Tilbury-Helsingborg/Malmo-Gdynia

Sightings Archive

Sightings Archives: June 2019

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Ensemble’ Tilbury-Rotterdam-Malmo-Gdynia 20th -29th June 2019

Posted 10 July 2019

Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary Sightings
Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 49
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 30

Seabirds
Guillemot Uria aalge 46
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 1
Auk Sp 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 128
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 43
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 14
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 24
Tern Sp 17
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 808
Black Swan Cygnus atratus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1246
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Cormorant/Shag 9
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis 7
Wigeon Anas Penelope 5
Duck Sp 9
Gadwall Anas strepera 4
Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca 13
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 82
Scoter Sp 41
Greylag Goose Anser anser 99
Goose Sp 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 421
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus intermedius/graelsii 253
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 86
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 277
Common Gull Larus canus 151
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 23
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 41
Gull Sp 2568

Terrestrial Birds recorded on or around ship
Swift Apus apus 18
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1              
Grey Heron Aedra cinerea 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 3
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Columba livia 15
Raptor Sp 1
Passerine 24

The plan for this trip was Tilbury to Rotterdam, from there to Malmo in Sweden and then on to Gdynia in Poland.  The return trip should then be via the Kiel Canal and back to Tilbury.

Going down the river to Rotterdam I counted only a couple of terns. However, if you looked behind the ship there were quite a few more, we only count the birds in front of the ship.  When the ship went into dock, after the end of the survey they all then appeared.  This was also true on the way back out.  When the ships engines were started before we left about thirty or so Common Tern all appeared at the back of the ship but few were counted when we set sail down the river.  It was a great place to stand on the back of the ship when the engines had started to get good shots of the terns.

Common Tern Robin Langdon 01

Common Terns (Robin Langdon)

It was good timing when we entered the river at Rotterdam.  At around 5 am, we entered the river at Rotterdam as I got to the bridge, so missed the hundreds of Cormorant positioned on the rocks at the start of the river. However, the many Swan were there to be counted, in both directions and I did count the Cormorant on the way back out.  There were similar large numbers of Cormorant as we entered Gdynia with around 800.  I opted for the easy way out and took a picture and counted them at my leisure afterwards.

were a large group of gulls about 1500 metres off the ship, having looked for cetaceans, none were seen so decided to take a photo to get a better idea of numbers and to hopefully identify the types.

The photo was not good enough to identify the gulls but it did identify a Harbour Porpoise in amongst the gulls I had initially not spotted.

Harbour Porpoise Robin Langdon 01

Harbour Porpoise (Robin Langdon)

A few hours outside Helsingborg with the sea beautifully flat and calm, having spotted a number of porpoise, a few were acting oddly coming to the surface and staying there for long periods of time.

I had seen this once before when a mother had a juvenile and sure enough, as I watched I witnessed a tiny little calf.  As the conditions were so good you were able to see the porpoises at considerable distance away.

During my swan count, I counted over 800 with only two young ones which appeared quite white in colour rather than the usual grey.

Mute Swan Robin Langdon 01

Mute Swan (Robin Langdon)

This was also a survey of environmental phenomenon.  I saw the summer solstice sun setting over the North Sea. Not only this I saw the Green Flash for the first time.  It looked more blue to me which I understand is rarer.  Then on the following day we had Cloud Iridescence where you get a rainbow affect in the clouds.

Continuing our journey on the 23rd, the conditions looked good and indeed the Harbour Porpoise did start to appear.  Between 8:45 and 11:30 there were 16 separate sightings totalling 26 animals.  Unfortunately, this did not keep going.  This was partly due to the weather as the sea state detreated to a 3 but mainly I think the area we moved into was not a place for cetaceans as it was just outside Helsingborg and was used by many leisure craft as well as the big ships going to the various ports.

Malmo seems to be an interesting place having arrived in the evening.  The tower you see in the picture is the Twisting Torso.  It's considered to be the first twisted skyscraper in the world.  Its Scandinavia's tallest building.  The bridge to the left is the Oresend Bridge.  This connects Sweden to Denmark, well this and a tunnel.  The bridge is 8 kilometres long and is the longest road/rail bridge in Europe.

Malmo Robin Langdon

Malmo (Robin Langdon)

After a night in Malmo we went onto Gdynia in Poland.  The port seemed to have all manner of activities.  There was ship building and repair.  The Polish navy seem to have a presence and there was also the container port.  On leaving Gdynia there was a further surprise as the Galleon Lew appeared just before leaving the port.

Galleon Lew Robin Langdon

Galleon Lew (Robin Langdon)

It had been decided as we were ahead of schedule we would go back the same way rather than go through the Kiel Canal.  A couple of hours out of Gdynia there were gulls sitting on the water in all directions stretching into the distance on both sides of the ship in association with some fishing vessels. They were impossible to count so I just gave a conservative estimate of 1000.

The area where all the porpoise had been seen on the outward journey, none were to be seen on the return - where had they all gone?  The reality was that the sea condition was somewhat different with a 1.5 metre swell and sea state of 5 to 6, so even if they had been present, viewing would be a challenge.

Gannet of various age ranges were spotted as the voyage continued - from 1st year juveniles through to 5 year old adults.

Gannet Robin Langdon 03

Gannet (Robin Langdon)

I would like to thank Captain Stavnisty and his crew, they taught me some interesting things including Nutella in porridge and their observations including the first porpoise they spotted.  Thanks also for Tim and Ryan from John Good shipping agents for getting me to and from Tilbury.

Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife