MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth to Zeebrugge survey 17th to 18th September 2016

John Perry and John Sikorski, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Outbound: NW 2-4;  Return: N-NE 3-4

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 24

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 45 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 155
Great Skua Catharacta skua 13
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 28
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Black Headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 14
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 36
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 19
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 2

Terrestrial Birds
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla 1
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 3
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos 1
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 2
Dunlin Calidris alpina 3
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 1
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Teal Anas crecca 13
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 1

After checking in the previous evening, we made an early departure of 4am out of Rosyth, and after enjoying breakfast courtesy of Boris, the on-board chef, we were up on the Bridge by 0745, to start recording sightings just south of the Farne Isles.

We caught a brief glimpse of a (probable) porpoise this morning, which was to be the only cetacean sighting on this voyage. This was more than made up for by a huge diversity of both seabird and indeed terrestrial bird species throughout the return trip. We recorded a total of 367 birds from 29 species, with adult & juvenile Gannet far outnumbering any other species seen.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 02

Sooty Shearwater (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

The first day included the typical sightings of Fulmar, Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull, Great Skua, Arctic Skua, Kittiwake, and Sooty Shearwater.

There were however to be a few surprises in store for us, when we spotted a male Kestrel making circuits around the Bridge. To our astonishment later in the day, we established he was travelling in the company of two female Kestrel, all of whom had set up camp clutching to a corner of the vessel's vertical ramp.

To the south of the Whitby Bay area, the unchanging swell was suddenly punctuated by a rather comical group of 24 Grey Seal staring upward to us from the North Sea below! While the seabird count steadily rose through the day, we were greeted by a friendly Chiffchaff (and later another), who spent a good few hours flying around the Bridge windows, right in front of our noses.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 04

Grey Seal (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

While we were being entertained by a Blackcap and a Meadow Pipit darting around the deck beneath us, we took on-board the most unlikely passenger of the trip.  We were filled with bemusement as a lone Water Rail carefully stepped around on top of the ship's enormous freight containers, before later heading onward under its own steam.

On the second day, having left the Belgian coast behind, our return leg of the trip provided several more interesting species including Manx Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Guillemot, Teal, Puffin and Brent Goose.

Once again, our thanks go to the Captain and his crew, for making us feel most welcome on-board, and we look forward to further trips in the future.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 01

Sandwich Tern (Archive Photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

John Perry and John Sikorski; Research Surveyors for MARINElife