Sightings Archives: December 2011

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 17 - 18 December 2011

Posted 21 December 2011

Maggie Gamble and Sue Lakeman Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: NW 3-7

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus  1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 25
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 27
Common Gull Larus canus 27
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 93
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 7
Razorbill Alca torda  2
Unidentified auk sp 17
Unidentified small gull sp 501
Unidentified large gull sp 55

After a somewhat challenging drive (heavy hailstorms during the last hour made conditions rather tricky for Sue who was driving) we arrived at the ferry terminal to find it full of students all heading home for the Christmas vacation. Once on board and had been allocated our cabins, we had time for lunch, which after a very early start was most welcome.

Conditions in the Irish Sea were quite breezy and although we had a comfortable crossing, a sea state of over three does make cetacean spotting much trickier. So that on this trip we failed to spot any marine mammals. Never mind, I remind myself, it's all good data and less than perfect environmental conditions are allowed for during analysis.

GBB Gull juv 1Fulmar 10

Manx Shearwater 1There is potential on this route depending on conditions for sailing north or south of the Isle of Man. The Captain asked if we had a preference but we decided that at this early stage in surveying this route we didn't have enough data to form a preference.

Over the two partial days of the survey, good numbers of seabirds were seen, mainly various species of gull including juvenile's many of which zoomed along with the benefit of a good tail wind!  Certainly it was a good opportunity to admire their marvellous flying ability and even the auks, which always seem to me to have an air of controlled panic in their flying style despite being an oceanic species spending their entire winter at sea.

This was a challenging survey in terms of the weather and the limited available daylight.  However it's good to be able to keep continuity of effort over the winter months and see what marine life utilises the area. Our thanks go to the captain and crew of the Stena Lagan for their hospitality once more.
Maggie Gamble and Sue Lakeman, Research Surveyors for MARINElife