MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool to Belfast Stena Lagan 26th – 27th May 2012

Duncan Fyfe and Jan Ozyer, research surveyors for MARINElife 

Cetaceans
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1
Small Cetacean Sp. 1
Dolphin Sp. 1
Seal Sp. 1

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 152
Gannet Morus bassanus 35
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 20
Common Gull Larus canus 16
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 170
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 72
Great Black-backed Larus marinus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 41
Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei 1 (possible)
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 44
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 3
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 13
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 80
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Eider Somateria mollissima 1
Little Stint Calidris minuta 1
Sanderling Calidris alba 8
Black-backed Gull Sp. 1
Larus Gull Sp. 14
Tern Sp. 3
Auk Sp. 3
Small wader Sp. 4

Terrestrial Birds
House Martin Delichon urbica 6
Swift Apus apus 3
Rock Dove Columba livia 2
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 1
Peregrine Falco peregrinus 1
Racing Pigeon 6
Feral Pigeon 1

With the recent spell of warm weather hopes were high for a good trip and calm conditions; the drive to Birkenhead across the Pennines was quite pleasant in the early morning sunshine.

Razorbill 1The survey began as soon as the ship set sail down the Mersey with superb views of Liverpool's waterfront tourist attractions. The sand banks within the outer estuary had a smattering of waders and we were rewarded with a Little Stint and Sanderling passing in front of the ship. A little more than an hour after the survey we came across what was to be the trip highlight - a rare Gull. We spotted a Gull that just looked different - a fraction larger and with similar markings to a 2nd calendar year Black-headed Gull but with a very long neck! Immediately we both knew it was different and we both wondered whether it was a Slender-billed Gull. We didn't have time to consult the books immediately as we had further birds to count but later on when we compared notes there was little doubt that this was what we had seen. This was a UK first for both of us - quite exciting because these Gulls normally breed quite locally in the Mediterranean.

Conditions were good and stayed at a steady force 3 and with good light for much of the trip continuing to give us good spotting conditions. This no doubt helped us to spot several Manx Shearwaters including one impressive raft of approximately 100 birds off the Cumbrian Coast. We had the pleasure of watching this flock on and off for at least 10 minutes as they seemed to be following the same course as the ship.

CD CorkThe ship took a course to the North and East of the Isle of Mann which gave us good views of Sellafield and later on Galloway. A lone peregrine was the next highlight and within sight of the Mull of Galloway we got a good view of a Common Dolphin within 300m of the ship. Further sightings of Manx Shearwater, Auks and Gulls continued en route to Belfast with the final sightings of 2 Black Guillemots as we came into port.

We had a nice wonder around port before heading back to count up the days totals.

With good weather and day break really quite early we decided it was worth while getting up early to survey to the last hour of the trip back into Birkenhead. We were rewarded with several Common Terns and a distant seal - a very pleasant start to the day!

Our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Stena Lagan who made this an enjoyable crossing

Duncan Fyfe and Jan Ozyer, research surveyors for MARINElife