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