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Felixstowe-Vlaardingen survey 5 March

After collecting our port passes and tickets, a minibus delivered us to the DFDS Magnolia Seaways, which had berthed several hours earlier and was now being loaded with containers prior to setting sail for Holland in the early hours of the morning. We were welcomed aboard and shown to our cabins, where we grabbed some sleep in preparation for an early start.


As the grey light of the new day spread over the North Sea, we took up position on the bridge, where we received a warm welcome from the captain and crew and began recording our sightings. Visibility was moderate, with cloudy skies and no glare, but a misty horizon, while the sea state was near calm, with no appreciable swell.

Guillemot and a Razorbill (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

First were several small flocks of Guillemot, shortly followed by the first Kittiwake, Gannets and Razorbills of the day. A Starling fluttered across the cargo deck in front of the bridge, the first of several visitors during the crossing. Common Gull was the most frequently encountered gull, with Kittiwake in noticeably low numbers. Small groups of auks continued to be recorded at regular intervals.

With the Dutch coast in sight, a pigeon and a Pied Wagtail were observed on the cargo deck, and we spotted a flock of ten Barnacle Geese on the water. Entering the Maas River, which leads inland to Vlaardingen, we added Eider to our list, shortly to be joined by good numbers of Gadwall, Wigeon and Greylag Goose, along with a smaller number of Pink-footed Goose.

Common Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After a few hours in port, we set sail for the return voyage to England. Sailing down the busy Maas River, bird species and numbers were similar to those recorded on the way up. The same was largely true of the species encountered on the return crossing of the North Sea, with a mix of auks, gulls, and low numbers of Gannet, although numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull were noticeably higher.

The final hour of the homeward survey was enlivened by our first mammal sightings; first a Harbour Porpoise, seen clearly as it surfaced several times off the starboard beam, then an unidentified seal just 15 minutes later. Heading into dusk, a second seal appeared, this one clearly a Grey Seal. Twenty minutes later, the daylight had faded enough to bring the survey to an end, and we called it a day, arriving in Felixstowe about five hours later.

Patrick Hatch and John Worthington-Hall, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outward – wind SE 2, sea state 2, overcast, moderate visibility

Return – wind N 1-2, sea state 1-2, overcast, moderate visibility  

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seal sp. Phocidae sp. 1



Barnacle Goose Branta leucopsis 10

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Common Gull Larus canus 33

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2

Gannet Morus bassanus 17

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8

Guillemot Uria aalge 129

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 10

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 3

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 136

Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1

Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1

Razorbill Alca torda 13

Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1

Auk sp. 23


River Birds  

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 21

Common Gull Larus canus 22

Coot Fulica atra 29

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 85

Eider Somateria mollissima 7

Gadwall Anas strepera 235

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 6

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2

Greylag Goose Anser anser 150

Gull sp.  Laridae 197

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 84

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 31

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 25

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 10

Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhynchus 9

Redshank Tringa totanus 5

Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2

Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1

Wigeon Mareca penelope 360


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