Wildlife watching – where you wouldn’t expect it!

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I am looking at a meadow pipit – it’s in the middle of the North Sea sitting on the roof of a large container.

This tiny bird and its rather unexpected location sum up the miracle of migration.

In the autumn meadow pipits migrate southwards from northern Europe and they stop en-route at the Wadden Sea in Denmark to fill up on protein before attempting the long haul across the grey North Sea to Iberia and Africa.

For many people an 18 hour ferry trip is simply a means of getting from A to B. We fill the time between ports with drinking, eating, watching DVDs, playing cards and sleeping.

But if you join DFDS’s Miracle of Migration mini cruise, the ferry trip becomes an integral part of the adventure.

As soon as the ship left Harwich our group met on the rear deck, binoculars hanging round our necks, eager to spot a Skua or maybe a fulmar or a graceful gannet.

Dylan Walker, from Planet Whale, is our guide and within moments he’s pointing out the wildlife that surrounds us. Our lenses eagerly scan the horizon and every now and again a shout goes up and everyone rushes to one side as an interesting specimen is spotted.

But some of the most fascinating birds are not found out at sea – but sitting on the boat itself. A stunning orange and brown bramling hops about on the railings, and then a dunlin joins our meadow pipit on the lorries.

Looking down we see a solitary grey seal bobbing along in the wake of the ship.

Who would have thought that there’d be so much to see out here in the middle of nowhere?

On arrival in Esjberg it’s a quick 10 minute ferry ride to the island of Fano. Tens of thousands of birds make a pit stop on this island as they take part in the Spring and Autumn migrations.

Over the next day and half we’re treated to some amazing sites; a hooded crow mobbing a sparrow hawk; 3,000 black and white oyster catchers huddled along the water’s edge waiting for the tide to turn; a hen harrier swooping back and forth across the salt marshes in search of food; a tiny pied flycatcher sitting in the willows on the look-out for a passing meal; and over 20,000 dunlin taking to the air and forming a huge cloud above the water – they move like one large living organism, writhing back and forth, one moment black the next white, as they turn their pale bellies towards us. We gasp in awe.

Whether you’re an experienced birder with an encyclopaedic knowledge or a complete beginner struggling to recognise much more than a robin and a blackbird – you’ll come back with stories to tell and deeper love of nature.

You can hear interviews with Dylan Walker at PASSION for FRESH IDEAS

For more information visit DFDS Seaways Miracle of Migration Mini Cruise

About Chantal Cooke

Chantal Cooke is professional journalist and co-founder of award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET.


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