Sightings Archives: November 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 24 November 2012

Posted 03 December 2012

Joe O'Hanlon and Steve Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Summary of Species Recorded

Cetaceans and Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1


Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 16
Gannet Morus bassanus 1
Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo c810
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 46
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Greater Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 17
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 25
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 28
Razorbill Alca torda 32
Auk Sp 44
Tern Sp 1

We boarded the Stena Lagan and after being introduced to the captain and his first officer were invited to come to the bridge at 10.30am, our scheduled departure time.  The survey began at about 10.50am after the crew had completed the initial manoeuvres away from the dock and into the main channel of the Mersey.

Severe gales had been forecast a day earlier but, to our relief, conditions were good. It was overcast but visibility was fine and as we made our way out to sea we were greeted by only a very light swell. We were quickly busy recording a variety of inshore birds such as Cormorant, Black-headed Gull and Common Gull.  As we passed the beaches near Crosby we were astonished to see at least 750 Cormorant standing to attention like Anthony Gormley's famous statues further along the shore.

An hour into the crossing we found our first mammal, a lone Grey Seal, which evidently didn't appreciate our company and promptly disappeared. Inshore birds were now replaced with genuine pelagic species and we began recording Guillemot, Fulmar and Kittiwake.Fulmar CFW

At around 14.00 we passed south of the Isle of Man and came across our only cetacean of the trip, a single Harbour Porpoise which surfaced only once before making a prolonged dive. Guillemot now became uncommon and, interestingly, we started finding Razorbill instead.  However, once clear of the Island, Guillemot seemed to take the upper hand once more and we stopped seeing Razorbill.

Visibility was good enough for us to see both the coastlines of both Northern Ireland and Scotland simultaneously.  To port lay County Down while away to starboard, almost lost in haze, were the distant Mull of Galloway and Burrow Head.

By 15.00, the light was dimming significantly and it became ever harder to observe and identify birds.  Finally, at 16.00, we were obliged to surrender to the gathering gloom and we terminated the survey. Our last recording was a Guillemot, hurrying across the surface of the sea as if it was late for an urgent appointment.  It had been a very enjoyable crossing, all the more so because of the unexpected good weather.  Our thanks go to the captain and his officers for their help and their warm welcome to the bridge.Gannet CRW

Joe O'Hanlon and Steve Morgan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)