Sightings Archives: May 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 25-26 May 2013

Posted 30 May 2013

Carol Farmer-Wright and Helen Turnock, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Westbound - sunny, good visibility: sea state 1-3 with glare at times.  Eastbound - sunny, good visibility sea-state 3-1.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin  Tursiops truncatus 4

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 624
Gannet  Morus bassanus 61
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 25
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 67
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 67
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 163
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 35
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 3
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 160
Black Guillemot  Cepphus grylle 7
Razorbill   Alca torda 49
Unidentified Auk sp. 14
Unidentified Gull sp. 2
Mixed Larus sp. 450

Bottlenose dolphinsA deep low pressure had passed through Ireland and the UK the previous day and so it was pleasing to awake on the morning of the survey to bright sunshine and moderate winds.

Arriving at Stena Lines Birkenhead terminal we were quickly checked in and transferred to the Stena Lagan, and shortly after the ship departed we were invited onto the bridge by Captain Tulio to begin our survey.  Immediately we were recording Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Great Black-backed Gull and Cormorant at the mouth of the River Mersey.  
As we left the river behind we started to record Kittiwake, Guillemot, an occasional Razorbill and the summer Irish Sea specialist, Manx Shearwater.  These were frequently seen travelling or rafting together with Kittiwake on the sea.  
As the density of these birds increased we encountered four Bottlenose Dolphin, our only cetaceans of the day.  The last encounter was of an animal coming up to breathe directly underneath a small group of shearwater and Kittiwake, causing them to take to the air.

Pomarine skuaAs we approached Belfast we caught sight of Black Guillemot, another northern UK west-coast specialist.  We left the bridge having thanked Captain Tulio for his hospitality and started to compile our sightings before retiring to bed for an early start the next day.

The return crossing overnight was smooth and comfortable, and we re-joined the bridge just before sunrise to survey for an hour before entering the Mersey.  It was low-tide and the mud flats were exposed enabling Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull to feed there. As the ship entered the Mersey we left the bridge having thanked Captain Thomas for allowing us to survey that morning.

Our thanks go to Stena Line Captains Tulio and Thomas, their officers and crew for making this a very pleasant and enjoyable survey.  We look forward to working with them again in the future.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Helen Turnock, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)