Heysham-Belfast

Sightings Archives: June 2015

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Precision & Performer' 12th - 13th June 2015

Posted 25 August 2015

Colin Gill; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather:
Outward - Wind NW Variable 5-22 Knots; Swell 0; Visibility 6
Return - Wind NW Variable 12-26 Knots; Swell 1; Visibility 6

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals and notable marine species
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11
Seal Sp. 1
Basking Shark Cetorhinus maximus 1

Seabirds
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2727
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Gannet Morus bassanus 258
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 30
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 64
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 78
Common Gull Larus canus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 67
Guillemot Uria aalge 541
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Razorbill Alca torda 6
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 27
Tern sp. 56

Guillemot Peter Howlett 05On a pleasant June morning I boarded the Precision looking forward to a good day as the conditions where excellent for surveying. It was soon obvious that Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Guillemot were back at sea with a fair few speckled looking young Guillemot within adult groups.

An early group of gulls gave the first Harbour Porpoise sighting, but unfortunately this was a dead calf near the wind farms.  However, live ones were spotted with the best sightings being of two feeding groups near the Isle of Man.  Just as the ship was leaving this area a very large raft of over 2000 Manx Shearwater provided another spectacular sight. The rest of the trip to Belfast was reasonably quiet and I was left to wonder where were the Fulmar, Kittiwake and Razorbill which were in very low numbers compared to previous surveys.

After a goodnight's rest thanks to Jurys Inn, I was up early for the return trip on the Performer.  The sea was a little choppy but after the previous day enthusiasm was high. However it proved to be a very quiet day with a slow steady flow of the usual feathered suspects.  One seal broke the surface but was quickly gone before being identified.  It was therefore with much surprise that a double take on a distance brown dorsal fin was to prove to be the highlight of the whole trip. Could this possibly be a Basking Shark? The ship was just passing the Isle of Man and the slow steady swim and the constant view allowed for a confident identification. It was a shame we were moving away from the animal and the distance only allowed viewing of the fin. Nevertheless the quietness of the rest of the day no longer mattered!

Basking shark RPJAgain the captain and crew from both ships were excellent in looking after this solo surveyor and ensured that I had everything needed for the trip, and overall this was a very enjoyable survey with some excellent sightings.

My thanks go to the Captain and Crew of both the Performer and Precision for the warmth of their hospitality and genuine interest in our work.

Colin Gill; Research Surveyor for MARINElife