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