Joe O'Hanlon and Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyors for
Weather: Westbound - wind NE; sea state 3-4; sunny
Eastbound - wind SW; sea state 4; cloudy
Summary of Species Recorded
Harbour Porpoise Phoconia phoconia 2
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 3
Diver sp. 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 9
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 65
Gannet Morus bassanus 33
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 26
Eider Somateria mollissima 12
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 18
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 108
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 14
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 293
Razorbill Alca torda 167
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 10
Auk sp. 21
Greylag Goose Anser anser 1
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 4
Unidentified Wader sp. 2000-3000
We booked in and were taken to the ferry with the usual efficiency and once under way were taken to the bridge and welcomed by Captain Scocchi. The survey started at 11:30 and the sea state was reasonable, though picking up cetaceans was going to be a challenge. At least the sun was shining!
The tide was covering the sand banks and most of Anthony Gormley statues, where just a few could be seen at the top of Crosby Beach. The start of the survey provided us with numerous gulls and both 'Commic' Tern and Sandwich Tern. In the direction of Formby Point a large flock of 2000 to 3000 waders could be seen, probably Knot, and even at distance this was a spectacle.
Our first cetacean sighting came after forty five minutes with
the appearance of a single Harbour Porpoise slowly passing around
200 metres ahead of the ferry. As we passed north of the Isle
of Man we had a steady flow of auks along with Kittiwake, Gannet,
Fulmar and Manx Shearwater. Arriving at the Belfast we
encountered Black Guillemot, Eider and Red-throated Diver.
Once the passengers had disembarked we were treated to an emergency evacuation drill, and the crew were pleased to have a couple of non-crew (us) to use as substitutes. We were guided through the well practiced drill and put on our safety kit but stopped at actually getting into the life boats. This was an interesting and reassuring end to the day.
Sunday morning sunrise was around 05:45 so we had time for one hour before breakfast and docking to carry out survey work. This turned out to be fruitful as we had a second Harbour Porpoise sighting and along with the usual gulls and Cormorant we also had few more terns and a number of Common Scoter. Well worth the early start and breakfast was enjoyed all the more.
Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Lagan who made us very welcome, making a very enjoyable crossing.
Joe O'Hanlon and Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyors for MARINElife