Sightings Archives: October 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Tor Finlandia" 19 - 21 October 2012

Posted 23 October 2012

David Palmar and Alasdair Fyffe, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Cetacean & Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 16
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 38

Eider Somateria mollissima 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Gannet Morus bassanus 274
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 26
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 31
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Lesser black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Great black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 114
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Puffin Fratercula arctica 8 

Terrestrial Birds
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 1
Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 205
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 1              (landed on ship during darkness, not during survey time) 

Little GullWe arrived at Rosyth in the late evening and were met by friendly DFDS staff who were expecting us. We parked our cars, were checked in at the DFDS portakabin and taken to the terminal building, where we had a hot chocolate while we waited for the Tor Finlandia.

When the ferry arrived, we were taken on board and shown to our cabin by the welcoming Lithuanian crew. The ferry was unloaded then reloaded overnight with dozens of freight containers, while we grabbed some sleep, and left at 4 in the morning. At dawn we could just see the Farne Islands as we enjoyed the hearty breakfast provided, which consisted of lots of bacon, egg and sausage, and ended up with smoked salmon and yoghurt. Unfortunately, just as we finished breakfast, the fog came in, so we had to sit it out till after an early lunch.

When it cleared we met Captain Andzej Ozeško and were invited on to the bridge. The Captain was kind enough to let us use one of the bridge chairs so we could sit high enough to see out of the window. Later, when it rained briefly, we were allowed to operate the windscreen wipers so we could continue the survey.

At 12 o'clock we passed Flamborough Head, the afternoon was bright and with a calm sea it proved quite productive. The highlights included three Porpoise, two Little Gull, five Puffin, large numbers of Common Guillemot and Gannet, including a feeding frenzy of 40 Gannet and 25 Grey Seal.

Dinner, which we took in turns to keep the surveying continuous, was an enormous 3 course affair, so we left the huge slice of apple pie for supper and returned to the bridge for the last hour of daylight.

Surveyors Finlandia SeawaysAfter supper we saw our first land bird - a Chaffinch - which in the darkness had been attracted to the ship's lights and decided that first the dining room, then our own cabin were good resting places. To stop it from dashing itself off the light fittings in an effort to escape, we shut the cabin door, turned the light off, and lured it into the ensuite by keeping the light on there. Finally it was caught in the soap dish using a black poly bag and released outside. Hopefully it continued its migration in the morning, a happy Chaffee! We retired to bed and reached Zeebrugge during the early hours of the morning.

As dawn broke we were still docked in Zeebrugge. After another large breakfast we made our way up to the bridge, just as the ship left the harbour. Passing two wind farms (which were even larger than the breakfast), we started seeing the first of hundreds of passerines which were on migration south-westwards towards the coast of Kent or East Anglia. Most were Starlings but some were too far away to identify.

We had a total of 11 Porpoise during the day in 6 sightings. Several Little Gull, two Great Skua, a Short-eared Owl, a Lapwing and two Pied Wagtail added to the highlights of the day. A beautiful sunset brought a satisfying day to a close. We did our homework (summary sheet filling) and retired to bed, ready for an early rise and breakfast before docking at Rosyth at 8am.

We would like to thank Captain Andzej Ozeško and his friendly crew for a warm Lithuanian welcome and cooperation throughout the trip.

David Palmar and Alasdair Fyffe, Research Surveyors for MARINElife