Rosyth-Zeebrugge

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 17-19 March 2017

Posted 26 March 2017

John Perry and Nigel Liley surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound - Sea state between 2-3 with a southwesterly wind. Return - Sea state between 1-3 with a westerly wind

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 23
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 17
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 100
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 20
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 95
Puffin Fratercula arctica 36
Guillemot Uria aalge 64
Razorbill Alca torda 18

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 40

With John travelling up from Yorkshire and myself coming down from Aberdeen we met at the DFDS security barrier at 21:30. The security personnel were expecting us and the necessary parking permits were ready for us and fifteen minutes later they let us know when the ship had arrived. Shortly afterwards we were accompanied on to the Finlandia Seaways and introduced to some of the crew. John had undertaken this survey several times before and was able to expertly and safely "navigate" the way through the ship to our cabin where we were met by the ship's steward. Once we had agreed the plans for the following day we settled down for the night knowing we had an early start.

The next day following breakfast we took our position on the bridge and prepared ourselves for the day's surveying. This was my first survey and John was extremely patient in demonstrating the recording methods and how to access the information from the ship's equipment.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 11
Great Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Although cloudy, visibility was good off the Northumberland coast and we commenced with recording. The day started with a variety of seabirds with the initial highlight being a fly-past of 5 Common Scoter. Throughout the day a steady stream of seabirds in differing plumages gave me the opportunity to hone my identification skills. Unfortunately the hoped-for cetaceans did not oblige us on this trip. Towards the end of the day it began to rain and this curtailed our surveying fairly early in the evening.

We began the return journey the next day at 08:00 still hopeful for marine mammals. Although these were still missing we were treated to plenty of seabirds with the best being a Great Skua; unfortunately I missed the 'Bonxie' as I was on a comfort break! Something else I missed was a feeding Gannet that gave John a super view of it diving right in front of the ship. We did manage to record a good quantity of Red-throated Divers and a Great Northern Diver flew past too.

GN Diver Peter Howlett 02
Great Northern Diver (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

For most of the afternoon the sea was almost mirror-like and without a doubt we would have spotted a fin if there had been any. We did manage to see a Grey Seal bottling whilst it positioned its catch, a rather large flat-fish and unfortunately this was the only mammal recorded on the trip. Our surveying continued into the early evening before the sunset put an end to this.

We retired to our cabin and awoke the next day with great views of the nearly completed new Forth bridge as we sailed into Rosyth.

This was my first survey so was a learning experience and a fantastic introduction to the work that MARINELife undertakes. Sincere thanks also go to Captain Andrey Oresko, his officers and crew as well to the staff at DFDS for their help and support throughout the survey and to John for being so patient.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 11 - 12 February 2017

Posted 14 February 2017

Vincent Green and Peter Crossley surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Winds from the east with sea states varying from 1-5

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 16
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 82
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 9
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 8
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 35
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 76
Razorbill  Alca torda 25
Diver sp. 2
Shearwater sp. 4
Gull sp. 8
Auk sp.  182

Terrestrial Birds
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

After a decent drive from the heart of Yorkshire to the Port of Rosyth, we arrived early and explored Dunfermline whilst waiting to board DFDS Finlandia Seaways at around 10.30pm. We were, as always, welcomed aboard and escorted from the port staff onto the ship.

With an early start the following day we managed to get some sleep and the next morning had a bite to eat before going up to the bridge to begin the survey. We were lucky and the weather was fair for the first leg of the journey and we managed to clock up a good few of the usual bird species and logged a good number, nothing spotted in the water but as always we never gave up hope.

common dolphin Peter Howlett 23

Common Dolphin (Peter Howlett)

We got plenty of sleep that night and it was on our return journey north is when all of the excitement happened. Not long into the journey we saw our first Common Dolphin leisurely swimming by on the starboard side. With plenty of bird sightings on the way it was only a matter of time before we had our next sighting and after a fifty minute wait another one went by.

A couple of hours later we were watching two Great Black-backed Gull catching fish right in front of the ship when, a few seconds later, a Harbour Porpoise rolled on by, it was surprisingly close to the ship and quickly disappeared heading in a westerly direction.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 20

Harbour Porpoise (Peter Howlett)

A mere hour after the Harbour Porpoise and having been spotting more Fulmar, Gannet and Guillemot, we then saw another Common Dolphin passing by the ship.

We enjoyed a leisurely trip and many thanks to Captain Julius Nagaitis and his crew, who really looked after us and made us very welcome.

I really enjoyed this trip and the sightings made it even better.

Vincent Green and Peter Crossley surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge January 2017

Posted 15 January 2017

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge December 2016

Posted 15 December 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge November 2016

Posted 15 November 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 28-29 October 2016

Posted 10 November 2016

Duncan Fyfe surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Skies were overcast but with no precipitation throughout the trip. There was a light sea mist that obscured the visibility a little on the north-bound leg but sea state of 2 compensated with winds from the north and west.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 15
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 6
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Seal sp.  1

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 41
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 7
Balearic Shearwater  Puffinus mauretanicus 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 398
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 8
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 13
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 3
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 111
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 12
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutus 22
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 5
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 5
Guillemot  Uria aalge 109
Razorbill  Alca torda 25
Larus Gull sp.  12
Auk sp.  182
Shearwater sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Redwing Turdus iliacus 25
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 42
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus 1
Passerine sp.  4

It was a pleasure to be doing this route again - one of my favourites. It gives a great view of the coastline and theoretically could yield some great sightings and has done at times.

I was allowed to board the Finlandia Seaways on the Thursday evening shortly after it arrived in port. This allowed me to get some much needed sleep before the ship set sail and the start of the survey early the following day. It is great that DFDS allow MARINElife to do this as it makes a big difference to our surveyor teams and the logistics of organising the surveys.

Day 1: Southbound

I started the survey around 7.46am on the Friday morning somewhere off the coast of Sunderland. The conditions were good and sea state barely got above a 3 with a force 3-4 wind all day. There was a steady stream of Gannets to record along with a few Guillemots and gulls. A flock of 20 Common Scoter went passed and a lone Redwing circled and boat for about half an hour before continuing its journey west towards land. A while later a Little Gull flew through the box - somewhere north of Hartlepool.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 18
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The first mammal sighting of the day was within sight of Bempton cliffs when an adult Harbour Porpoise swam slowly in front of the ship before disappearing out of view. There were a number of Grey (plus one Common) Seal sightings off the Holderness, Outer Humber and North Lincolnshire coasts. Typically it was head out of the water spy hopping and at times difficult to tell if it was a seal or a buoy.

There were a number of Puffin sightings too around this time as well as a Bonxie and increased numbers of Common Gull. The final Harbour Porpoise sighting was just as I was about to wrap things up for the day when I got a brief glimpse of an animal 2-3 times before it disappeared into the gloom. I ended the survey at 17.47 when the light had become too poor to be conducive to good identification.

Day 2: Northbound.

The ship arrived in Zeebrugge in the early hours of the morning. Once the sun had come up a scan around the harbour revealed some Curlew, Brent Geese and a Bonxie. After a hearty (and messy) egg sandwich for breakfast and as soon as the ship had cleared the main navigation channels I recommenced the survey just before 9.

Conditions were good with sea state 1-2 being the order of the day but there remained a light mist reducing visibility to around 5-10 miles. However, the calm conditions made for good spotting conditions. There were a good number of Little Gull whilst heading northbound with a flock of Starling and later Redwing all heading westwards.

The near mirror calm sea conditions were good for spotting Harbour Porpoise. The first animals barely broke the surface but just enough to reveal a hint of the distinctive triangular dorsal fin and a gentle body roll. A couple of Grey Seal sightings caused some momentary excitement. The first one appeared and disappeared with a Fulmar circling it quite intently. The reason soon became apparent when it turned to face me eating a large fish!

A later Grey Seal sighting made me stop for a few seconds when it appeared 500m in front of the ship. It appeared so small at first that it almost looked like an Otter with a head, body and tail. However, once it reappeared it was obvious it was a seal but it re-emphasised that with varying sea conditions, in this instance a port side glare and reduced visibility, the challenges sometimes of getting a sense of scale from aboard a large vessel.

Balearic SW Peter Howlett 03
Balearic Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

There were small but steady numbers of Gannet, Guillemot, Bonxie and Red-throated Diver to record throughout the trip. However, the trip highlight came late in the afternoon when one of Europe's rarest and most endangered seabirds - Balearic Shearwater - made an appearance. I got a really good view as it came very close to the 300m recording area (the 'box'). Only six minutes later two further birds flew right through the 'box' - giving great views and making me feel very privileged. Light was fading fast so I ended the survey at 17.45 that evening.

That night the clocks had gone back which together with the ships time being an hour ahead made me even more confused as to what time to set my alarm for in the morning. I woke on Day 3 to the hint of light coming through the blind. I cursed my automatic day light saving function on my phone and shot out of bed. However, it turns out we were within sight of the Forth Road Bridge already and at best I may have only got 30 minutes survey in that morning.

Once again my thanks to DFDS and crew of the Finlandia Seaways for making this all possible.

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

Posted 25 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

Seabirds
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

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 19-21 August 2016

Posted 25 August 2016

Steve Morgan and Jack Lucas, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather:
Outbound: wind SW 3-4, sea state mainly 3-4, visibility good
Return: wind SW 6-7, sea state mainly 5-7, visibility fair to good

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 9
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 4
Seal sp. 8

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 32
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 26
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 1426
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 59
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 78
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 21
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 104
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 13
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 51
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 7
Puffin Fratercula arctica 35
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 188
Razorbill Alca torda 30
Diver sp. 1
Shearwater sp. 2
Gull sp. 15
Tern sp. 69
Auk sp. 60

Terrestrial Birds
Curlew Numenius arquata 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 27
Canada Goose  Branta canadensis 2
Swift Apus apus 1
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 8

We checked in with DFDS and boarded the Finlandia Seaways shortly after it had arrived in its berth and thus in good time for a full night's sleep before starting the survey the next morning off the Northumbrian coast. Conditions were very good: a very light southwesterly wind gave us a sea state of between three and four and visibility was excellent. We were hopeful of seeing cetaceans throughout the course of the day with Minke Whale and White-beaked Dolphin very much in our thoughts.

However, the day passed by relatively uneventfully. There were a few shearwaters around, notably one Sooty Shearwater, together with Guillemot, a few Puffin and some Razorbill. We also recorded Gannets including a fair number of juveniles in various plumages. The avian highlight of the day was the spectacle of an Arctic Skua harassing a Kittiwake and attempting to steal its catch.

Arctic Skua Peter Howlett 15
Arctic Skua (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Twice we recorded Common Dolphin, both times finding two animals approaching our bows. Neither encounter proved very lengthy however and on both occasions the dolphins surfaced a couple of times before disappearing. Very tantalising! Grey Seal was more in evidence and we spotted them in small groups or as 'singletons' several times along the Yorkshire coastline. We continued our search until about 19:45 when the rapidly fading light obliged us to bring the day's survey to an end.

The following morning in Zeebrugge harbour we had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast before our departure just before 10:00. A Little Gull was in the harbour, along with various Black-headed and Herring Gulls and a single Cormorant. In the bright sunshine it seemed like a fine day was in prospect but once out in the open sea conditions rapidly deteriorated. Before long we had a stiff southwesterly gale behind us and the sea piled up in formidable looking waves. We hoped that later in the day conditions might ease as we put the land mass of East Anglia between ourselves and the gale but in the meantime it was obviously going to be difficult to spot small cetaceans such as Harbour Porpoise.

We did however find some good birds a bit later in the day. First there was an Arctic Skua bullying two Common Terns. Then came more terns, among them one much smaller and sporting a distinctive yellow bill and white forehead - a Little Tern! Two more followed a bit later, along with more Common Terns. The other highlightwas the passage of several groups of Little Gull, their dark under-wings clearly evident as they crossed our bows.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 09
Little Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Conditions did ease slightly in the afternoon though in the rough conditions it was still hard to spot marine mammals. Jack saw two splashes close by our starboard side which he thought might have been Harbour Porpoise and we did find a few Common Seal. But when the fading light eventually obliged us to end the day's survey at just after eight o'clock we hadn't unfortunately added a great deal to our marine mammal list.

We still had a couple of hours on the last day as we entered the Forth estuary and rounded Bass Rock. As expected, there were large numbers of Gannet here, both in flight and on the rock itself. A sky full of a thousand or more Gannet made quite a spectacle and was one worth getting up early for!

Gannet Jack Lucas 01
Gannet (Jack Lucas)

A little later we encountered Guillemot, mostly in small rafts on the sea and then, as we approached the Forth Bridge, there were terns in abundance. Most seemed to be Common Terns though there were also significant numbers of Sandwich Terns among them. A lone Curlew, two Canada Geese and a fair few Oystercatcher added to the avian diversity in the river. Then, having cleared the bridge, we left the captain and his officers to the business of manoeuvring the Finlandia into its berth and concluded the survey.

Our thanks go to captain and his crew as well to the staff at DFDS for their unstinting help and support throughout the survey.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge July 2016

Posted 15 July 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge June 2016

Posted 15 June 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge May 2016

Posted 15 May 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 28-29 April 2016

Posted 11 May 2016

Vincent Green, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind S-SW, sea state 0-6

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2 (prob)

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Red-necked Grebe Podiceps grisegena 1
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 39
Gannet Morus bassanus 1477
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2068
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 16
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 278
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Razorbill Alca torda 19
Duck Sp. 35

Gull sp. 68
Tern sp. 22

Terrestrial birds
Racing Pigeon Columba livia 1

What an excellent trip! After a nice drive up to Rosyth and enjoying the view of the famous Forth bridges I checked in and settled on the DFDS Finlandia Seaways ship, an evening meal awaited me and then a comfy cabin and bed.

A good night's sleep was needed as I was up at 530 am to start the first leg of the survey. A long day ahead but with unexpected results.

Sooty Shearwater Peter Howlett 03
Sooty Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

On the bridge I was greeted as usual by the Captain and his crew, I settled into the survey with great sightings of various seabirds, including, Gannet, Guillemot, Fulmar, some skuas and shearwaters and even a pigeon or two that hitched a ride home on the back of the ship. Kittiwake versus Gannet seemed to be the scene, with Kittiwakes heading north in big numbers and winning the battle of the birds.

Having surveyed most of the day I still hadn't sighted anything in the sea that resembled a cetacean, however, I still felt optimistic as we approached the southern part of the North Sea. My optimism paid off, within an hour, elegantly swimming past on the starboard side of the ship, were two, what I presumed to be, possible Bottlenose Dolphins which really took my attention. Not so long after I came across at least three of the biggest jellyfish I'd seen ever, and then a Harbour Porpoise to top it off.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 09
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo Peter Howlett)

As the sunset over Bligh Hill not too far out from the Belgium coast the night ended successfully with around 30 plus ducks away in the distance ahead of the ship heading into the sunset towards England.

After a good night's sleep and some excellent Lithuanian food I went back up to the bridge for the day to record many different species of birds across the North Sea in calm conditions, including Puffin and Razorbill.

An exciting return back into Scotland passing the wonderful engineering of the bridges and some lovely islets and the treat af many Gannet on Bass rock.

A very good and successful trip with many thanks to Captain Andrej, the crew and DFDS.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Rosyth to Zeebrugge 18th - 20th March 2016.

Posted 03 April 2016

Janet Shepherd and Rhiannon Nichol, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Outbound: F3 from the North with varying levels of visibility. Overcast for most of the voyage. Return: F3 NNE, overcast with visibility generally level 5.

Species Sighted

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinius delphis 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 11
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 2

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 70
Gannet Morus bassanus 303
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 177
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 61
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 188
Sabine's Gull Larus Sabini 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 490
Razorbill Alca torda 21
Auk Sp 15
Gull Sp  17
Diver Sp 20
Duck Sp 2

Estuary Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1

Terrestrial Birds
Blackbird Turdus merula 2
Crow Sp 1

We arrived in Rosyth with the visibility very poor with the Haar surrounding the Forth. We were made very welcome by the staff at the port office, and again by Tania, our stewardess for the voyage on the vessel Finlandia Seaways. We made arrangements for our morning visit to the bridge and then managed a few hours' sleep.

The survey started at 07:30hrs just north east of the Farne Islands. Guillemot were in seen in fairly large numbers mostly flying towards the Farne Islands - (returning to start their breeding on the islands?) Two Blackbird were seen on several occasions flying around the ship, before heading west and presumably back to the coast. They were probably on the ship as we left Rosyth.

Razorbill Adrian Shephard 05

Razorbills (Adrian Shephard - Archive Photo)

The main species encountered were Gannet, Kittiwake and Fulmar, and seabird numbers were, unsurprisingly, greater off Flamborough Head. Other species that first day included a variety of Gull species, Razorbill and Puffin.

We were pleased to encounter Common Dolphin that came to the ship's bow and gave us some very clear sightings. This was Rhiannon's first encounter with this species so we were pleased to have such good views of their hour glass markings. We also saw Grey seal on several occasions throughout the day.

Common Dolphin Adrian Shephard 01

Common Dolphin ( Adrian Shephard - Archive Photo)

We awoke docked in Zeebrugge port, and after breakfast when the ship was fully loaded we departed with the survey recommencing at 09:35hrs. We saw a large flock (23) of Common Scooter fly across the bow but unfortunately just before the start of the survey. The entrance to Zeebrugge was very busy as we left for the return trip.

Initially Lesser Black-back and Herring Gull were the main sightings although there were Guillemot, Gannet, Fulmar and Kittiwake observed steadily throughout the morning. One Great Skua was sighted sitting on the water and later two duck flew across the bow but some distance off, just too far to make identification certain. And then the highlight of the survey - two Sabine's Gull flew very close across the bow with their black heads and wing markings making them clearly identifiable. A real treat!

Sabine Gull Adrian Shephard

Sabine's Gull (Adrian Shephard - Archive Photo)

Many Diver were spotted throughout the voyage, often some distance away and with them still in winter plumage were hard to decide which species they were. Most probably some were Red-throated and some Great Northern, by their size, but it was not certain. Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and a variety of other Gull were seen as we sailed north along the English coast, and also two Common Seal.

Day three's survey started at 06:45hrs as the ship was sailing along the Forth on its approach to Rosyth. Grey Seal were spotted around the islands and on their favourite hauling out spots, the white bases of the navigation buoys. A Shelduck, Shag, Eider Duck and Crow added to the list of species. We had excellent views of the three Forth crossings, especially the high towers of the new one, as we approached Rosyth. And to finish a very interesting survey we were treated to a 'swim past' by two Harbour Porpoise across our bow, between the Bridges.

Another excellent survey with good sightings. Our thanks go to Captain Julius Nagaitis and his crew for being so helpful and accommodating and to DFDS for this opportunity.

Janet Shepherd and Rhiannon Nichol, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge February 2016

Posted 29 February 2016

Steve Morgan and John Perry, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Outbound: wind light northerly, sea state mainly 2-3 visibility very good. Inbound: wind fresh northerly, sea state mainly 3-4, visibility very good.

Summary of sightings:


Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2

Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Dolphin sp.  2

 

Seabirds

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2

Pintail Anas acuta 5

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 14

Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 1

Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 52

Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 118

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 24

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13

Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 115

Common Guillemot Uria aalge 419

Razorbill Alca torda 26

Puffin Fratercula arctica 4

Unidentified Auk sp. 56

Unidentified Diver sp. 1

Unidentified Gull sp. 1

 

We checked in with DFDS and boarded the Finlandia Seaways in good time and enjoyed a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast before beginning the survey early the next morning off the Northumbrian coast. Conditions were very good: a very light northerly wind gave us a sea state of barely three and visibility was excellent. We confidently expected cetaceans to appear during the course of the day.


However, the morning passed uneventfully. There were good numbers of Guillemot and a few Puffins and Razorbills. We also recorded Gannets, mostly adults, their handsome livery evident in the sparkling winter sunshine. But we were passing Bridlington before, finally, we found a marine mammal. It was a lone Grey Seal, 'bottling' on the surface. As we drew nearer it righted itself and rolled slowly forwards on a deep dive.

 


common dolphin Peter Howlett 22
Common Dolphin (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

 

Shortly afterwards John spotted a heavy splash off our port bows. We hurried to the port side of the bridge to investigate and were pleased to find two Common Dolphin. Their "hourglass" flank markings were very briefly visible to confirm the identification. We watched as they surfaced three or four times before disappearing in a deeper dive some fifty metres off our port side. We continued our vigil until about 17.30 when the rapidly fading light obliged us to bring the day's survey to an end.


We awoke the following morning in Zeebrugge harbour and had plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast before our departure at 10.00am. A Great-crested Grebe was in the harbour, along with Black-headed Gulls and Herring Gulls.


As we pulled out into the open sea it was obvious that conditions weren't quite as good as the previous day. The sea state had risen to about four though visibility was still extremely good. We still felt optimistic about finding at least a few Harbour Porpoise.


Amid the wind farms off the Belgian coast we did indeed find a considerable amount of bird activity. There were good numbers of Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots and Gannets either circling expectantly or milling about - suggesting that a big concentration of fish might be present. We scanned eagerly looking for dorsal fins breaking the surface but, despite our efforts, couldn't find a cetacean. We did, however, find a juvenile Little Gull.


A little way past this area I saw two splashes off our starboard side which appeared to be the work of a Harbour Porpoise, though the animal didn't show well enough to be certain of the identification. Two further Harbour Porpoise did appear later in the day after much diligent scanning, both single animals and both surfacing briefly only one or two times. Nevertheless, their stubby triangular dorsal fins left us in no doubt as to their identity.


Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15b
Harbour Porpoise (Archive Photo: Peter Howlett)

Late in the afternoon some divers began to appear, mostly Red-throated though one was certainly Black-throated. By then the light was fading once more as another bright winter's day drew to a close.


Our thanks go to captain Andrej Oresko and his crew as well to the staff at DFDS for their attentive help and support throughout the survey.

 

Steve Morgan and John Perry, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge January 2016

Posted 31 January 2016

This survey had to be cancelled because of operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge December 2015

Posted 28 December 2015

As this survey route was planned to run on a bi-monthly schedule for the year of 2015,  no survey was planned for this month.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge November 2015

Posted 30 November 2015

This survey had to be cancelled because of bad weather conditions.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS 'Finlandia Seaways' Rosyth-Zeebrugge, October 16-18, 2015

Posted 15 October 2015

As this survey route was planned to run on a bi-monthly schedule for the year of 2015,  no survey was planned for this month.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS 'Finlandia Seaways' Rosyth-Zeebrugge; September 11-13, 2015

Posted 18 September 2015

This survey had to be cancelled because of technical / operational reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways' Rosyth-Zeebrugge 7-9 August 2015

Posted 16 August 2015

Duncan Fyfe surveyor for MARINElife

Weather: Skies were clear with no precipitation throughout the trip. The sea state was a steady 2-4, barely reaching a sea state 4 on few occasions with minimal wind speed (12 knots max) and wind predominantly from the southeast and southwest.

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 2
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 9
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 32
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 2

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra 4
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 46
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 11
Balearic Shearwater  Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet  Morus bassanus 5948
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 3
Arctic Skua  Stercorarius parasiticus 4
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 35
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 18
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 11
Little Gull  Hydrocoloeus minutes 19
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 807
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 9
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 113
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 21
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 73
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 18
Guillemot  Uria aalge 747
Razorbill  Alca torda 5
Tern sp. 4
Larus Gull sp. 15
Auk sp. 222

My journey from Yorkshire to Rosyth was a pleasant one and I arrived early which gave me time to have a look around Dunfermline - Scotland's ancient capital and where some of my family are from. I actually got married in the Abbey which is well worth a visit if you happen to be in Fife and have the time before or after a survey.

I was allowed to board the Finlandia Seaways on the Thursday evening shortly after it arrived in port. This allowed me to get some much needed sleep before the ship set sail and the start of the survey early the following day. I am really grateful to DFDS for allowing MARINElife to do this as it makes a massive difference to our surveyor teams and the logistics of organising the surveys.

Day 1: Southbound

I started the survey around 5.30am on the Friday morning as Bass rock had just disappeared out of sight. The conditions were good and sea state barely got above a 3 and wind speed of 3 all day. Not surprisingly there was a constant stream of birds to record including many Gannets and Kittiwakes and with numbers of Guillemots increasing as we got closer to the Farne Islands.

Minke Peter Howlett 08

Minke Whale (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Once again this survey showed just how good the Northumberland and North Yorkshire coasts can be for wildlife. The first cetacean encounter of the day was of a group of at least 6 large robust looking dolphin actively feeding a few miles off shore from Newcastle. Their general 'jizz' and a hint of a white saddle made me think they were quite possibly White-beaked Dolphin. There was quite a lot of feeding activity and splashing so I only got glimpses of them but they were exciting to watch.

As we moved south I started to record the first Harbour porpoise of the trip which were easier to spot thanks to the relatively calm sea conditions. Then just off the North Yorkshire/Cleveland coast I got a glimpse of 2 large dolphin leaping away from the boat - possibly Bottlenose Dolphin.

Thereafter there were Harbour Porpoise sightings at approximately 15 minute intervals until somewhere in the vicinity of Flamborough Head a large black back and body roll no more than 600m away revealed a Minke Whale.

Bird numbers continued to be good along the Yorkshire coast with Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin and Fulmar all sighted. The highlight of the trip being a good view of a Balearic Shearwater at about the same time as 2 White-beaked Dolphin somewhere off the North Lincolnshire coast. The final cetacean sighting of the day was a couple of hours later with a brief glimpse of a Common Dolphin bow riding. Despite the calm conditions I hadn't seen it approach the ship - it just suddenly seem to have appeared in front of the bow. Something that many of our surveyors will be familiar with for this particular species.

WB Dolphin Tom Brereton 05a

White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: Tom Brereton)

The final bird highlight of the day was a group of 4 Arctic Skua that sat very obligingly on the water and came right into the 300m box area before reluctantly flying off.

Day 2: Northbound.

The ship arrived in Zeebrugge in the early hours of the morning which enabled me to get a relative lie in. I used the time to enjoy some of the suns warmth on the outer deck before recommencing the survey around lunchtime once the navigation pilot had left the ship. Again the conditions were good with sea state 2-4 being the order of the day.

There were small but steady numbers of Kittiwake, Gannet, Guillemot and Fulmar to record as well as Common and Grey Seal and 3 more Harbour Porpoise sightings. It was particularly noticeable that as we approached the North Norfolk and Lincolnshire coasts towards the end of the day that the number of Guillemots increased. Usually with one adult bird sitting next to a juvenile but often larger 'rafts' of 10-30 birds. One of these Guillemot rafts consisted of about 40 birds. The unusual thing about this was that there was a flock of 30 Kittiwakes actively attacking the juvenile Guillemots - behaviour I had not witnessed in this small gull species before.

As day 2 drew to a close increasing numbers of Little Gull were seen heading towards the coastline.

The number of Guillemots and other auks also noticeably increased towards the end of the day but with the sun to the Northwest it was difficult to make out their silhouette until they had almost passed through the box, at which point I decided to call a halt to the days survey.

Day 3:

An early start at 5 AM but well worth it. I had time to wake up and warm up for the main event as Bass rock came into view.  As we got closer the Gannet numbers, not surprisingly, increased steadily along with small numbers of Herring Gull and Kittiwake and I got good value for money out of my biro as it didn't stop! Gannets really are magnificent birds. No matter how many thousands I have now seen I can never get tired of them or not be amazed by their beauty and powerful flight. At about 5.40 AM I was treated to an amazing Gannet spectacle as the ship appeared to sail right through the middle of a large group of feeding, flying and resting Gannets - a group numbering at least 5000 birds (and with many more unrecorded on the Rock and in the vicinity). They appeared to be all around as if we were right amongst them. Truly amazing and reason alone for any of our MARINElife surveyors who have not done so yet to undertake this survey.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 12

Little Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I stopped the survey near to Dalgety Bay and used the last few moments on the ship to enjoy the surroundings and view the numerous seals (mostly Common) that were hauled out on the rocks, marker buoys and pontoons in the vicinity.

Once again our thanks go to DFDS and crew of the Finlandia Seaways for making this all possible.

Duncan Fyfe surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge 3-5 July 2015

Posted 05 July 2015

This survey had to cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 12-14 June 2015

Posted 17 June 2015

Janet Shepherd and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outbound: W 1 backing NE 3 with occasional fog patches in the afternoon
Return: SW 5 decreasing NW 2 with occasional rain then light winds and light rain on final morning

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 19
Dolphin sp. 1

Seabirds
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 63
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 3094
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 12
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Common Gull Larus canus 53
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 72
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 101
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 807
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 14
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 1
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 18
Puffin Fratercula arctica 206
Guillemot Uria aalge 1773
Razorbill Alca torda 97
Gull sp.  4

Terrestrial Birds
Domestic Pigeon Columba livia 3

We arrived in Rosyth after one of the hottest days in Scotland this year and were made very welcome by the staff at the port office and then by Liubove, our stewardess for the voyage on Finlandia Seaways. We made arrangements with the Captain for our early morning visit to the bridge and, after supper, managed a few hours' sleep.

Daybreak was early and the survey started at 04.40hrs just before passing the Bass Rock with its vast Gannet colony. Two Pink-footed Goose flew overhead and then Gannet, Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot were in seen in fairly large numbers. Most were flying either to or from their nesting sites to their feeding grounds, east or west. Some could be seen with sand eels in their beaks.

Guillemot Rick Morris 03a
Juvenile Guillemot with parent (Archive photo: Rick Morris)

Kittiwake and Fulmar were often sighted and seabird numbers were, unsurprisingly, greater near St Abb's Head, Farne Islands and Flamborough Head. Other birds sighted on the first day included a solitary Manx Shearwater, a Common Scoter and several Sandwich Tern. A highlight was a juvenile Guillemot with its parent, the first we'd seen on the water this year.

A Grey seal was spotted near the Bass Rock and then later we were pleased to see Common Dolphin and a Harbour Porpoise east of the Farne Islands. Hopes were high when we spotted a large group of seabirds in a fishing frenzy, east of Flamborough Head, our they were fulfilled when we had good sightings of 2 Minke Whale come up in amongst them. Soon after the sea mist came down very thick and so we were able to catch up on what we had seen so far and delight in the whale sighting whilst having some 'down time'.

Minke Whale Peter Howlett 04b
Minke Whale (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Surveying continued into the evening with more sightings including Kittiwake and Fulmar, and several Sandwich Tern on the approaches to the Humber. However, there were noticeably far fewer birds seen than further north.

We awoke docked in Zeebrugge port, where there was a stiff breeze blowing from the SW but at least the sea mist had cleared. After breakfast the ship was fully loaded and we departed early with the survey recommencing just outside the harbour walls.

Common Tern, Gannet, Fulmar and Lesser Black-backed Gull were our main sightings. After a while three pigeon were seen flying forward of the vessel and we decided they were racing pigeon. Sometime later we saw another three, but think they were the same three taking a lift, or rest, on the ship. Later we saw a dark figure coming in from the east and were pleased to see it was a Great Skua. Sandwich Tern were again spotted later in the afternoon, also Guillemot and Kittiwake in large numbers as we sailed north along the English coast. We saw three more juvenile Guillemot, with their parents, on the water and birds returning with sand eels to their nesting sites.

WB Dolphin James Phillips 01a
White-beaked Dolphin (Archive photo: James Phillips)

As we passed the Humber Estuary we saw a number of Grey Seal often solitary, and some lying like logs on the surface. Soon after we were delighted to sight White-beaked Dolphin, their tall, scythe-like fins unmistakeable - as in Graham's photograph in the March 2015 report. This spurred us on, in spite of such a long day, and we finished surveying at 21.30hrs.

Day three's survey started at sunrise, 04.30am, as the ship was sailing past St. Abb's Head. There were Guillemot, Puffin, and Razorbill all flying east-west to and from their nest sites and breeding grounds and Gannet flying northwest back towards the Bass Rock. The 'Bass' was spectacular with many Gannet sitting on the water just north of the island. It was particularly good to see so many Puffin north of Craigleith, where they have recently returned in large numbers after volunteers have worked to clear the tree mallow from the island. Shag and 'Commic' Tern were seen along the Forth and small groups of Grey Seal hauled out on the tiny islands and on one of the buoys.

We had excellent views of the three Forth crossings, especially the high towers of the new one, as we approached Rosyth.

Another excellent survey with good sightings. Our thanks go to Captain Julius Nagaitis and his crew for being so helpful and accommodating and to DFDS for the opportunity.

MARINElife survey report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge 15-17 May 2015

Posted 18 May 2015

This survey was rescheduled for early June for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 13-15 March 2015

Posted 24 March 2015

Steve Morgan and Stuart Murray, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Slight breeze, steady from the northeast both south and northbound, with good visibility

Summary of sightings
Cetaceans and seals
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3


Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 4

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 36
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellata 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 26
Gannet Morus bassanus 137
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 20
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 179
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 35
Guillemot Uria aalge 391
Razorbill Alca torda 31
Unidentified auk species 105
Unidentified loon species 16

Terrestrial birds at sea
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1

Gannet Stuart Murray

Gannets (Stuart Murray)

We arrived in Rosyth on a blustery, wet and cold night just as our ship, the Finlandia Seaways docked; within minutes we were taken on board and handed over to our stewardess Luba, who pressed tea and cream cake on us before attending to the formalities of passports and such like. By morning, weather conditions had much improved, the wind had dropped, it had stopped raining and the sea held only the faintest hint of a swell.

We soon began recording Guillemot and Gannet, the former mostly in fresh summer plumage; the latter (as throughout the survey) were in fully adult plumage.

Passing the Farne Islands the first Kittiwake and one or two Puffin appeared but a glimpse of our first seal was insufficient to identify it as either Common or Grey; soon after another came into view - this time obligingly lounging about on the surface and revealing itself to be most definitely a Common Seal.

WB Dolphin Graham Ekins 04

White-beaked Dolphin (Graham Ekins)

As  the morning wore on, we started speculating when our first cetacean would appear, then there they were at last; a group of four White-beaked Dolphin moving quickly, their tall and falcate dorsal fins scything through the water. They surfaced four or five times before disappearing and no amount of desperate scanning could bring them back.

In the early afternoon a few Razorbill began to supplement the Guillemot and Puffin sightings, and a diver, probably Red-throated, sped away across the sea and a few Lesser Black-backed Gull materialized. Several more Common Seal crossed our path and, later, a probable Grey Seal briefly put its head above the waves.

The light eventually faded and by six o'clock it was too dim to carry on, but there was one last twist to the day's action. Returning to our cabins we found that a Robin had come on board and had become trapped inside. It took some energetic work to steer it towards an open door before it eventually won its release!

We awoke the following morning in Zeebrugge harbour to find bright sunshine and a moderate breeze. Departing at 09.30 am, we were soon recording various gull species, including good numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull, a few Common Gull and several Little Gull, their dark under-wings clearly visible.

Little Gull Stuart Murray

Little Gulls (Stuart Murray)

A flock of more than 20 Common Scoter passed by, followed by a lone Shag, then a single Sandwich Tern, the first summer migrant seabird of the year. Our first cetacean came mid-morning, a single Harbour Porpoise that surfaced twice before disappearing. Two other porpoise sightings followed in the afternoon, both very close to the bows of the ship.

As the afternoon wore on the breeze stiffened a little and a gentle swell developed. However, visibility was still good and we gradually added Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar and Kittiwake to our list. The highlight of the afternoon was the movement of a dozen or more divers out towards the open sea. A few we could see were definitely Red-throated; others might well have been Black-throated but were too distant to allow positive identification.

The day ended close to the position at which we had drawn stumps on the outward leg the previous day. Our final day saw us up before sunrise for the last leg into the Firth of Forth but it was too dark to see much and a thick overcast prolonged the gloom. Nonetheless, we managed about an hour of survey time and recorded a modest number of birds, adding Eider and Cormorant to the trip list and only our second terrestrial species, a single Carrion Crow that plodded across the bows.

As usual our thanks go to the DFDS Seaways officers and crew whose unstinting help made our task both easy and enjoyable.

Steve Morgan and Stuart Murray, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

DFDS ferry ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Rosyth-Zeebrugge 23-24 January 2015

Posted 31 January 2015

Steve Morgan and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather outbound: wind SW 5, sea state mainly 4 to 5, bright with good visibility. weather inbound: wind NW 6, sea state 5, mainly bright with good visibility.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 4

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 1
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 34
Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 35
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 30
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 26
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 74
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 89
Puffin Fratercula arctica 5
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 156

Terrestrial Birds
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2

We boarded the Finlandia Seaways in good time on the evening of the 22nd at Rosyth and, after a little light refreshment (generously provided by the ever-helpful steward Tatiana), had a good night's sleep prior to beginning the survey the following morning.

Soon after dawn we ensconced ourselves on the starboard side of the bridge, finding overcast conditions and a sea state of four. Birds appeared sporadically and we recorded Gannet, Fulmar, Guillemot and Lesser Black-backed Gull at regular intervals, albeit in fairly small numbers. One early highlight was a Storm Petrel, glimpsed briefly skipping along the surface between the waves.

Storm Petrel Peter Howlett 02

Storm Petrel (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

I was hopeful of finding cetaceans - possibly White-beaked Dolphin or even a Minke Whale - in the waters off the Northumberland and North Yorkshire coast. But, despite a really concentrated effort, our luck was out. Eventually, in the late afternoon, Allan spotted a Common Seal quite close to our bows. Shortly afterwards, I did likewise, finding a second Common Seal resting on its back about a hundred metres to starboard. By 16.20 the light was fading rapidly and we drew stumps. Our cetaceans would have to wait until the next day on the return leg from Zeebrugge to Rosyth.

We awoke in Zeebrugge with the Finlandia Seaways readying itself for departure. After a leisurely breakfast we took up our position on the bridge once more and, at around 08.45, the ship began slowly moving away from its berth. Two Great Crested Grebes were present on our port side and various Common and Herring Gulls were milling around the harbour. The area immediately around the port was very busy and it wasn't until we had got several miles out that we found quieter seas. We were soon recording modest numbers of Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Gannets and, before long, I had the day's first marine mammal; another Common Seal, lounging around on the surface and nonchalantly watching us pass by.

In the late morning we finally found our first cetacean of the trip. The sunlight was shining into the water at just the angle to see a small black silhouette propelling itself along and towards the surface at about two hundred and fifty metres. Moments later it broke the surface and revealed a small stubby dorsal before instantly slipping away into the depths and out of sight. A Harbour Porpoise! It is always marvellous to see these creatures underwater in their entirety - normally of course one has only a very brief glimpse as it surfaces. Half an hour later two more Harbour Porpoise appeared, this time surfacing together four times in quick succession before disappearing to starboard.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 16

Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

In the early afternoon we began to find Black-throated Divers moving from port to starboard. They came in ones and twos over a period of half an hour or so, evidently moving from inshore to feeding grounds further out in the North Sea. We accounted for 34 of these fine birds, each in crisp black and white winter plumage.

In mid-afternoon I had a very brief glimpse of a black object which surfaced momentarily in a trough between the waves. It was probably another Harbour Porpoise, which sometimes barely graze the surface as they come up to breathe. This was followed by yet another, this time right under our port bows. It is unusual to get so close - normally Harbour Porpoise veer away to port or starboard at about three hundred metres - but this one we caught unawares. Perhaps it was sleeping? Our last marine mammal came late in the afternoon, Allan spotting another Common Seal resting on the surface. By 16.30 the light had gone and it was time to bring our survey to a close.

Our thanks go to the staff at DFDS and the captain and the Crew of the Finlandia Seaways, whose unstinting help and co-operation made our work straightforward and pleasurable.

Steve Morgan and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways Finlandia Seaways Rosyth-Zeebrugge 14-16 November 2014.

Posted 26 November 2014

Janet Shepherd and Alice Murphy, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather
Outward: Overcast, wind SE 5, intermittent light rain, becoming heavy and persistent in the afternoon.
Return: Overcast, wind SW-NW 1-3, intermittent light rain, visibility good to poor with fog banks in the distance.

Summary of species recorded

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 7
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 3
Unidentified Dolphin 3

Seabirds

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 12
Gannet Morus bassanus 162
Common Gull Larus canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 16
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Guillemot Uria aalge 79
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 5
Diver Sp. 2
Gull Sp. 11

Terrestrial Birds

Song Thrush Turdus philomelos 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 5
Passerine Sp. 21
Wader Sp. 23

On arrival at Rosyth docks we boarded the Finlandia Seaways and settled into our cabin. As bad weather was forecast for Scotland the ship departed early and we woke to fairly unsettled seas. In spite of the wind easing as we headed south, heavy rain in the afternoon meant the survey was finished early. Nevertheless a good variety of seabirds were recorded, species included Gannet, Fulmar, Great Skua and a large number of Guillemot.

WB Dolphin James Phillips 01a

White-beaked Doplin (Archive Photo by James Phillips)

The following day brought calmer seas with many Gannet fishing, at one time in association with dolphin feeding. Harbour Porpoise, Common and White-beaked Dolphin were sighted in the calmer seas. We were intrigued by a small group of birds, just off the Norfolk coast they were too young to fly and we decided by their appearance and behaviour - trying to get out of the way of the ship by semi-diving and trying to run across the water - they were, in fact, immature Great Crested Grebe. A very late brood. Other birds included many Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Great Skua and Common Gull.

Once again our thanks go to DFDS, Captain Kucinskas and the crew of the Finlandia Seaways who made us very welcome.

 

Janet Shepherd and Alice Murphy, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

 

MARINElife blog: DFDS Finlandia Seaways Rosyth-Zeebrugge 12-13 September 2014

Posted 07 October 2014

John Perry and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Mainly cloudy, wind moderate 4 predominantly from the SE on the outward journey, a little stronger and from the NE on return.

Summary of sightings:

Mammals

Common Dolphin  Delphinus delphis 3
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Unidentified dolphin  1

Seabirds:

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 271
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 7
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 161
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 14
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 15
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 102
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 12
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 5
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Guillemot Uria aalge  96

Terrestrial Birds:

Osprey Pandion haliaetus 2
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1

We were welcomed aboard the 'Finlandia Seaways' by the crew and shown to our cabins where we had a very peaceful night as the ship sailed through Scottish waters.

Minke Mike Bailey 01

Minke Whale, Archive photo by Mike Bailey

After a hearty breakfast, we were welcomed to the bridge by Captain Gintaras Kučinskas and began the survey at 07:15. The sea was flat calm and although visibility was a little reduced by sea mist, we had excellent viewing conditions and almost our first sightings were four Manx Shearwater and a Pomarine Skua passing below the bow of the ship.

The first highlight came after passing the Farne Isles when five Harbour Porpoise surfaced some 100 metres in front of the ship.  Shortly after this we had a frenzy of activity with a Minke Whale, three White-beaked Dolphin and three Common Dolphin all giving excellent views. There was also an unidentified dolphin at some distance out.

After an excellent lunch, we saw an increasing number of Fulmar and Kittiwake with occasional sightings of Great Skua, Arctic Skua, and a solitary Sooty Shearwater. Throughout the day we had good numbers of Gannet and Guillemot.

WB Dolphin James Phillips 02

White-beaked Dolphin, Archive Photo by Mike Bailey

After dinner, we caught up with the day's sightings and managed to enter quite a lot of the data before retiring for a well-earned night's sleep.

The return journey was once again undertaken on an almost flat sea. Two migrating Osprey were seen flying over Zeebrugge port as the ship prepared to depart and once out in the open sea we encountered a group of eight Great Skua leisurely migrating to the southeast. We particularly enjoyed the views we had of Little Gull as we sailed homewards.

The ship arrived in Rosyth just as dawn broke behind the iconic Forth Rail Bridge and we would like to thank Captain Gintaras Kucinskas and his friendly crew for a thoroughly enjoyable and productive survey.

 

John Perry and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways 'Finlandia Seaways' Rosyth-Zeebrugge 10-12 July 2014

Posted 03 August 2014

Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
South-bound: winds SW 1-3 knots, sunny, sea fog later
North-bound: winds NE 5-6 knots, overcast, sea fog from midday

Summary of species seen:

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Common Seal Phoca vitulina 22

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 17
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Gannet Morus bassanus 1882
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 47
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 41
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 137
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 27
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 2
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 12
Puffin Fratercula arctica 6
Guillemot Uria aalge 256

I was taken aboard the ship at 3am in the morning due to its late arrival at Rosyth but fortunately managed a  couple of hours sleep before the ship sailed at 5.30am. I have surveyed this route many times right from when MARINElife started it but this was the first time on my own. On arrival on the bridge I received the usual warm welcome from Captain Gintaras Kucinskas, who I have now met several times on this ship.

Common Seal Peter Howlett 01
Common Seals (Photo by Peter Howlett)

The early morning weather on sailing into the Forth was fantastic. Leaving port I saw Common Seals enjoying the lovely morning sunshine on the rocks and channel marker buoys. Approaching the mouth of the Forth you can see the Isle of May on one side and the white stack of Bass Rock, with its mass of breeding Gannets, on the other. Counting the Gannet as they head out on their journey to collect food keeps you on your toes for an hour or so! Further down the coast you sail through long lines of auks, Kittiwakes and gulls heading to feeding grounds out in the North Sea from their breeding colonies on the Farne Islands. The weather was excellent for much of the day but surveying was brought to a halt when we sailed into dense sea fog at 17.30 and unfortunately this persisted for the rest of the day.

Day two saw us departing Zeebrugge at 5:30am under cloudy skies, early excitement was provided by the sighting of a long line of black Common Scoter ahead of the ship. After that only a few Gannet and the usual Lesser Black-backed Gull and terns were seen until lunchtime. At which point we again sailed into dense sea fog, this brought surveying to a premature close and it unfortunately lasted for the rest of the day.

Shortly after dawn on day three we re-entered the Forth in lovely sunshine, sailing under the two bridges and passing the third, which is under construction. On entering Rosyth you can see the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth waiting to be launched.

Gannet Peter Howlett 08
Gannet (photo by Peter Howlett)

I again thanked Captain Kucinskas and his crew for their help, hospitality and the excellent food I received while on board the ship.

Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Finlandia Seaways" 9 - 11 May 2014

Posted 20 May 2014

Ruth Hoban and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather - Southbound: mainly overcast, wind 3-4  Northbound: Sunny spells and squally showers, wind 4-7 occ. 8. Final morning sunny and calm.

Marine Mammals
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra   6
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis  24
Gannet  Morus bassanus  247
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus  13
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 10
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus  2
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla  102
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 31
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 13
Guillemot  Uria aalge  571
Razorbill   Alca torda  4

Allan and I were welcomed on-board the Finlandia Seaways by a friendly crew and introduced to the captain. We were then shown to our cabins so that we could get some much needed rest before our early start.

Minke Adrian Shephard 03The ship left Rosyth at 0400 so by the time we started out survey at 0600, we were just off St Abb's head.  The bridge on Finlandia Seaways is situated right at the front of the ship so we had a perfect view of the ocean. This was soon apparent as within 15 minutes of starting the survey we saw a great dark grey back surface from beneath the calm waters. It was a Minke Whale! We were treated to views of its long dark back and curved dorsal fin for about a minute before it headed closer to shore. That itself made the 0600 start worthwhile and put us in good stead for the remainder of the survey. Seabird sightings were high as we approached the Farne Islands where many Guillemot and Gannet were seen within the box and Allan's ken eye homed into a Common Scoter.

Minke Whale (Adrian Shephard)

The southbound journey across the North Sea was relatively calm though there were points when visibility was poor but it didn't hinder the survey. As the day turned to evening, light inevitably began to make identification difficult and we ended a successful first day of surveying at 2030. We had dinner and headed to bed to rest our eyes.

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 05aVisibility on the northbound journey was significantly reduced as we made our way through some rather spectacular looking rain clouds. This made surveying difficult at times but as we made our way towards the Wash this changed.  A small dark head bobbing on the surface was quickly identified as a Grey Seal due to its large nose. Just as the light was fading we were suddenly surrounded by many Gannet both flying and resting on the water - we had to concentrate to keep count!

We were invited back onto the bridge on Sunday morning just as we were sailing up the Firth of Forth. The sea was mirror calm and the sun was up - what a beautiful sight of the Forth!

We are very grateful to the crew on the Finlandia Seaways for making us very comfortable and hope to carry out this survey again in the near future.

Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Ruth Hoban and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Longstone" 14 - 16 March 2014

Posted 19 March 2014

Stuart Murray and Allan Carpenter, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Southbound, SW backing W 4-5. Northbound, W 5-6. Good visibility and low swell heights.

Cetaceans and seals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 5
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 33
Gannet Morus bassanus 402
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 56
Puffin Fratercula arctica 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 492
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Unidentified auk sp. 5
Unidentified gull sp. 7

Terrestrial birds at sea
Woodcock  Scolopax rusticola 1
Blackbird Turdus merula 4
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 2
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii 1

Birds from the ship while docked
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus 1   (at Zeebrugge breakwater)
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1   (in Zeebrugge dock)
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1   (in Zeebrugge dock)
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 2   (in Zeebrugge dock)
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1   (in Rosyth dock)
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2   (in Rosyth dock)

Gannet Carol Farmer-Wright 05aWe were taken aboard 'Longstone' at midnight, an impressive 14,000-ton vessel that the deck crew was busy unloading, while those off duty were catching some sleep before the 4am sailing time. As a result we were led up through silent accommodation decks by a cheery soul who took us to our individual cabins and left us for the night. By the time daylight appeared we had left the Firth of Forth, unfortunately passing the spectacular Bass Rock and its Gannets in the dark. Introductions then followed, first with Peter the cook who asked what he could make us for breakfast, which was a very pleasant start. We were then taken up to the bridge and over the course of the day got talking to the watch officers, including Captain Calum MacLeod. His Hebridean lilt established him as a native of South Uist, and as is the way in small countries, we discovered that we knew many people in common.

Gannet (Carol Farmer-Wright)

Getting going on the survey we had good conditions for the whole day with seabird species and numbers what we expected for the time of year. The commonest being Gannet and Guillemot and despite our proximity to major Puffin colonies, first in the Forth then off the Farne Islands only a handful were seen. At this time of year North Sea breeding Puffins tend to be widely dispersed, mostly down in the English Channel and the Western approaches. The first hint of spring migration was in the air and we had several Blackbirds, all male, briefly come  aboard; a single Pied Wagtail, two Meadow Pipits and a Woodcock were the only other non-seabirds. Apart from birds we managed to find three Harbour Porpoise but only a single seal, a Grey. Darkness came early so we spent the evening after dinner socializing with crew members and learning about their life at sea.

We arrived in Zeebrugge in the small hours and were sailing again at 9am, so had no time to go ashore. We settled for a bird watching hike around the bridge deck instead, with a sharp-eyed Alan very much on form, clocking Little Gull, Black Tern and a single Peregrine. The adult male Marsh Harrier came as we were slipping from the berth.

Arctic Skua Mike Bamford 02The rest of the day running north failed to yield any terrestrial birds but we had good views of of Red-throated Diver off the Norfolk coast. A Harbour Porpoise sighting, of three together 'logging' on the surface, was in the same area. Seabirds were in similar numbers and dispersion to the run south and the day ended with a spectacular sunset at 17:45, neatly timing it for us to go to dinner with a good appetite and a good conscience, having surveyed all the possible daylight hours.

Our last day saw us up at 5am, to enjoy the home run back into the Forth. It was still dark but the sky was clear and the various lighthouses at St Abb's, Fife Ness and the Isle of May were all showing well. No surveying was possible even when the sun came up, because we were heading into the teeth of a westerly gale and the sea was a mass of white caps. Still a beautiful morning to experience, with the sun rising alongside the pyramid of Berwick Law and a full moon briefly balanced on the centre span of the Forth railway bridge before finally setting.

Arctic Skua (Mike Bamford)

Our last 'new' birds came right in the dock at Rosyth, an early migrant Sandwich Tern and a single Arctic Skua, which ended the survey on a very satisfying note.

Our thanks go to Captain McLeod and watch officers Warren and Matthew for being so helpful and friendly to strangers on their bridge and also to Donald the steward and Peter the cook for their catering and attentive hospitality.

MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Longstone' Rosyth-Zeebrugge 14-16 February 2014

Posted 23 February 2014

This survey had to be cancelled due to severe weather conditions.

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Longstone" 13 - 15 December 2013

Posted 23 December 2013

Janet Shepherd and Ruth Hoban; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outward:  overcast, fair visibility, wind southerly force 5-6.
Return: clear skies, good visibility, wind south-westerly force 5-7

Summary of sightings
Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Seabirds:
Shoveler Anas clypeata   2
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 20
Gannet  Morus bassanus 103
Great Skua  Stercorarius skua 1
Common Gull  Larus canus 78
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 140
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 61
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 13
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 62
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 354
Razorbill   Alca torda 10
Gull  Sp 14
Auk Sp  1
Diver Sp 4

Terrestrial Birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1

Puffin 01 Peter HowlettWe arrived at Rosyth docks to a warm welcome from the staff and boarded the ship on arrival. We were taken to our cabins and then on to the bridge to meet Captain Mike Farmer who made us very welcome and explained the layout of the vessel. The ship was due to depart at 04:00 so we retired to bed to be ready for a fairly early start. After a hearty breakfast we started the survey.

It was a quiet and steady voyage south and, although there were relatively small numbers of birds and no cetaceans, we did sight a Great Skua and two Puffin. Daylight hours are few at this time of year so we were able to collate the day's recordings before having a lovely dinner and an early night.

The ship docked in Zeebrugge at 04:00 and we departed at 09:00 with a full cargo. Even the staff were taking pictures of the load. We had a leisurely start with sightings of Great Crested Grebe from the ship whilst moored at the dock.

Puffin (Pete Howlett)

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bailey 02a

Harbour Porpoise (Mike Bailey)

Soon after departure a Harbour Porpoise was sighted and we had regular sightings of Kittiwake, Guillemot and Gannet. We also had a good view of two Shoveler, as they flew over the front of the vessel. It was an informative afternoon, with the crew sharing their knowledge and experiences with us. We noticed the temperature of the water rapidly change by 2 degrees and in the colder waters we saw significantly less birds.

After dinner we collated our sightings and drafted this report before settling down to watch the semi final of 'Strictly'. The ship docked at 08:00 and, although we were on the bridge from 07.00, it was too dark to see any wildlife but we did have magnificent views of the Forth Bridges. Thank you again to Captain Farmer and his crew for a very enjoyable and informative voyage, and for making us so welcome.

Janet Shepherd and Ruth Hoban; Research Surveyors for MARNElife

 

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

Posted 21 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

Seabirds:
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

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Longstone" 9 - 11 August 2013

Posted 20 August 2013

Duncan Fyfe and Nick Adams; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Mainly clear, winds force 4 or less, sea state 2-4

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 34
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 13
Rorqual sp 1
Seal sp 3

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 15
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis  41
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus   297
Gannet Morus bassanus 10,000+
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo   5
Great Skua Stercorarius skua  10
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus  4
Skua sp 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 24
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 88
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 27
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 25
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1179
Large Gull sp 8
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 34
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 12
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 32
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 15
Guillemot  Uria aalge 307
Razorbill  Alca torda 16
Auk sp 127 

Terrestrial Birds
Grey Heron  Ardea cinerea 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 24
Greenshank Tringa nebularia 1
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 3
Plover sp 1.

This was a survey we were both looking forward to given the exciting recent sightings from the east coast of Northumberland and Yorkshire in recent weeks.

We were fortunate enough to board our survey vessel the night before the survey at around 10pm to allow us time to get some much needed rest before the early start the following day. We were grateful to the crew of the Longstone for making us welcome and providing us with such spacious accommodation.

The ship departed Rosyth between 3 and 4 in the morning but it was still dark at that hour so the south-bound survey began at around 5.30am and fortunately (in some respects) south of Bass Rock. Counting several thousand Gannets whilst trying to wake up at that hour might have been difficult!

The bridge on the Longstone is set mid-ships rather than towards the bow so for this survey our 300metre bird recording box was just off the starboard beam rather than the bow. We had wondered if this would affect our data recording but we needn't have worried because we still had some fine views.

Minke Whale Peter Howlett 02The journey south was a pleasant one, mostly within sight of the mainland. Weather remained clear for most of the survey with good visibility and sea state barely getting above a force 4. This helped us to spot our first Minke whale somewhere south of Dunbar and were awarded a fine sighting as it arched its back and dorsal fin out of the water. There was also the welcome sight of two large flocks of Manx Shearwater.

As we continued south the Farne Islands were clearly visible and we were expecting a flurry of sightings but a little unusually there were very few birds in the vicinity except for a handful of Kittiwake and auks.

Minke Whale (Pete Howlett)

We had both heard reliable firsthand accounts of a variety of cetacean species having been spotted off the North Yorkshire coast in recent months so anticipation grew as we got closer. Sure enough, with the cliffs of Bempton and Flamborough Head within sight, we had our second encounter with a Minke Whale. This time it surfaced and rolled less than 200m from the bow of the ship, a great view indeed!

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bailey 02aAs the survey continued we spotted several Harbour Porpoise, the total of 25 on day 1 no doubt helped by the sea state. Several of the porpoises were moving quite quickly (and porpoising) to get out of the way of the ship, almost recalling Common Dolphin for an instant. However, with the distinctive triangular dorsal fin on view and their small size there was no doubt as to what they were.

Harbour Porpoise (Mike Bailey)

A few Grey Seal sightings added to the days mammal total.  Bird highlights included a Greenshank, a Grey Heron and 3 Whimbrel.  There was also a steady movement of white butterflies to further interest us throughout the day. We ended the south bound survey around 8.40pm when the light just got too dark to identify anything.

After a welcome lie-in on Saturday morning we commenced the survey once the pilot had guided the ship most of the way out of the shipping lane. We had a few Common Scoter sightings, Great Skua, Fulmar and Guillemot but overall not as many birds as the previous day. We did have the company of a racing pigeon for a few hours as it rested atop the containers before continuing on its way. However, it was noticeable that bird numbers increased the further north we went and during the last couple of hours of survey the huge flocks of birds heading west to the Yorkshire coast was quite spectacular. Unfortunately most of the really large flocks were too far away to identify - well over the 2000 metre recording range for bird surveys - although we surmised that the majority were Kittiwake and possibly Little Gull.

Gannet SquadronWe woke up on Sunday morning to the not too distant view of Bass rock and managed to get to the bridge for a final couple of hours survey effort. It was certainly challenging counting all those Gannets! Since the MARINElife surveys are of birds at sea we ignored those birds sat on or immediately above Bass Rock and estimated those seen to be a conservative total of 10,000+ birds!  A few Common Tern and a couple of Cormorant added to the variety.

We made good time and were back to the car park by 8.20am. We are both grateful to DFDS and the Captain and his crew for making us feel welcome throughout the survey and look forward to doing this route again soon.

Gannets

Duncan Fyfe and Nick Adams; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Longstone" 14 - 16 June 2013

Posted 22 June 2013

Peter Howlett and Oliver Metcalf: Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outward: S 3-5  Return: SW 8-3

Marine Mammals
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 14
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 12
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 2
Common Seal  Phoca vitulina 1 

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 11
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata  2
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 69
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 22
Gannet  Morus bassanus 12,246
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 54
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 84
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 3,131
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 96
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 22
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 29
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 28
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 308
Guillemot  Uria aalge 747
Razorbill  Alca torda 114
Auk sp. 2,586
Tern sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds
Common Swift Apus apus 3
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

The first surprise of this trip was to see the green-hulled Longstone steaming up the Forth - we had been expecting the Finlandia Seaways - the ship usually on this route. I had carried out MARINElife's first survey on this ship in April on the Immingham-Cuxhaven route which had been very enjoyable and, knowing she was moving on soon after, hadn't expected to ever do another survey from her, so it was going to be good to have the opportunity to do another survey from her

The friendly DFDS staff at Rosyth got us on board shortly after Longstone had docked and we headed straight to our beds, desperate to try and get as much sleep as possible and prepare for a marathon stint on the bridge - so close to the longest day there was going to be a good 17 hours daylight for surveying! A mere 4 or so hours later, at 03:45, we were up on the bridge, just in time to see Bass Rock slipping behind us. A slight blessing really as neither of us fancied being dropped straight into trying to estimate huge Gannet numbers at that time in the morning!

White-beaked Dolphin 01 Peter HowlettOur first cetacean sighting came fairly early on with a solitary Harbour Porpoise, followed half an hour later by a second. Further excitement came a few hours into the survey with the sighting of a group of five White-beaked Dolphin crossing a few hundred metres in front of the ship. Unfortunately they were rather furtive as they passed so we didn't get brilliant views. This was a mere 25 miles east of Newcastle. Forty minutes later we had a second group, this time of 8 animals, they too disappeared as they passed alongside the ship but gave good views as they played around in the ship's wake.

This northern section of the survey was busy for seabirds too. Good numbers of auks, particularly Guillemot and Puffin, and Kittiwake kept us on our toes and ensured the morning passed very quickly. Bird of the day was undoubtedly a sub-adult Pomarine Skua, which made a close pass across the bows.

Minke WhaleAs we headed down the coast a group of three Harbour Porpoise appeared and showed well enough to see that one of them was a juvenile animal. Next up, when we were 17 miles east of Scarborough, a Minke Whale - living up to its nick name of 'slinky Minke' by being seen for just one brief roll.

Bird numbers dwindled as we headed southeast and off the Lincolnshire and Norfolk coasts terns such as Arctic and Sandwich put in an appearance along with a couple of late Red-throated Diver. The remainder of the evening, as we passed abreast of Cromer and then headed off shore towards Zeebrugge, was uneventful and we were grateful when the sun set at 21:30 allowing us to bring the day to a close and get some sleep.


With departure from Zeebrugge scheduled for 09:00 we had the luxury of a slight lie in before getting back on the bridge for the return crossing. There had been some torrential showers in the early morning but fortunately these had cleared to leave lovely sunny conditions - apart from the southwesterly gale blowing up the Channel! The white-flecked sea meant little chance of spotting cetaceans and with few birds to record it was a long morning, brightened by the sudden appearance of a solitary White-beaked Dolphin breaching repeatedly a few hundred metres away from the ship. At this point we were only 26 miles east of Lowestoft which means it might be possible to see this species from the shore.

As we headed north the wind dropped away and bird numbers increased, although sadly the same couldn't be said for the cetaceans! Terns and auks were the most common birds for much of the day but by the time we were abeam the Humber estuary things got a little frantic. The auks and Kittiwake hurtling past towards feeding grounds a little further offshore were so numerous it was difficult to keep track and in the space of an hour we logged over 2,000 Kittiwake and 1,500 auk species. Activity tailed off as the evening wore on and we were treated to a spectacular sunset with almost mirror-calm seas and glorious light.

Gannet 10 Peter HowlettWith only five hours of darkness we were back on the bridge at 03:45 in time to see St Abbs Head in the dawn light. Despite there being large seabird colonies here there seemed a distinct lack of birds first thing and numbers didn't really pick up until we hit North Berwick and the vicinity of Bass Rock. This really is a spectacular sight with around 50,000 pairs turning the rock white. From our vantage point, some 3km away, the island is continuously surrounded by a blizzard of white specks - each a bird with a 1.7m wingspan! The number of birds around the island is staggering, with a huge number of non-breeding birds adding to the breeding adults there could easily be 150,000 birds present at this time of year. Fortunately we only survey within 2km of the ship so the majority of birds were outside the survey area and the number was, only just, slightly more manageable.

We rapidly got into the tranquillity of the Firth of Forth and the survey ended as we picked up the Forth pilot at the island of Inchkeith. Our thanks go to Captain MacLeod and the crew of the Longstone for their warm and friendly welcome on board and to DFDS for their continued support of MARINElife's work.

Peter Howlett and Oliver Metcalf: Research Surveyors for MARINElife

 

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Finlandia Seaways" 11 - 12 April 2013

Posted 18 April 2013

Diedeirk D'Hert and Jozefien Decoene: Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outward: NE-SE force 2-3  Return: SE-NW, force 2-3

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 5
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 13
Common Seal  Phoca vitulina 2
Unidentified Seal sp. 3 

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver  Gavia stellata  22
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 66
Gannet  Morus bassanus 621
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Common Gull  Larus canus 9
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 11
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 17
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 225
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 27
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 2
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 161
Guillemot  Uria aalge 711
Razorbill  Alca torda 92
Unidentified Auk sp. 35
Unidentified Large gull sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds
Blackbird Turdus merula  3
Robin Erithacus rubecula 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 2
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 18
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarelli 3

Wheatear by PHWe boarded the Finlandia Seaways at 21:00 and left the harbour at midnight. Observations started the next morning at dawn, when we were well out in open sea. We were happy with the sightings of Puffin, as we don't see them very often from the Belgian coast. Unexpectedly, we also saw terrestrial birds such as Blackbird, Wheatear and Meadow Pipit. A couple of Arctic Terns passed close to the ship giving us good views. We expected to see quite a large number of birds around Bass Rock however, although many birds were obviously nesting on the island, relatively few were present in the sea around the island itself. Despite the good light conditions, the slight chop made it difficult to detect any Porpoises, nevertheless, 5 were recorded.

During the first hours of the second day of the trip, we still had moderate visibility. The sea was much calmer than the previous day and we recorded good numbers of Puffin and Guillemot during the first part of the trip.

Gannet 03/13Although the sea was almost mirror calm ­- in theory making it ideal for Porpoise spotting - a dense fog turned up after a few hours which reduced visibility to less than 200 metres and stayed with us for the rest of the trip. Even the RAF-helicopter, hovering over the vessel to perform a safety drill, was hardly visible.

Our thanks go to the Captain and crew of the Finlandia Seaways who made this a very enjoyable crossing and thanks to DFDS for their continued support of MARINElife's work.

Diedeirk D'Hert and Jozefien Decoene: Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Finlandia Seaways" 7 - 10 February 2013

Posted 10 February 2013

Francesco Germi: Research Surveyors for MARINElife 
Southbound (8th Feb): Wind WSW, force 4, sea state 3, visibility moderate.
Northbound (9th Feb): Wind W, force 2-3, sea state 3, visibility moderate.

Marine Mammals
White-beaked Dolphin  Lagenorhynchus albirostris 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena  2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus  1
Dolphin sp. 4 

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver  Gavia stellata 8
Great Northern Diver  Gavia immer 8
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis  57
Gannet Morus bassanus  111
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 208
Common Gull Larus canus 224
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 52
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus  17
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 22
Guillemot Uria aalge 144
Razorbill Alca torda 9

Common GullI was welcomed aboard the 'Finlandia Seaways' (formerly Tor Finlandia) in the late evening by the friendly crew and retired to my cabin, looking forward to the first day of the survey.

The ship left Rosyth docks, as scheduled, at 04:00 in the morning. I woke early having had a good night's sleep and, after breakfast, took position on the starboard side of the bridge to start the survey. Seabirds were evident straightaway with a few Kittiwake, Guillemot and Fulmar cruising alongside the ship. The Farne Islands soon came into view and I had a Grey Seal lazily swimming on the surface, clearly coming from the roosts on the islands. Bird recording continued with a mix of Great Black-backed Gull, Gannet and Herring Gull. The southbound journey across the North Sea (with the east coast of England well in view) went smoothly and despite an overcast sky the sea conditions were calm. In the early afternoon, as we passed Flamborough Head to our right, the numbers of Gannet and Fulmar increased. The rest of the afternoon passed happily counting seabirds and, after an early dinner, I retired to my cabin for some reading.

Ferry WBDWe docked at Zeebrugge in Belgium at 04:00 in the morning and by 9:30 were underway again on the return leg. After breakfast I duly took up my position on the bridge, eager for some exciting sightings. After a few Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, a couple of Great Crested Grebe and hundreds of gulls of six different species (and many more plumages!), I had my first cetacean sighting of the day: a pod of four unidentified dolphins swimming off to the side of the ship. The morning passed recording Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet and hundreds of gulls (Common, Herring, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed and Kittiwake). Then after lunch, my second cetacean sighting, a White-beaked Dolphin swimming in front of the bow, the white saddle clearly visible! The dolphin was closely followed by two Harbour Porpoise. This lucky day finished with a hearty dinner and a good night's sleep whilst the ship was heading north, back home.

On behalf of MARINElife, I would like to thank DFDS for their continued support with this survey.

Francesco Germi: Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Clipper Point" 7 - 9 December 2012

Posted 15 December 2012

Janet Shepherd and Francesco Germi: Research Surveyors for MARINElife
South bound: N 6/7  North bound: NE - W 2-5 

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena    1
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus   1
Dolphin sp   6

Seabirds
Eider  Somateria mollissima   1
Common Scoter  Melanitta nigra   6
Long-tailed Duck  Clangula hyemalis   1
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis   169
Gannet  Morus bassanus   117
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus   6
Common Gull  Larus canus   54
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus   258
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus   1
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus   46
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla   83
Puffin  Fratercula arctica   7
Guillemot  Uria aalge   125
Razorbill  Alca torda   7
Brent Goose Branta bernicla   15
Unidentified Diver Sp   48
Unidentified Auk Sp   74
Unidentified Petrel Sp 1
Gull Sp 725

Terrestrial Birds
Thrush sp  Turdus   1
Mallard   Anas platyrhynchos   15
Starling   Sturnus vulgaris    4
Grey Heron   Ardea cinerea    1
Lapwing   Vanellus vanellus   73

Kittiwake 2After checking in at Rosyth Docks we were escorted onto the ship and shown our cabins. The ship departed at 0400 and the survey started at first light. Fulmar and Guillemot were seen throughout the voyage with smaller numbers of Gannet, Puffin, Kittiwake and larger gulls.

A highlight for the team was a brief sighting of two dolphins although the view was too brief to identify which species they were. The dolphins were accompanied by a number of Gannet and Fulmar. A thrush flew in front of the vessel as did a female Eider.

The return journey gave a different perspective with many more sightings of birds. There were good numbers of divers and Herring and Common Gull off the coast of Zeebrugge.

Common GullLong-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Mallard and Grey Heron were also seen early in the voyage and later three flocks of Lapwing were seen flying west. We logged far more Gannet in the southern North Sea compared to the previous day in more northerly waters. There were few seabirds in the shallow waters off the Humber on both days.

The fair seas of the return leg also improved the possibility of seeing cetaceans. Frustratingly, the four that were seen were travelling directly away from the ship and we were unable to clinch their identification.

Thanks again to the most helpful DFDS staff ashore and on the ship, a special thank you to Captain Jamieson and his crew for making us so welcome.

Janet Shepherd and Francesco Germi: Research Surveyors for MARINElife

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

Seabirds
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

 

 

MARINElife Survey Report: Rosyth-Zeebrugge "Tor Finlandia" 14 - 15 September 2012

Posted 19 September 2012

John Perry and Dorota Cieslikiewicz, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Outbound W4, sea state 3-4 and clear, inbound W2 sea state 2 and clear

Cetacea / marine mammals
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds
Common Eider Somateria mollissima 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 22
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis  151
Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus  1
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus  3
Gannet Morus bassanus  633
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo  2
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 18
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 11
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 57
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 10
Guillemot Uria aalge 81

Terrestrial Birds
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 3

WB Dolphin

We were welcomed aboard the 'Tor Finlandia' by the crew and shown to our cabins where we had a very peaceful night despite the strong gale blowing around Rosyth. Captain Gintaras Kucinskas assured us that the wind was dying down and that the sail to Zeebrugge would be perfectly comfortable.

At 06:30 BST we started our first day on the bridge to find that the Captain had been absolutely right and there was clear skies, sunshine and a gentle swell as we passed St. Abbs Head. At first we thought we had woken up in Gannet City as these birds were everywhere for the next two hours. The first highlight came shortly after passing the Farne Islands when two White-beaked Dolphins surfaced immediately in front of the ship at a distance of no more than 20m, affording almost aerial views of them from the bridge.

After an excellent lunch, we saw the first of a total of 3 Balearic Shearwaters that we were privileged to observe as well as a Sooty Shearwater. Throughout the day we had a number of excellent sightings of Great Skua, usually harassing some poor Gannet.

Great Skua 3

As the ship was due to leave Zeebrugge at 09:30 on Saturday morning, there was no time to explore the city, but instead we caught up on data entry, had another large breakfast and joined the Captain and his officers as they manoeuvred the ship out of the port.

The return journey was undertaken on an almost flat sea and with uninterrupted sunshine. Shortly after leaving port we were treated to a flock of Common Scoter flying past accompanied by a solitary male Common Eider. In addition to more Great Skua, we added a couple of Arctic Skua as well as large numbers of Guillemot and Fulmar and a Harbour Porpoise feeding amongst diving Gannets.

The ship arrived in Rosyth just as dawn broke behind the iconic Forth Rail Bridge and we would like to thank Captain Gintaras Kucinskas and his friendly crew for a thoroughly enjoyable and productive survey. 

John Perry and Dorota Cieslikiewicz, Research Surveyors for MARINElife