Sightings Archives: July 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool to Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 28-29 July 2012

Posted 05 August 2012

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jane Gray Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: Northbound: N-NNW force 4-7, Southbound: ESE force 3-4

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 21
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1088
Gannet Morus bassanus 141
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 89
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 37
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 158
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 68
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 88
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 94
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 13
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 3
Unidentified Gull Sp. 50
Unidentified Larus Sp. 52
Unidentified Tern Sp. 550

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 201
Feral Pigeon Columba palumbus 31
Unidentified Wader Sp. 550

This was going to be an interesting experience for both Jane and I, as neither of us had visited Northern Ireland or travelled on the Irish Sea past the Isle of Man before. We arrived at Birkenhead and were taken to the ship and shown the escalator taking passengers up to the customer information desk. Once there we were quickly escorted up to the bridge to familiarise ourselves with the instruments prior to the ships departure.
Adult GannetWe travelled along the Mersey and started to record Herring Gull, Common Tern and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. As we reached the river mouth the northern sandbanks were covered with terns, gulls and waders sadly just too far away to make a positive identification. The waders lifted from the sands and wheeled around the river mouth in a spectacular fashion.

As we travelled north, the first of many Manx Shearwaters appeared and their mastery of the waves was evident for all to see. Kittiwakes and Gannets were also evident. Just as we rounded the headland near Groomsport we caught a brief glimpse of two Harbour Porpoises rushing to get out of the way of the vessel. Shortly afterwards we saw a Pomarine Skua and minutes later we were surrounded by a feeding frenzy of Manx Shearwaters and Gannets.

We passed Belfast City airport's lake and recorded several hundred   Stena Mersey CrewOystercatcher and waders feeding there. Within half an hour of this we were berthed in Belfast, the end point of our northbound survey.

The next morning we awoke early and went to the bridge. We only had a brief 45 minutes of surveying as we had already entered the Mersey. Despite the short period of time available to us we managed to see Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black Headed-Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull and a solitary Oystercatcher before berthing at Birkenhead.

Overall we had a very productive survey and are most grateful to captain Giovanni Maresca, his officers and crew for being so helpful and friendly and making our research trip so enjoyable.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Jane Gray Research Surveyors for MARINElife