Colin Gill and Lucie Bernadova, Research Surveyor for
Weather: Wind N/NE Variable 14-21Knots; Swell 0-1; Visibility 6; Sea State 3-4
Summary of Species Recorded
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 134
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 347
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 33
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 19
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Unidentified gull sp. 269
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 31
Sandwich Tern, Sterna sandvicensis 25
Tern sp. 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 43
We were warmly welcomed on board by the captain and crew of the
Stena Mersey and left Birkenhead harbour in slightly misty weather
with light rain, but conditions soon improved with good visibility
for the rest of the crossing.
Early on it was the tern species that gave the more frequent sightings, but this was to change as Gannet took over as the constant bird throughout the survey. There were reasonable numbers of Manx Shearwater as well although the actual variety of sea birds was limited, even on the exit and approach to the two ports.
The ship follows the coast nearly all the way up before crossing towards Belfast and the visibility allowed for views across to the Lake District and then of the coastline towards the Mull of Galloway. We were hopeful of further wildlife sightings around the Isle of Man but to no avail.
It was not until the approach towards the Irish coastline that we got our first Harbour Porpoise sighting followed by another very brief glimpse on the final approach to Belfast Harbour. Beaufort's Dyke was lacking any real numbers of birds apart from occasional rafts of Manx Shearwater.
Belfast harbour was extremely quiet with none of the normal estuary birds and we were not even greeted by the Harbour Seal that I have seen on every previous visit to the port. More disappointing was the fact that my colleague had never seen a Black Guillemot and I had told her that this was a definite in and around the port… they had gone as well!!
The whole survey was still a very enjoyable experience, made more so by the friendliness of the captain and his crew. Their genuine support and interest always makes the trips go smoothly and the added bonus was a comfortable night sleep on the return trip.
Colin Gill and Lucie Bernadova, Research Surveyor for MARINElife