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Felixstowe-Vlaardingen survey report 3 October

Arriving at Felixstowe as lightning sparked in the dark skies over the busy port, we secured our site passes and reported to the DFDS offices. Whisked aboard the Acacia Seaways, we were welcomed by the First Officer and Captain and shown to our cabins, with the ship due to sail in the early hours of the morning.

Up at dawn, we took our position on the bridge and started the survey, with the ship about halfway to Holland. Visibility was good at first, with cloudy skies and no glare; but a moderate sea and accompanying swell meant that viewing conditions were not ideal for sighting marine mammals.

Great Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Gulls constituted the majority of bird sightings throughout the outward journey, with numerous Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Occasional Gannet included juvenile and immature birds of a variety of ages and plumage. Herring Gull were noticeably scarce. Meanwhile, visibility deteriorated somewhat due to fog and rain.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett

About an hour into the survey, a lone Chiffchaff was observed fluttering around the open cargo deck in front of the bridge, presumably seeking rest and shelter during its southward migration.

Nearing the entrance to the tidal channel which leads inland to Vlaardingen, terns began to appear in small numbers, including Sandwich Tern and ‘Commic’ Tern. Sailing up the busy waterway, we encountered large numbers of Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Cormorant and Coot, with smaller numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Gadwall, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher and Grey Heron.

Juvenile Kittiwake (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After a few hours in port, we set sail again, first passing once more along the waterway which connects Vlaardingen and Rotterdam to the North Sea. Unsurprisingly, the same bird species were encountered, with the addition of Egyptian Goose and Lapwing.

Most sightings on the return sea crossing were black-backed gulls, with several lone Gannets and our only two Kittiwakes of the survey, one of which was a juvenile, with its distinctive wing pattern.

No further sightings were made during the final ninety minutes of the survey, as dusk began to fall.

We would like to thank Captain Jouke Siemensna, his Officers and crew for making us feel so welcome on the Acacia Seaways and making our survey so enjoyable.

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


Outward - overcast, wind NW 5-7, good visibility, worsening due to fog

Return - brighter, wind W 7-9, good visibility with glare at times

Summary of sightings


Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 294

Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 5

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 473

Gannet Morus bassanus 20

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 301

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 704

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 2

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 67

Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 3

Gull sp. 744

Large gull sp. 571

Tern sp. 18

River Birds

Coot Fulica atra 574

Gadwall Mareca strepera 72

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 8

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 32

Mute Swan Cygnus olor 172

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 29

Carrion Crow Corvus corone 22

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita 1

Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca 1

Greylag Goose Anser anser 53

Jackdaw Coloeus monedula 8

Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 28

Feral Pigeon Columba livia 2

Starling Sturnus vulgaris 35

Duck sp. 13

Wader sp. 2

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