Sightings Archives: September 2014

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 27th September 2014

Posted 05 October 2014

Joe O'Hanlon and Jane Gray, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Good visibility - some glare (port); wind force 3,WSW; sea state: 0-1

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 7
Harbour Porpoise Phoceona phocoena 2

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 398
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 494
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 319
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 37
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 70
Common Gull  Larus canus 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 376
Razorbill Alca torda 41
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 7
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 18
Unidentified Tern Sp.

Terrestrial Birds
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 7
Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone 3
Swallow Hirundo rustica 5

We were welcomed onboard the Stena Lagan by the ship's crew, assigned cabins and were able to drop our bags prior to the survey.  As arranged, shortly after departure we were welcomed onto the bridge by Captain Kubacki and crew and we set up our survey station.  Almost immediately and just after passing the Gormley statues on Crosby Beach we recorded over 300 Cormorant resting on the mudflats, as well as others which adorned the channel marker buoys on our passage along the Mersey.

A short distance out on the Irish Sea we started to see small numbers of Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and Common Scoter, and a group of seven Meadow Pipit.  We then began recording increasing numbers of Gannet and Guillemot, together with small numbers of Razorbill.

Common Dolphin Rick Morris 01The ship passed to the south of the Isle of Man which looked spectacular in the afternoon sunlight, with a small number of yachts underway nearer land.  The prevailing winds were force 3 WSW which made sea conditions more difficult for spotting marine mammals, despite the good visibility and records of sightings on previous surveys in this area.  
Just over half way into the survey we began to record increasing numbers of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar and Kittiwake.  Shortly afterwards we were treated to a feeding frenzy of over 460 Manx Shearwater with small numbers of Fulmar, Kittiwake and Lesser Black-backed Gull also participating.

This was not the only feeding frenzy of the afternoon as approaching the entrance to Belfast Lough, our attention was drawn to approximately 155 Gannet and 10 Manx Shearwater feeding around and within a rip current and Joe predicted good conditions for cetacean sightings.  As if on cue, we then sighted seven Common Dolphin feeding amongst all the activity.  Shortly afterwards, to add to our cetacean tally, we also had a fleeting glimpse of two Harbour Porpoise before they sped away as the ship approached.

Just outside the entrance to Belfast Lough, and shortly before the end of the survey, we observed a small number of Eider, two Black Guillemot, a Sandwich Tern and Shag.

The ship docked right on schedule and, after thanking the captain and crew we took our leave from the bridge and enjoyed a welcome dinner, before starting to write up the findings of the day.

For the return crossing, our arrival in Birkenhead was, again, right on schedule.  Whilst we were unable to add to our outgoing survey tally due to the journey being during the hours of darkness, we were treated to the sight of the Three Graces on the opposite bank of the Mersey as the ship was berthing just as the Sun was rising.

Our thanks to Captain Kubacki and the crew of the Stena Lagan for their hospitality and pleasant passage and to Stena Line for their continued support of this survey route.

Joe O'Hanlon and Jane Gray, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Photo credits:
Manx Shearwater - Peter Howlett
Common Dolphin -Rick Morris