Sightings Archives: November 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 26 - 27 November 2011

Posted 27 November 2011

Stephen Dunstan and Janet Shepherd Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Westbound: SW 6

Cetaceans & Sea Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 20
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus  1
Gannet Morus bassanus 4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 7
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 10
Common Gull Larus canus 18
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 7
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 4
Razorbill Alca torda  42
Unidentified auk sp 1

Terrestrial Birds
Dunlin  Caidris alpina 25

Given the stormy conditions forecast in the Irish Sea we were initially unsure if the second survey on this route would proceed and knew that conditions could impact the conduct of the survey. We were welcomed onto the ship by the friendly captain and in the River Mersey, we were relatively protected from the south westerly winds, allowing us to start recording gulls feeding over the water.

As we entered open water it appeared too rough to pick up sea mammals, so it was a bonus that we quickly spotted a Grey Seal close to the ship.  Cormorants were perched on some of the buoys and a flock of Dunlin flew past the bow.  Small numbers of seabirds were picked up, initially Kittiwakes and Razorbills. 

Razorbill 1Grey SealThe course taken maximised the shelter from the Welsh coast until reaching Anglesey before we turned north for Belfast. As we headed north towards the gap between the Isle of Man and Ireland there was a much better spell for recording birds.  Most unusual for the time of year was a Manx Shearwater, this passed very close to the ship providing good views - these birds are normally much further south at this time of year.

Manx Shearwater 1

A number of Fulmars were also recorded and Janet picked up seven ducks or geese heading south east.  These turned out to be Brent Geese, presumably migrating to Ireland.

We ran out of light several hours before reaching Belfast, but we did have a brief window of light on the return journey before the boat entered the Mersey Estuary. As well as good views of the 'Another Place' art installation on Crosby shore this produced another Grey Seal hauled out on a sandbank.

This was probably as challenging as the conditions on this route will get, in terms of the weather and the limited available daylight after the late start.  Nevertheless some interesting sightings were had and this bodes well for future trips.

Our thanks go to the captain and crew of the Stena Lagan for their friendliness and co-operation on this survey.

  Stephen Dunstan and Janet Shepherd, Research Surveyors for MARINElife