Another fantastic wildlife mini cruise on board the Dana Sirena was had by ORCA passengers on the October 21st trip out from Harwich to Denmark.
The early morning deck watch saw a Skylark heading west. The eastern populations of Skylarks are more migratory with others just moving down to lowland wintering areas. As an open heathland and farmland passerine they are under pressure due to habitat loss and changes in farming practises. The force 6-7 easterly were not ideal conditions for the smaller migrants to fly, but the Common Scoters (sea-going ducks) seemed to have no problems travelling out in mid-ocean.
During the bridge watch we spotted a few groups of Razorbills flying through. Members of the Auk family they are seen on our coasts nesting in the Summer but are very much oceanic birds the rest of the year. Razorbills have been recorded diving down to over 100 ms in the pursuit of their fish prey. Luckily considering the weather conditions they are also the stronger fliers of this group! The other highlight was to spot a group of Manx shearwaters shearing close over the peaks of the waves. These are the most common of the shearwaters seen here but few take the Southern North sea route.
Coming into the harbour of Esbjerg only 5 Common seals were seen on the sand bar that regularly has a mixed seal haul-out numbering up to 200 Greys and Commons. A common (Harbour) seal did pop up in the harbour at the back of the ferry where the props mix up the sea-bed providing it with an ideal foraging opportunity.
Arriving in Denmark the ORCA passengers and I headed over to the Island of Fano and were rewarded with crows mobbing a raptor near the quay. Crows mob these predatory birds out of instinct as competitors for food and space. The eagle-like-buzzard bird was identified as a Rough legged buzzard The crows continued to mob this Northern Europe visitor everywhere it went. The raptor’s regular hovering action and broader wings and black terminal tail band distinguishes it from the common buzzard. If you get a close look you may also see its feathered legs- an adaption to colder habitats.
There are still a good number of Eiders and Shelducks in the harbour travelling down from colder regions. Out on the mudflats we had great views of the Brent Geese feeding after their migration from their breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
With only a couple of trips left this Autumn for ORCA passengers we are looking out for some more great wildlife encounters in the North Sea.
Kathryn ORCA Wildlife Officer