MARINElife Survey Report: DFDS Seaways ‘Finlandia Seaways’ Zeebrugge-Rosyth survey 25-26 May 2017

Diederik D'Hert and Jozefien Decoene, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather
Outward: Winds mainly E-NE 1-3, sunny light fog
Return: Wind E 3, sunny with glare ahead and light fog

NOTE: This is a preliminary report and will be updated once the bird totals are available

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Minke whale  Balaenoptera acutorostrata 4
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 60
White-beaked Dolphin  Lagenorhynchus albirostris 15
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 53
Harbour Seal  Phoca vitulina 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 13
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 34
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 83
Gannet Morus bassanus 1687
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 172
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 27
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1138
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisea 53
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 47
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 230
Guillemot Uria aalge 3780
Razorbill Alca torda 253
Gull sp.  19
Tern sp. 10
Auk sp. 3

Terrestrial Birds
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata 1

After being welcomed by the very friendly crew on the bridge at 5.15 AM, we started our survey with an excellent sunrise, a mirror calm sea and good views. After a short time visibility decreased because of an upcoming mist front, while the numbers of birds and cetaceans increased as we navigated through what appeared to be a large feeding area. Whenever an animal dived, another showed up.

Minke Whale Diederik DHert 01
Minke Whale (Diederik D'Hert)

We had the luck to see a lot of Harbour Porpoises, 3 pods of White-beaked Dolphin, 4 Minke Whale, 1 Harbour Seal and a lot of Grey Seals. With so many marine mammals in evidence it was no surprise that seabirds were also abundant. As we travelled north we saw most of the species which breed along the east coast of the UK including three terns - Sandwich, Common and Arctic; four gulls - Common, Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed and Kittiwake and three species of auk - Puffin, Razorbill and Guillemot. There were also one or two migrant species such as Manx Shearwater. Gannets were probably most numerous with large numbers diving for fish.

At Bass rock, just before entering in the Firth of Forth, we couldn't even count the number of Gannets as they were breeding on and flying in huge numbers near the rocky outcrop. So after a busy day with plenty of observations, we navigated the Forth, underneath the famous Scottish railway bridge, to the docking area in the harbour of Rosyth, ready to catch some sleep.

Fulmar Diederik DHert 01
Fulmar (Diederik D'Hert)

The next day cetacean watching was a little frustrating, as despite good light conditions the wind ruffled the water enough to cause scattered whitecaps which made viewing of Harbour Porpoises challenging. We had a couple of sightings of this little creatures and a good sighting of a resting Grey Seal. Bird numbers were in general lower on the way back to Zeebrugge, although we observed a couple of busy feeding frenzies, where Harbour Porpoise pushed schooling fish to the sea surface and Gannets profited from the situation.

We want to thank the staff and crew of the Finlandia Seaways, who made this a very pleasant survey.