MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia and Performer' 11th - 12th March 2017

Stephen Dunstan; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Westbound: Wind S-SE force 2-4; Eastbound: Wind SE Force 0-3

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1
Unidentified seal sp. 1

Seabirds
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 9
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 90
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Shag Phalacrocoracidae 22
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus 1
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 300
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 12
Common Gull Larus canus 19
Little Gull Larus minutus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 57
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 210
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 255
Razorbill Alca torda 141
Unidentified Larus sp. 70

Other species seen at sea during survey effort
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 15
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1

Harbour Porpoise Rick Morris 01aWe left Heysham in good time and enjoyed fairly calm seas in Morecambe Bay. It was initially rather quiet, though a distraction was provided by a lone Whooper Swan on the sea, which had presumably interrupted its migration to Iceland. Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver were seen as we passed the Walney windfarm, and although the visibility was often very restricted a Common Dolphin was seen briefly.

From the port we got a cab to the Jury's Inn in central Belfast, where we were kindly given overnight accommodation. As we enjoyed a couple of beers in the hotel bar the atmosphere was a little subdued as the Irish rugby team were losing to Wales.

We hoped the return journey would have better visibility than the outward journey but in fact it was often worse and for a couple of hours we could barely see beyond the front of the boat.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 06Either side of this though we did see some good birds. At the mouth of Belfast Lough there were more Great Northern Diver, whilst at the other end of the journey a Little Gull was seen in the Lune Deep and an early Manx Shearwater was noted. It should also be mentioned that during the more inclement weather we did see some passerines weighing up whether to land on the boat, mostly Meadow Pipit, but also a single Pied Wagtail, whilst a fogbound Oystercatcher circled the boat several times.

As we neared Fleetwood and the approach to Morecambe Bay the survey concluded with three Harbour Porpoise, the largest number seen during the survey. Our thanks are due to the crew of both the Stena Hibernia and the Stena Performer, Stena port staff at both Heysham and Belfast and everyone at Jury's Inn Belfast.

Stephen Dunstan; Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)




Harbour Porpoise Photo: Rick Morris
Razorbill Photo: Peter Howlett