2
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 4
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus 2
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Swift Apus apus 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 2
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1

There was only one surveyor for this trip aboard the Jutlandia. The crew as normal were very welcoming and helpful and my thanks to Captain Rogalevits and his crew for making this an enjoyable survey.

There were a few mammal sightings that were all linked by initially being suspected to be something different. I had spotted a ring of bubbles in the water a few metres off the boat and was wondering what caused this, a Guillemot perhaps. I was just considering this when a few metres behind the bubbles a Porpoise surfaced out of the water and disappeared as the boat moved passed its position. So I guess it was the Porpoise that made the ring.

The next sighting was initially thought to be flotsam as it glinted purple. I was just reconsidering this when the 'flotsam' dropped below the surface. I had realised that the flotsam was in fact a seal with the sun glinting off its snout. The other sighting was similar in that there was a glint of red spotted again looking like flotsam. After my experience of the seal I kept a close look and indeed the red glint surfaced again. This time it was a dolphin. Unfortunately I could not identify what type but it surfaced another couple of times each time with a red glint.

Hen Harrier Robin Langdon 01
Hen Harrier on migration (Robin Langdon)

At one stage it seemed that you could have any colour you liked as long as it was black. Lesser black to be precise. There was a period of three hours where the only bird that came near the boat was a Lesser Black-backed Gull. However, things picked up and there were a number of terns seen as well as a single Great Skua that passed in front of the boat. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was seeing two female Hen Harrier fly past on migration, presumably on their way to Denmark.

There was a bit of excitement on the return journey when the ship was involved in a helicopter rescue drill. This involved a helicopter being called out to the ship to rescue an injured crewman - in this case a dummy - the helicopter dropped someone to the deck and then they and the dummy in a stretcher where picked back up and taken away. There had been a couple of stowaway landbirds up until this time but I think all the noise of the helicopter overhead was enough for them.

Migrants Robin Langdon 02
Meadow Pipit and Willow Warbler on board (Robin Langdon)

I think DFDS might be starting up a new side-line of helping terrestrial birds on migration at sea. On board the ship coming back from Cuxhaven, apart from the two that left after the helicopter, were two Meadow Pipit, a Willow Warbler, a Pied Wagtail, a number of pigeon and an Oystercatcher. Here's a photo and tag-line DFDS could use to advertise the new service:

Oystercatcher Robin Langdon 01
Oye! sir, catch a DFDS ferry and save your wings (Robin Langdon)

And the moral of the survey is that this year's colours are lesser black and be careful of glinting flotsam.

Robin Langdon, research surveyor for MARINElife