MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Longstone" 11 - 13 October 2013

John Perry and Jan Ozyer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Partial cloud, wind moderate 6-7 predominantly from the NE.  No precipitation.

Marine Mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 11
Dolphin sp  1

Great-crested Grebe  Podiceps cristatus 1
Brent Goose  Branta bernicla 13
Eider  Somateria mollissima  84
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra   42    
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis  458
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 4
Sooty Shearwater  Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus  11,528
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo   41
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 18
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 11
Pomarine Skua  Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus  81
Common Gull  Larus canus  5
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus  27
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 43
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus  35
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 4
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla  501
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 2
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot  Uria aalge  213
Razorbill   Alca torda  3

Terrestrial Birds:
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 1
Feral Pigeon  Columba livia 3
White Wagtail  Motacilla alba alba  1
Dunnock  Prunella modularis 1
Robin  Erithacus rubecula 1
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos 3
Blackbird  Turdus merula 1
Chaffinch  Fringilla coelebs 7

At Rosyth Port we were welcomed by the helpful and efficient DFDS staff who quickly escorted us aboard the 'Longstone'. After leaving our bags in the luxurious cabins we were taken straight to the bridge where we were greeted by the very friendly Captain Mike Farmer.

We set sail just after noon and were followed through the Firth of Forth by a collection of assorted gulls. Shortly after passing under the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, we came across a flock of Eider and as we made our way out of the Firth, we began to see the first of what would be very many Gannet.

Gannet Rob Petley-Jones 01The number of Gannet increased rapidly as we approached Bass Rock which had an estimated minimum of 5000 Gannet still in residence. We also had the first of a number of Great Skua which we encountered throughout the day. On reaching open sea, the number of Guillemot began to increase, most already in winter plumage. A Sooty Shearwater was spotted just past St. Abb's Head as well as a few Manx Shearwater. Approaching the Farne Islands, we also had large numbers of Kittiwake and Fulmar.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the light inevitably began to make identification difficult and at 18:30 we closed the survey for the day and enjoyed a hearty dinner followed by a pleasant evening in the Passenger Lounge watching England beat Montenegro in the World Cup Qualifiers.

Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)

A good night's sleep was had in our very comfortable cabins and after an excellent breakfast, we were back on the bridge just after sunrise. There had clearly been significant migration overnight as throughout the morning we were constantly visited by a variety of passerines including Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chaffinch and Dunnock. Small flocks of Brent Geese were also seen as well as a Pomarine Skua and flocks of Common Scoter. We arrived alongside our berth in Zeebrugge at 11:00 and after a good lunch, spent the afternoon enjoying the pleasant Belgian sunshine whilst watching the fascinating operations of loading the ship for the return journey.

Great Skua Mark Darlaston 01The ship departed just after 16:00 and, as we left Zeebrugge, in addition to the usual escort of gulls, we had excellent sightings of Little Gull and Great Crested Grebe. The sea was now flat calm and we were able to keeping observing until 18:30 with a solitary Gannet silhouetted in the fading light bringing the day's activities to a close.

After another comfortable night, we joined the bridge at first light just as the ship was passing Teesmouth. The Farne Islands brought excellent sightings of Guillemot and Razorbill and as we got closer to Bass Rock we counted over 300 adult Gannet in the air as well as the thousands still in residence on the rock. Moving into the Firth of Forth we came across a number of feeding parties of Kittiwake and as we approached the Forth Bridges, large numbers of juvenile (1st winter) Gannet.

Great Skua (Mark Darlaston)

The ship docked on schedule and we would like to thank Capt. Mike Farmer and his crew for a very pleasant survey.

John Perry and Jan Ozyer, Research Surveyors for MARINElife