Sightings Archive

Sightings Archives: August 2019

MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Ensemble’ Tilbury-Helsingborg-Gdynia-Teesport 12th -21st August 2019

Posted 23 August 2019

Robin Langdon; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 28
Tuna sp. Thunnus sp. 5
Unidentified Dolphin sp. 1

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 16
Canada Goose Branta canadensis 10
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 22
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 24
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 50
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 33
Cormorant/shag sp. Phalacrocoracidae 197
Eider Somateria mollissima 17
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 166
Gannet Morus bassanus 376
Goose sp. Anatidae 10
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 86
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 29
Greylag Goose Anser anser 26
Guillemot Uria aalge 84
Gull sp. Laridae 755
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 62
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 37
Larus sp. Larus sp. 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 29
Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Scoter Sp. Melanitta sp. 20
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 264
Tern sp. Sternidae 41
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Little Swift Apus affinis 1
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 6
Raptor sp. 1
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Columba livia 2
Swift Apus apus 4
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 359
Grey Heron Ardea cinereal 5
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1

This survey was due to go from Tilbury to Helsingborg, Sweden.  From there it would go on to Gdynia, Poland and then return calling into Teesport,  Middlesbrough before getting back to Tilbury, and that is exactly what it did.

The weather varied a bit.  There was quite long periods of sea state 1 and good visibility.  But crossing back over the North Sea there was a 2 metre swell and a sea state of 6 that made spotting anything in the water tricky.

Fulmar Robin Langdon

Fulmar (Robin Langdon)

It turned out to be a trip of tall ships.  On the 3rd day out before getting to Helsingborg we came across three of them.  First there was the Amerigo Vespucci and Italian Navy training ship named after the explorer and cartographer.  A Latin version of his first name was used to name the continent of America.

A while later the Cisne Branco a training ship with the Brazilian navy based in Rio.  So quite a long way from home.  The name means White Swan.  This one was also outside Gydnia port as we left to return to the UK.

Then a Russian tall ship called the Kruzenshtern came into view under full sail.  It was originally build by Germany in 1926 but was surrendered to the USSR as war reparations in 1946.  She also is a training ship though not with the navy.

Tallships Robin Langdon

Tallships (Robin Langdon)

To carry on this navy theme as we left Helsingborg we had a convoy of Russian warships following us.  They followed us for a while before going off in a different direction.

Warships Robin Langdon

Warships (Robin Langdon)

This was not the best survey for cetacean sightings.  There were a few sightings as we came up around the top of Denmark.  There was a lot of splashing in one area but no clear sighting of any fins.  I concluded that it was probably Tuna as there were a number of animals but could not clearly see the fins.

There were a number of Harbour Porpoise spotted, one group of about 5 was interesting as one seemed to have a white flank.  Initially this got me checking the books to see if it could be a dolphin, though they certainly looked porpoise.  I then remembered an article I had read in the MARINElife newsletter about leucistic porpoise.  These have a white flank so it's possible this was one up in the Baltic Sea.

The birds seemed to come and go.  On the first full day I filled out 5 sheets of sightings. The most numerous being Fulmar and Gannet. The sightings of birds however started to dwindle as we got to the Baltic.  Once we had left Helsingborg there was not much life to be seen at all.  From 9:15 until 13:30 no wildlife was seen, bird or cetacean.  This duck (no pun intended) was finally broken by 2 European Shag passing the front of the ship.  However this did not open the flood gates.  I had to wait another two and a half hours to break this second duck (pun intended) when a single Common Scoter finally appeared.

Or to put this another way:

We crossed the Baltic in a zig and a zag
Not much wildlife there to be had
In a 7 hour stint
There was virtually no hint
Just a duck and a couple of shag

Thought there were not a lot of bird sightings there were a few interesting one.  On the 2nd full day the most numerous bird was the Great Skua, 14 being seen that day.  Also on the way down there was what I thought was just a Herring Gull which was flying around the ship for a while.  I took a few shots of it and it turned out to be a Yellow-legged Gull which are occasionally seen in the Baltic.

YL Gull Robin Langdon

Yellow-legged Gull (Robin Langdon)

On the return late on the first day back a Little Swift, a visitor from North Africa was flying around the ship for about 15 minutes looking for a roost.  Not sure if it managed to find one or not but it eventually disappeared.

If you want to see all ages of Gannet the North Sea is the place to head.  Last time I did this trip it took just under 2 hours to see all ages which I though was pretty good.  Well this time it only took 11 minutes.

Gannet Robin Langdon 04

3rd year Gannet (Robin Langdon)

While we were in port in Gdynia we were treated to a bit of an air display.  There was a military aircraft performing stunts about a mile or two from the port.  It was doing loops and rolls.  Going vertical until it stopped the falling back towards the ground before pulling up.  This turned out to be part of the Gdynia Aerobatic Airshow.  It kept me amused for 20 minutes.

I would like to thank Captain Pyatnytskyy and his crew, as usual they looked after me well.  I would also like to thank Tim and Ryan from John Good shipping agent for getting me to and from the port.  Also to Brian from the Sailors Mission who gave me and Tim a lift back to his car from the ship.

Robin Langdon; Research Surveyor for MARINElife