Sightings Archives: October 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 22 - 23 October 2011

Posted 13 November 2011

Maggie Gamble and Rick Morris Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Westbound: SE 3-5

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1 (seen by Bridge Crew)

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 58
European Storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 39
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 30
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 3
Parasitic (Arctic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 206
Common Gull Larus canus 23
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 28
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 30
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Guillemot Uria aalge 80
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Unidentified Auk Species 15
Unidentified Large Gull Species 25
Unidentified Small Gull Species 500+
Unidentified Skua species 2

Terrestrial Birds
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6

Rick who lives a little farther south on the M5 collected me from Clevedon and we had an early morning drive to arrive in Birkenhead around 8.30am. Check-in formalities were soon completed and we joined the other foot passengers on the ferry bus, for the start of a new MARINElife survey.

Once on board, we were welcomed onto the bridge to familiarise ourselves with the layout and the Captain explained the route we would be taking on the charts and highlighted the areas where they had had sightings in the past. We then had time to view the historic waterfront of Liverpool, including the famous "Royal Liverbird Building", before returning to the bridge just before departure to begin surveying. 

Harbour Porpoise 2As we left the river mouth we were immediately in the middle of birds, Black-Headed Gulls, Great Black-Backed Gulls and many Cormorants all busily fishing. This was obviously a good feeding area and we looked hopefully for Harbour Porpoise but their tiny size and shy undemonstrative behaviour make them difficult to spot unless the sea is mirror calm.  Indeed on this survey we failed to spot any cetaceans but we had a report of one which appeared on the "wrong" side of the bridge for us!

However the trip was punctuated with views of seabirds to keep us busy, including: Great Skua; Arctic Skua; Fulmars, Guillemots; Kittiwakes and Common Gull. Common Gulls are not at all common in the area I live, so was pleased to see them.

 Fulmar 5GBB Gull juv 1

This route across the Irish Sea looks like being a very productive route and will add valuable scientific data to the understanding of the UK coastline. A number of the crew had anecdotes of past sightings which bode well for future surveys.

Our thanks go to the Stena staff and crew of the Stena Mersey who made us very welcome and were enthusiastic about the MARINElife survey.

Maggie Gamble and Rick Morris, Research Surveyors for MARINElife