MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Precision & Performer' 4th - 5th July 2014

Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather outward: Wind W 2-6; rain persistent for much of crossing
Wether return: Wind W1-4; visibility good

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 3

Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 1099
Gannet Morus bassanus 240
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 39
Sandwich Tern  Sterna sandvicensis 4
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 6
Puffin Fratercula arctica 8
Guillemot Uria aalge 149
Razorbill Alca torda 3

Other water birds and land birds recorded:
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle

I was the only passenger on the Stena Precision.   Whilst hospitality and service is always excellent on this route I was really spoiled on this trip.  Due to the tide at Heysham the outward leg of the survey didn't depart until midday but a full survey was still possible.  

Razors_Rick MorrisThe weather was rather uninspiring with almost continuous rain limiting visibility and with winds eventually picking up to a rather lumpy 5 or 6 for a while.   It was no great surprise in the conditions that no cetaceans were seen although a steady stream of seabirds were recorded with Manx Shearwater conspicuous.   Off the Irish coast a group of four Puffin were noted.

In the harbour a number of Black Guillemot were noted as well as plenty of Common Tern feeding in the wake of the reversing vessel.   After disembarking I walked through the docks to Jurys Inn hotel who kindly provide a free room for MARINElife researchers, and it was interesting to note groups of Woodpigeon feeding amongst the numbers of Feral Pigeon and Collared Dove, reflecting the increasingly urban habits of the species.

Calm conditions in Belfast on the Saturday morning gave grounds for hope of dolphins, failing that porpoises, and this proved to be the case with three or so Common Dolphin seen off the Mull of Galloway.   The winds picked up after the Isle of Man for a while and it looked like no porpoises would be recorded but the breeze abated nearer shore and a single Harbour Porpoise was followed by another pair.

Bird highlights of the return journey on the Stena Performer included another four Puffin, three flying off the Mull of Galloway and one near the Walney Wind Farm.  Thanks to the crew of both ships for making me so very welcome.

Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife