MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Precision & Performer' 6th - 7th February 2015

Stephen Dunstan; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather:
Outward - W, force 0-4
Return - NW, force 1-4

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 2

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stallata 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 42
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 32
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 31
Guillemot Uria aalge 118
Razorbill Alca torda 62
Unidentified large gull sp. 247
Auk Sp. 117

Other waterbirds
Pink-footed Goose Anser brachyrhyncus 1
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 14
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 22
Eider Somateria mollisima 530
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 4
Curlew Numenius arquata 5

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 02

The boat departure was later than scheduled due to tides, so I took the scenic route from home in Blackpool through the villages of Over Wyre. There was a large flock of Pink-footed Geese at Pilling, and I picked out a Tundra Bean Goose among them to get the day off to a good start.

At Heysham I was welcomed by the shore based Stena Team and was soon onboard the Stena Performer. The conditions leaving harbour were perfect for cetacean spotting, but unfortunately nobody had told the Harbour Porpoises I was expecting! Gradually the bird list developed as we left Morecambe Bay with Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake. A single Pink-footed Goose flew south and a couple of small flocks of Common Scoter were seen as well as the only Fulmar of the trip and a couple of Gannet. The sea state gradually picked up a little as we neared the Isle of Man but then abated somewhat, and near the Mull of Galloway a group of four Harbour Porpoise and then a Grey Seal were seen. Due to the departure time it was dark before we reached Belfast Lough so I was able to input the day's results.

Grey Seal Martin Gillingham 01

After we docked I walked into the City Centre and took advantage of the free room kindly provided by the Jury's Inns hotel. It was still dark the following morning when I left to head back to the docks, though as it got light a couple of Buzzard was a nice surprise.

I was soon onboard the Stena Precision, whose crew were as welcoming at their colleagues had been the day before. Several hundred Eider were seen as we left the harbour and entered the main lough with smaller numbers of Red-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser and a couple of Harbour Seal. The wind picked up to a force 5 for a while, so it was a bit of a surprise to pick a Harbour Porpoise offshore. Later the wind abated and the conditions were so good the lack of porpoise sightings became notable. Eventually, nearing the Lancashire coast, another Harbour Porpoise was seen to give a trio of sightings over the couple of days.

Photo credits:
Fulmar - Rob Petley-Jones
Grey Seal - Martin Gillingham

Stephen Dunstan; Research Surveyor for MARINElife