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:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
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
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 (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.
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.