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Felixstowe-Vlaardingen 4 April

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2


Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 20

Common Gull Larus canus 1

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 5

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 168

Eider Somateria mollissima 26

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4

Gannet Morus bassanus 36

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 184

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 413

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 49

Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3

Auk sp. 10

Gull sp. 536

Larus sp. 445

Tern sp. 2

Terrestrial Birds

Buzzard Buteo buteo 1

Carrion Crow Corvus corone 65

Coot Fulica atra 21

Gadwall Anas strepera 147

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2

Greylag Goose Anser anser 6

Jackdaw Corvus monedula 2

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 1

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 20

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 9

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2

Pochard Aythya ferina 2

Feral Pigeon Columba livia 2

Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1

Duck sp. 32

I met up with Robin outside Felixstowe port, we obtained our port passes and drove to Dooley Terminal, boarded the Acacia Seaways and went to our cabins to sleep, ready to survey bright and early at dawn the following morning.

The officer on watch arranged for us to join him on the bridge and, once near the entrance into the River Maas, the ships master, Jouke Siemensma joined his officers to negotiate the river.

Eider (male and female) Library photo: Peter Howlett

The journey over was smooth and quiet and we started surveying just before 6:30a.m. The skies were clear and the sun was directly ahead of us, making identification of some bird silhouettes somewhat challenging. Bird sightings were initially quiet with only Gannet, Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and a small group of auk recorded out at sea together with a solitary Starling that flew onto the ship to rest before journeying onward to Europe.

As the vessel entered the Nieuwe Waterweg, heading towards the Vlaardingen DFDS Terminal at Vulcaanweg, bird numbers picked up. There is a protected shingle bank that divides the river in two, the northern half heads to Rotterdam. Later in the year many Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Cormorant will nest there and evidence of birds starting to lay claim to areas had already started. Many of the duck seen in March had moved on to their breeding grounds, but still reasonable numbers of Gadwall, Mallard and Coot were seen at the river’s edge. Greylag Geese and Grey Herons were also recorded.

We docked at Vlaardingen and compiled our inbound sightings whilst the crew were managing the turn around.

Four hours later we started on the return transect. Between the DFDS terminal and the North Sea, an area was pointed out to us where naturists can sun-bathe by the river side. Half a dozen people were modestly taking advantage of the mid-afternoon sunshine.

Sandwich Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Bird counts were steady as we progressed towards the North Sea. Mute Swan numbers had increased slightly from the previous month, though still appreciably lower than the peak months of May to September. A small gathering of Eider Duck was recorded as we entered the North Sea, the males fully attired in their smart breeding plumage and 60 or more large gull were prospecting for food just beyond the outer breakwater. Sandwich Tern were seen shortly after entering the North Sea, the first I’d recorded in 2023. Nice to see these birds back from their wintering grounds.

Four hours into the return transect, Robin called out “splashes” – sure enough, two animals, identified as Harbour Porpoise, were feeding ahead of the vessel. This was the only sighting of Cetacea we recorded during the survey.

The final hour of daylight was quiet with only Gannet, Fulmar and a juvenile Kittiwake being recorded before we left the bridge and prepared for our respective journeys home.

As always, our thanks go to the shore staff at DFDS Seaways Dooley Terminal, the master of Acacia Seaways, Jouke Siemensma, together with his officers and crew for making the survey enjoyable and possible.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outward – wind ESE 3-4, dry with continual glare, good to moderate visibility

Return – wind ESE 3 becoming N 2, dry with continual glare, visibility moderate to good

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