Sightings Archives: June 2016

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia & Performer' 17th - 18th June 2016

Posted 30 June 2016

Karrie Langdon and Suzie Miller; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward - overcast, good visibility; NW wind force 4. Return - bright; good visibility; glare at times; NW wind force 2

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals and notable marine species
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 12
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Dolphin sp 3

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1214
Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 217
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 35
Shag Phalocrocorax aristotelis 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 50
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 100
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 64
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 30
Guillemot Uria aalge 211
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 2
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8
Common/Arctic tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 4
Unidentified tern sp 25
Unidentified auk sp 68
Unidentified Gull sp 155

Terrestrial birds seen on survey
Snipe Gallinago gallinago 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2

We arrived early in the morning at the Stena office where the staff very efficiently sorted out our boarding passes for the first leg of the trip and escorted us to the ferry. The crew of the Hibernia were very welcoming and while the ferry was preparing to depart we fortified ourselves with an excellent breakfast. Fuelled and ready to go, we were taken to the bridge.

Gannet Rob Petley-Jones 05Passing the harbour walls the sea was calm and survey conditions were good. There was plenty to keep us busy with Manx Shearwater and Guillemot tuning our eyes into the conditions as they scurried low against the sea. There were numerous Gannet including a number of juveniles to test our identification skills, while to our surprise two Snipe also flew past. Our cetacean watching was a little frustrating despite the good conditions, where the wind ruffled the water causing tiny whitecaps which made viewing for cetaceans challenging.


At the end of the first day we came into the port of Belfast in glorious sunshine with a feeling that tomorrow would be even better. We caught a taxi to the Jury Inn, Belfast and had a very restful stay.

Fully refreshed the next morning, we made our way to the Stena office at the port of Belfast, where with typical Irish hospitality we were cheerily escorted onto the Stena Performer. The bridge was very bright with large glass panels with a number of planters full of tomato plants and herbs tucked against the bridge wall - with closed eyes you could imagine you were in the Mediterranean!

Suzie Miller - Heysham-BelfastSea conditions were very good, allowing for multiple sightings of Harbour Porpoise which were seen in small groups of up to five individuals that swam slowly passed the ferry. The dolphins we saw were a little shy keeping low in the water, and we watched them swim ahead of the ferry but were unable to determine the specific species. The Grey Seal and the Harbour Seal, on the other hand, were inquisitive and a delight to watch.

At the wind farm the sea was almost flat and there were many birds resting on the surface. Lines of Gannet in synchronised flying formations gave way to plenty of feeding activity and birds with beaks full of fish returning to their nests.

We would like to thank the Master Arkadiusz Sobiecki and crew of the Stena Hibernia and Master Jan Baker and the crew of the Stena Performer who were so helpful and made surveys so enjoyable.

Karrie Langdon and Suzie Miller; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Gannet (2-3 year old) Photo: Rob Petley-Jones
Suzie Miller surveying from the bridge. Photo: Karrie Langdon