MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Hafnia Seaways’ Immingham-Cuxhaven 1-4 July 2016

Robin Langdon and Karrie Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Outbound: wind southerly force 4-5, warm with total cloud cover, dry, sea state 4
Return: wind westerly, force 4 dec. 1, mainly overcast, glare ahead from midday, sea state 4 dec. 1

Summary of sightings:
Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 20
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 5
Dolphin   Sp.  1
Seal Sp.  2

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Fulmar   Fulmarus glacialis 10
Gannet   Morus bassanus 206
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 44
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 62
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 372
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 27
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 269
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 150
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 122
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Larus sp.  6
Tern sp.   97
Gull sp.  210
Auk sp.   8

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 15
Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

Leaving the port of Immingham is a bit of a tight squeeze. Captain Albertsson's skill in negotiating the lock with only 20cm spare on each side was fascinating. He must be brilliant at parking, but Captain Albertsson assured us that he needs bow thrusters to achieve such accuracy, he is still looking for a car that has them. Cuxhaven approach is tricky so a pilot, delivered by a high speed craft, comes on board to take the ship into port.

Cuxhaven pilot Karrie Langdon 01
Cuxhaven pilot launch (Karrie Langdon)

Armed with our lucky MARINElife poloshirts - all our sightings have been seen while wearing them (hint: they are worn all the time on every survey J) - we hoped for a good trip. As we left Immingham we realised that we also had a lucky Captain. At our initial greeting, while travelling down the river we saw two seals, jokingly we asked if he could arrange for perfect surveying conditions ­- and they were.

There was the normal plethora of seabirds including Gannet, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and Guillemot. A Great Skua was also spotted and added a bit of excitement to proceedings. On the outward trip the Great and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were nowhere to be seen. We wondered if they were watching the football like the drivers on board the ship. However, on the return journey they were plentiful with eight birds staying with the ship for several hours.

There were plenty of busy Sandwich Tern passing the ship going out to fish and returning with beaks full of fish and there were a number of juvenile Guillemot being escorted by an adult. There were also three owls spotted on a buoy but unfortunately these turned out to be plastic!

The survey had good survey conditions for most of the trip and Grey Seal and Harbour Porpoise were spotted on the outward journey. The return trip was even better. The sea went down to an almost perfect mirror state and in a 'Golden Hour' we saw 12 Harbour Porpoise and a dolphin, which, unfortunately we couldn't identify. We were very reluctant to stop but the fading light drew the survey to a close.

LBB Gull Robin Langdon 01
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Robin Langdon)

Thank you to Captain Albertsson and the crew for looking after us so well and for such an amazing trip.

Robin Langdon and Karrie Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife