Sightings Archives: December 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 15 December 2012

Posted 17 December 2012

John Perry and Jan Ozyer; Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Partial cloud, wind light 4-5 predominantly from the SW.  No precipitation.

Summary of Sightings:

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 23
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 7
Gannet  Morus bassanus 1
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 34
Common Gull  Larus canus 39
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 298
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 19
Guillemot Uria aalge 99
Razorbill   Alca torda 12
Puffin  Fratercula arctica 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Oystercatcher  Haematopus ostralegus 24

Saturday morning was clear and dry with temperatures well above freezing, unlike the previous days.  Conditions were therefore ideal for our survey to Belfast and our tickets were rapidly issued by the efficient Stena staff and we were quickly bussed onboard the "Stena Mersey".  We were shown to our cabins and then immediately escorted to the bridge to meet Captain Giovanni Maresca and his officers.

The tide that morning was unusually high and required the officers to work from the starboard side whilst navigating out of the Mersey and so we were asked to change our usual viewing point to the port side.  This meant that we were unable to view Crosby beach with its famous Gormley figures but this was compensated by being able to admire the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Liverpool waterfront in glorious morning sunlight.

Common Gull

As we manoeuvred out of the dock at 10:50, we were surrounded by numbers of excited Black-headed Gull, Common Gull and Herring Gull which followed us a good way out into the Mersey Estuary.  As we approached the Mersey Bar we had excellent views of a flock of Common Scoter and Oystercatcher flying from the Cheshire to the Lancashire side.

As we approached the first offshore wind farm, we saw large flocks of Herring Gull following a couple of support vessels, presumably attracted to whatever was being disturbed and brought to the surface.  Soon we lost the Herring Gull and these were replaced by dainty Kittiwake as we left land well behind us.  We began to see more and more Guillemot and Razorbill as we headed towards the Isle of Man, many of the Guillemot already in breeding plumage.

Fulmar began to appear between the Isle of Man and the Irish coast and we also had a solitary adult Gannet and a Puffin.


Gannet 2

Light was fading fast as we approached Northern Ireland and we were forced to close the survey just before we entered Belfast Lough.  After thanking the Captain and officers for their hospitality, we were surprised and delighted to be given a Christmas card from all the bridge staff before enjoying an excellent evening meal in the Mess.

The evening was spent writing up notes and collating data in the comfortable passenger lounge before we headed for our cabins and an excellent night's sleep as the ship returned to Liverpool.

John Perry and Jan Ozyer; Research Surveyors for MARINElife