Sightings Archives: May 2014

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 24th - 25th May 2014

Posted 01 June 2014

Carol Farmer-Wright and Abby Bruce, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Outward - overcast with good visibility, sea state varied 1-5.  
Return - cloudy but bright, good visibility, sea state 3, low winds.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 23
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 278
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 14
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 3
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 50
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 39
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 20
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Unidentified gull sp. 11
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 5
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 5    
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 8
Tern sp. 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 7
Guillemot Uria aalge 55

Terrestrial Birds:
Feral Pigeon 2

Upon boarding the 'Stena Lagan' we were warmly welcomed by Captains Krzysztof Gadomski and Stephen Millar and their hospitable crew.  As we sailed into the main channel we waved at the ferry across the Mersey and our survey began.  Weather and sea conditions were good and we soon started tallying up Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Cormorant, Kittiwake with a lone Feral Pigeon amongst them.

Manx Shearwater Rick Morris 04Within an hour Manx Shearwater began to appear and continued to entertain us throughout the trip.  As they effortlessly skimmed over the Irish Sea, over 250 were recorded within the first day.

About half way through the outward survey a single Grey Seal was seen spy hopping ahead of the boat, showing as much curiosity of us and we were of him.  A group of Arctic Tern and a lone Arctic Skua were also exciting additions to our species list.

As the shores of Belfast came into view auk species became more numerous including Guillemot, Razorbill and two Puffin, until finally the elusive Black Guillemot made their appearance, showing off their white egg shaped wing markings before darting out of sight.

As the captain and crew manoeuvred into Belfast dock we collaborated our day's work and then headed for an early night, to be rested for sunrise and a final opportunity to survey.

Guillemot Rick MorrisThe next morning did not disappoint.  Although the sunrise was hidden behind clouds it was a bright, calm morning and the birds were already out waiting to be counted.  Several Sandwich Tern were recorded amongst others and the reward for our early morning efforts were three Grey Seal relaxing in the morning sun on a sand bank.  A fantastic sight for tired eyes!
With Birkenhead's dock in sight we exchanged cetacean spotting stories with the crew, both parties equally engaged, before saying our goodbyes.  Thanks again to all on board for being so accommodating and helping to make a memorable trip.

Carol Farmer-Wright and Abby Bruce, Research Surveyor for MARINElife