MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia and Performer' 12th - 13th May 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright and Rachel Meacock; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outward - Increasing cloud, good visibility: wind N-NE force 4. Return - cloudy with fog and rain in the morning, visibility poor; improving to good later, wind SE force 4-SW force 8-decreasing to S force 4

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Unidentified Seal sp. 2

Eider Somateria mollissima 11
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 219
Gannet Morus bassanus 85
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 70
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 30
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 18
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 62
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 9
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 7
Guillemot Uria aalge 306
Razorbill Alca torda 27
Tern sp. 15
Larus sp. 20
Gull sp. 7
Auk sp. 19

Terrestrial birds
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 3
Swallow Hirundo rustica 6

Rachel and I met up at Heysham port, our tickets were processed, and we made our way to the Stena Hibernia. Once on board we went to the living accommodation, had a lovely breakfast before being taken to the bridge where we were welcomed by Master Grzegorz Paciorek and then settled down to begin our survey.

Puffin Peter Howlett 04Initially we were recording Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. As we moved further from land Gannet, Guillemot and Manx Shearwater became the main birds, with the occasional Fulmar, Razorbill and Kittiwake appearing. In the afternoon, there was a wonderful sighting of a pair of Puffin in breeding plumage close to the ship, and their colourful bills could be seen clearly.

Sighting of marine mammals were few but diverse, and an hour into the survey a Harbour Porpoise surfaced close to the ship. In the afternoon, a Grey Seal swam ahead of the ship before disappearing, and a single Bottlenose Dolphin surfaced briefly as we entered the mouth of Belfast Lough. We thanked the Master of the vessel as we approached Belfast and left the bridge to prepare for disembarkation.

On Saturday morning after a restful sleep at Jury's Inn we arrived back at Belfast Port ready for the return survey aboard the Stena Performer, where we were welcomed onto the bridge by Master Jan Bakker. The sky was cloudy and fog reduced visibility as we started surveying. Many birds were seen in the first hour of our survey including Herring Gull, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Kittiwake, Common Guillemot, Black Guillemot, Eider, Commic Tern and Black-headed Gull. In addition to the birds, two seals and a Harbour Porpoise were recorded in this time.

LBB Gull Peter Howlett 05By the afternoon viewing conditions were greatly improved, and our time was spent recording the auks and Manx Shearwater that were resting on the water. As we approached Heysham we thanked the Master and crew for their hospitality and returned to the drivers mess to have dinner prior to disembarking the ship.

We want to thank the Masters of the Stena Hibernia and Stena Performer, their officers and crew, together with the shore teams for being so helpful and friendly to us on our survey.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Rachel Meacock; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Puffin Photo: Peter Howlett
Lesser Black-backed Gull Photo: Peter Howlett