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