Liverpool-Belfast

Sightings Archives: April 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 27 - 28 April 2012

Posted 03 May 2012

Stephen Dunstan and Graham Ekins Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: NE4

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour (Common) Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5

Seabirds:
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 18
Gannet Morus bassanus 49
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 116
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 9
Common Gull Larus canus 46
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 307
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 105
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Little Gull Larus minutus 83
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 75
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 15
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 4
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 9
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica  5
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 8
Guillemot Uria aalge 130
Razorbill Alca torda 31
Auk sp 2

Terrestrial Birds
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 47
Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 5
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1

Stena MerseyWe were welcomed aboard the Stena Mersey by the captain and crew and were on the bridge in good time for departure at 10.30.  A number of Little Gulls were seen in the river, and on the outward journey we had no fewer than 32 of these charming birds.  This is the peak time of year for these birds passing through the area on their way to Baltic breeding grounds.  Six seals, 5 Grey and a Common, were hauled out on a sandbank and we had a number of other good sightings as we headed past Formby Point including a couple of Little Terns and a drake Common Scoter.

Large stretches of water either side of the Isle of Man were rather quiet other than for Guillemots, perhaps because bad weather to the south had blocked passage of seabirds.  We did though have excellent views of a dark morph Arctic Skua that lifted off from right in front of the boat.

Little Gulls

As we approached Belfast Lough seabirds began to pick up again including flocks of auks and small groups of Manx Shearwaters.  The first Puffin was very welcome and we were pleased to see five of these charismatic seabirds.  Entering the lough we had two Red-throated Divers, the only ones of the survey, and then as expected we picked up a few striking summer plumaged Black Guillemots.  We couldn't count what we saw on Belfast Lough RSPB reserve, but it was good to see a pleasing selection of birds including several species of waders and a few Swallows.

On the return we were grateful for the Captain's permission to survey between first light at around 5.45am and coming alongside the mooring at 6.15.  This was rewarding with at least 49 Little Gulls, some very close to the boat.  We then thanked the Captain and crew for their assistance for what had been the most successful survey on this route so far for seabirds.

Stephen Dunstan and Graham Ekins, Research Surveyors for MARINElife