MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia and Scotia' 21st - 22nd February 2019

Robin Langdon; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Outbound: Overcast. Sea State 2-5 Wind SE Force; Homeward: Overcast. Sea State 2-4 Wind SE Force 6-8

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Unidentified Seal sp. 1

Seabirds:
Auk sp. Alcidae 111
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 48
Cormorant/shag sp. Phalacrocoracidae 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 329
Gannet Morus bassanus 16
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 47
Gull sp. Laridae 185
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 371
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Razorbill Alca torda 36
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 11

Harbour Porpoise Adrian Shephard 05Well this could have been an interesting trip. I put the postcode of the hotel I was staying at into the Sat Nav and it was suggesting places in Germany as the closest options. After finding the problem I re-entered the details and hopefully set off to Heysham.

The sea in both directions started off quite calm but after a while it became a bit horizontally challenged thus making it more difficult to spot any wildlife. The sea was calmer near Belfast, but it was becoming dark before arrived. There were similar conditions on the return, but it did drop to a sea state 2 for the last couple of hours.

There were no cetaceans spotted on the crossing to Belfast, but I had more luck on the return as a seal has spotted diving just after leaving Belfast. Once we reached the wind farms near Heysham, the waters had calmed and two Harbour Porpoise were seen.

The seabirds seemed to going around in various sized packs with the Guillemot generally in groups of 3. There were two large feeding groups of mainly Kittiwake, which also included a few Gannet and Guillemot. I look hard but no cetacean were seen amongst them.

Guillemot Ruth Griffith 02

On starting the survey as we left Belfast, there was a large group of about 300 Eider lazing around on the water not doing much. Presumable contemplating the excitement of the day ahead. There was also a somewhat confused European Shag. Rather than drying its wings while stood on a rock or buoy this one decided to try it while still in the water.

Eider group

Thanks again to the captains and crews of the Hibernia and Scotia. Also to the staff at Jurys Inn.

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


Harbour Porpoise Photo: Adrian Shephard
Guillemot Photo: Ruth Griffith
Eider Photo: Dave Miller