MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia and Performer' 14th - 15th June 2018

Robin Langdon and Nik Grounds; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outbound: Overcast; Sea State 3-4; Wind WSW 5-6. Homeward: Overcast; Sea State 1-4; Wind SW 3-4

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 214
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 13
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1161
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 4
Cormorant Phalacrocroax carbo 3
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 59
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 35
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 6
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 3
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 3
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 32
Guillemot Uria aalge 225
Razorbill Alca torda 12
Tern sp. 2
Auk sp. 5

Terrestrial Birds
Swift Apus apus 1

Storm Petrel Mark Darlaston 01There were strange weather conditions on this survey. To begin with, we had to wait in port a few hours while Storm Hector passed by, when apparently it had been 'interesting' on the crossing the night before. Even when we did get going, the wind and sea state did not seem to be in sync. Normally, if the wind picks up so does the sea state. Well that's normally! On this survey, as the wind dropped, the sea state got worse, till at one point we had a below 10 knot wind speed with a sea state of 4!

To join in with the weird weather the birds played along. We saw what looked like a number of headless Gannet - these were resting birds on the surface, with their heads under their wings.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 19As anyone who has read one of my blogs before knows, I have this theory that there is only one Great Skua in the Irish Sea! Well, we saw that single skua, and I think it likes to visit most of the ships as its lonely out there all by itself.

Despite the strange sea conditions, we did spot a single Harbour Porpoise during the outward journey, and this broke the record of a period of over a year that I had not seen any cetaceans from the Hibernia. The last time I had seen any was back in April 2017, so this sighting was nice.

The only other cetaceans seen was a small pod of Common Dolphin. Nik had spotted a large patch of seaweed, and while we were studying this the group of dolphins appeared behind it, and they seemed oblivious to the presence of the ship as they swam slowly past.

We would like to thank Captains Pavel Liprnfek and Gregorz Pecrorek and their crews for making us most welcome, and thanks as well to Jurys Inn for their hospitality. Also, we found gold in the pub across the street! Two types of Gold to be precise, the first one being the better - in case you are wondering, that's Gold Ale!

Puffin Peter Howlett 13So, what did we learn from this trip?
• Weather and Gannets are weird
• There is Gold in Northern Ireland

Robin Langdon and Nik Grounds; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Storm Petrel Photo: Mark Darlaston
Great Skua Photo: Peter Howlett
Puffin Photo: Peter Howlett