MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Jutlandia Seaways’ Immingham to Cuxhaven 2-5 September 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered , Charity No. 1110884)

Outward - wind WSW-SW sea state 5, cloudy mainly dry, visibility fair to good.
Return - Day 1 wind SW-WNW sea state 2-5 increasing 6 during brief squall, rain a first, visibility poor to good.
Day 2  wind  WNW-S, sea state 2, partial cloud, visibility good.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 3
Seal sp. 1

Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 4
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 8
Gannet  Morus bassanus 33
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Arctic Skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull  Larus canus 3
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 15
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 30
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 56
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 1
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 18
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 48
Guillemot  Uria aalge 40
Larus sp. 5
Auk sp. 1
Skua sp. 3
Gull sp. 1
Diver sp. 1

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 7
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 1
Wader sp. 6

I arrived at Immingham port just after 6am, my boarding pass was processed quickly and I was taken to join the Jutlandia Seaways. We left the dockside just after 9 am and manoeuvred into the lock to join the Humber. Whilst in the dock I could see many Black-tailed Godwit feeding on the beach next to the port. Black-headed Gull were now in their winter plumage and a few Swallow flew round the bow, reminding me that summer was not quite over.

Once through the lock I joined the bridge crew, was welcomed by Captain Roman and prepared to start the survey. In the Humber estuary Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull young were visible, the occasional Herring Gull passed by and Common Tern were seen. As we entered the North Sea a few Manx Shearwater flew past. Gannet and Kittiwake then started to appear and eventually, 3 hours after the survey began, a raft of Guillemot were seen, the adults had moulted into their winter plumage, viewing distance made it difficult to differentiate them from their offspring.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 11
3rd year Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Shortly after this, my only cetacean sighting of the day, a Harbour Porpoise appeared, swimming in a southerly direction.

I then was able to watch a brief skirmish between a skua and a Kittiwake, the former harassing the latter to try to obtain a meal. This was witnessed by a few Gannet and a Great Black-backed Gull that were also hunting for food in the same area and keeping well out of the way. The afternoon quietened down and only a brief, but intense, 15 minute period of Kittiwake and gulls flying past the ship brought the day's activity to an end.

I awoke during the early hours of the morning as the river pilot was brought on board. By the time dawn broke we had already been moored in Cuxhaven for some hours and were not due to sail again until lunchtime the following day.

The morning of our return sailing started with rain. I watched Black-headed Gull, now in winter plumage with fledged young in attendance whilst waiting for our ship to depart. Once the ship had been turned I was invited back to the bridge to begin surveying. The rain continued for the next three hours, the heaviest burst timed with the river pilot's departure. The poor man must have been soaked by the time he boarded the pilot vessel. Birds were sparse during the afternoon with only a few Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great and Lesser Black-backed gull and Gannet recorded during the day. A pair of Shelduck, a single Grey Plover and six waders were the only terrestrial birds seen. The rain stopped after dinner but only three birds were recorded before the sunset drew the second survey day to a close.

North Sea dawn Carol Farmer-Wright 2016-09
Dawn over the North Sea (Carol Farmer-Wright)

I awoke the following day to calm seas, light winds and a beautiful sunrise. This meant better opportunities to spot mammals. An hour into the survey I recorded two Harbour Porpoise gently swimming to the south. Within ten minutes I recorded another sea mammal, a seal bottling. Birds were more plentiful with Kittiwake, Gannet, Guillemot, terns, a diver and a skua harassing a Guillemot for a meal, (he was unsuccessful).

With Spurn Head in sight I recorded a group of terns looking for food on the east side of the spit. As we entered the Humber, I thanked the captain and left the bridge to prepare for disembarkation.

My thanks as always go to DFDS for allowing us to survey on this route, Captain Roman, his officers and crew for looking after me so well and the chef for his excellent food.