MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Belfast 'Stena Hibernia & Scotia' 24th - 25th October 2019

Nik Grounds and Samuel Healing, Research Surveyors for MARINElife.
Weather: Outward: Overcast with clear visibility; sea-state 2-3, wind force 5-6 SW; Return: Initially sunny but increasing heavy cloud from south; sea state 1 rising to 3; wind force 3-4 SW to E; visibility good decreasing poor.

Summary of sightings

Marine Mammals
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 3
Eider Somateria mollisima 92
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 85
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 22
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 21
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 38
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 44
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 634
Guillemot Uria aalge 523
Razorbill Alca torda 97
Larus sp. 213
Auk sp. 313

Terrestrial birds
Rook Corvus frugilegus 1

RT Diver Mike Bamford 01Samuel and I met at the Stena Line office at Heysham and were quickly onboard the Hibernia for our crossing to Belfast. We enjoyed breakfast, and soon after leaving the harbour we were escorted onto the bridge where we received a warm welcome from Captain Fitzgerald and his helpful crew. Weather conditions were promising with good visibility and some cloud cover.

Initially, the first leg of the survey was quiet with birds seen singly or in very small groups, these being mainly Kittiwake and Guillemot with a variety of gulls. Further out at sea a Great Skua was observed harassing a group of feeding seabirds. With the Isle of Man now in sight we were hopefully of cetaceans, but none were spotted on the crossing to Belfast.

As we entered Belfast Lough, we observed sizeable rafts of Eider and had several sightings of Red-throated Diver.

After a very comfortable overnight stay at Belfast's Jurys Inn we enjoyed a walk through Belfast City Centre to Clarendon Dock to board the Stena Scotia, where Captain Pakenas and his crew welcomed us for the return crossing. The weather was clear with a light wind.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 15A good start to the survey was the sighting of six Harbour Porpoise at the entrance of Belfast Lough. A single Harbour Porpoise was seen off the Point of Ayre with a further three in the Lune Deep.

Many thanks as ever to the Captains and crews of both the Hibernia and Scotia for making us welcome aboard their ships. Also, thank to Jurys Inn for their continued support.

Nik Grounds and Samuel Healing, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Red-throated Diver Photo: Mike Bamford
Harbour Porpoise Photo: Peter Howlett