Adrian Shephard and Sue Lakeman; Reasearchers for MARINElife
Weather: 1-5 Variable, from clear skies to fog, some light rain
Cetaceans & Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoana phocoana 17
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 8
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5
Common (Harbour) Seal Phoca vitulina 5
Unidentified Dolphin Sp. 5
Fulmar Fulmaras glacialis 255
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 425
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 26
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 6
Parasitic (Arctic) skua Sterocorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridbundus13
Common Gull Larus canus 28
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 76
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
'Baltic' Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 317
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 77
Mixed Herring and Baltic Gull group 400
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4053
Little Tern Sterna albfrons 5
'Commic Tern' Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 60
Puffin Fratercula arctica 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 439
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Eider Somateria mollissima 342
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 9
Duck sp (probably mixed age eider and scoter) 172
Unidentified gull Sp.169
Unidentified auk Sp. 25
Unidentified skua Sp. 2
Unidentified tern Sp. 2
Swift Apus apus 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 4
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1
Unidentified wader Sp.18
We arrived at Immingham dock early and boarded the Petunia Seaways with the help of the friendly DFDS shore staff. This was the first crossing for MARINElife on this vessel and we enjoyed a tasty lunch and views of the Humber from the passenger lounge, seeing increasing numbers of swifts, tern, cormorant, common scoter and grey seals, as we waited to clear the shipping lane before being welcomed onto the bridge for the start of our survey.
As we headed out into the North Sea, the sea state and visibility were good, raising our hopes of spotting seals and cetaceans to add to the numerous seabirds, and within an hour we sighted our first Minke Whale 1.5km ahead of the ship, and soon also added Harbour Porpoise to our list. We were excited to spot six large groups of at least 250 feeding Kittiwake each, about 2 km ahead of the ship in various directions. With our eyes peeled, we soon saw what we hoped for, 2 adult Minke Whales and a juvenile feeding below the nearest group, accompanied by a few unidentified dolphins. We were sure there were further cetaceans amongst the other groups, but were not to get a close enough look to put substance to the tantalising splashes. Our Day one total for seabirds was over 4000 birds and as the light faded, we retired to our comfortable beds, for some well-earned sleep.
Day two, we were up on the bridge at sunrise, and soon started seeing the dark variant Lesser Black-backed 'Baltic Gulls', which was to be our most numerous species of the leg to Gothenburg. As the sea state became calm, we started spotting Harbour Porpoise as we passed the northern tip of Denmark. Captain Olsen pointed out the sandbanks which separate the two seas, popular with the tourists and we could see many people walking on the sands.
As we sailed into the islands leading to Gothenburg, we were treated to the sight of numerous Scoter and Mute Swans with cygnets and a pair of Barnacle Geese shepherding their fluff-ball gosling carefully across the bow of the ship. We used the time in Gothenburg to catch up on the paperwork and had a quiet hour and a half survey north before darkness fell.
Up on deck at sunrise on Day three, the leg into Brevik provided again mostly Baltic Gulls, plus a flight of female Eider, but visibility dropped as we approached the pilot station outside the fjord so we closed the survey, but did manage to spot large numbers of ducks - mainly female and juvenile Eider and Common Scoter, along with Cormorants, swans and a solitary Grey Heron.
In Brevik, we had time to explore the woodland and reed beds close to the port, where we saw birds including a nuthatch carefully stashing his finds, swallows & crossbills, numerous butterflies including Silver-washed Fritillary and Arran Brown, and were loudly scolded by a feisty Red Squirrel for daring to pause under his tree. We then walked into Brevik and enjoyed lunch sitting over the harbour in the sunshine before re-boarding the 'Petunia Seaways'. We enjoyed great views of the fjord on the departure leg, including 5 Harbour Seals hauled out onto what the Norwegian pilots apparently refer to as 'Seal Rock'.
Day four, heading west again and the North Sea provided mainly Fulmar and Gannets, and we were pleased to spot a group of Little Tern and some Great Skua hassling the gulls and younger gannets to give up their catch. As we waited expectantly to reach the southern end of Dogger Bank which the crew assured us was a great spot for dolphins, we spotted a single dark-phase Arctic Skua and then unfortunately a dead Minke Whale with attendant group of fulmar. Unfortunately, as we approached Dogger Bank, the visibility was not great, so we didn't spot any dolphins, but we were soon treated to several great sightings of Minke Whales. As we approached the east coast of England we spotted several Grey Seals and as the light faded and we approached the entrance to the Humber, the survey leg was finished off nicely with a couple of Harbour Porpoise racing energetically through the tides which swept around Spurn Point.
Our great thanks go to Captain Olsen, Captain Nielsen, their officers and crew and the helpful DFDS port staff who made this a very enjoyable trip.
Sue Lakeman and Adrian Shephard, Research Surveyors for MARINElife