Sightings Archives: July 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 27th July 2013

Posted 05 August 2013

Peter Lewis and Jozefien Decoene, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Sunny/overcast; good visibility; wind south-westerly force 1; sea-state 1-2; precipitation nil; narrow fog-bank just off the Irish Coast.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocaena phocoena 25
Common or Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 2

Goldeneye Bucephala clangula 9
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 517
Gannet Morus bassanus 52
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 104
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 29
Common Gull Larus canus 19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 53
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 189
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 22
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 1
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 53
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 753
Razorbill Alca torda 143

Terrestrial Birds:
Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Redshank Tringa tetanus 12

We were welcomed on board and then shown the ropes by Mate/Master Francesco who also answered any questions we had, so we were set up at our station on the bridge as we left the Liver building and cathedrals behind and followed the channel past Antony Gormley's standing figures dotted over Crosby Sands.

Porps cropWe soon left the estuary and all its gulls of different species and ages, and entered the Irish Sea for what was to be a calm crossing in warm conditions and good visibility.

Manx Shearwater started to appear as we got closer to the Isle of Man, most of these sitting on the water or gliding low in front of the ship due to the calm conditions.  Guillemot and Razorbill also appeared, many of these being pairs of an adult with this year's young one learning how to fend for itself - like it really is a good idea to dive when a large ship is bearing down on you!

Great Skua 1As we passed between the Isle of Man and Scotland's Mull of Galloway, the numbers of all these birds increased and we were seeing hundreds sitting on the water in what must have been a good feeding area.  As if to confirm this, we started to see numbers of Harbour Porpoise including 10 animals feeding in a loose group of 6 adults with 4 young ones.  It was nice to see their little fins moving through the water alongside the bigger ones of the adults.  We counted over 20 animals in this area in what were ideal conditions for spotting this undemonstrative species normally only seen in small numbers.

Approaching the Northern Irish coast Jozefien had a brief sighting of a Bottlenose Dolphin and then we were into Belfast Lough with a final Harbour Porpoise before docking.  It was good to see three Black Guillemot whirring past too, a species characteristic of this part of the world.

The excellent members of the Stena Line staff were invariably friendly and helpful.  Individuals who were of particular assistance in our carrying out this survey were Neil Whittaker, the Master, Francesco D'Ascanio, the Mate/Master and Nicola Taplin, of Guest Services.  Our thanks to all.

Peter Lewis and Jozefien Decoene, Research Surveyors for MARINElife