MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia & Precision' 16th - 17th September 2016

Stephen and Sabine Dunstan; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Westbound: NW 3-4. Eastbound W 2-3.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 22
Unidentified cetacean sp. 1

Seabirds
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2119
Gannet Morus bassanus 427
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 31
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 22
Eider Somateria mollissima 534
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 133
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 139
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 266
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 18
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 38
Guillemot Uria aalge 433
Razorbill Alca torda 1201
Unidentified auk sp 263
Unidentified Larus sp 10

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 1

It was a mid-morning departure from Heysham due to tides. We were efficiently transferred from the Stena freight office onto the Stena Hibernia and after a quick spot of breakfast joined the bridge after the vessel had left the harbour. Shaun the captain made us very welcome, and we were soon recording a lot of the expected seabirds.

Grey Phalarope Steve McAusland 01A couple of small groups of Harbour Porpoise were recorded and as we neared the Point of Ayre on the Isle of Man two or three Common Dolphin were seen just to the north of the boat. Manx Shearwater tallies were greatly increased by a large group on the sea. As we rounded the Mull of Galloway the highlight of the trip appeared as a Grey Phalarope flew in front of the boat, briefly paused on the sea and then resumed its journey. I have done many Marinelife surveys in the northern Irish Sea on six different routes and this is the first phalarope I have had on any trip.

We moved through Belfast Lough and onto the berth in lovely late autumn sunshine. Following a taxi ride we checked into our room kindly provided by Jury's Inn, then took in some cultural events that were going on in the town centre.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 12The following morning we boarded the Stena Precision. Once the vessel had left the berth we were welcomed onto the bridge by the captain and crew. The conditions were a lot calmer than the previous day, and as a result we recorded a few more Harbour Porpoise than on the outward journey. There were again some large flocks of Manx Shearwater and we also recorded singles of Great Skua and Mediterranean Gull which were the only ones of the trip.

We stopped surveying shortly before the ship entered the harbour at Heysham, after what had been two enjoyable and productive days at sea. Thanks to Stena and Jurys Inn for all their assistance.

Stephen and Sabine Dunstan; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)



Grey Phalarope Photo: Steve McAusland
Manx Shearwater Photo: Peter Howlett