Sightings Archives: October 2014

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

Posted 06 November 2014

Abby and Carol Bruce, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Fairly strong winds N-NW with good visibility throughout and sea state 2-7

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 61
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 23
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 214
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 4
Razor Bill Alca torda 37
Guillemot Uria aalge 18
Unidentified Auk sp 239
Unidentified Gull sp 50+




After an eventful week of British weather the 'Stena Lagan' set off promptly and undeterred.  We received fantastic service from the reception staff giving us all the information required and arranging our access to the bridge in time for departure.  As always the crew warmly welcomed us aboard and the Captain Krzysztof Gadomski remembered me from previous trips.   We were asked to set up on the port side of the bridge on this occasion so not to obstruct the crew's view on departing Birkenhead harbour.

BND Adrian Shephard 03The trip started with the usual suspects Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull and later various auk species keeping us busy.  As we passed various fishing vessels numbers increased and counting become hard work with huge rafts of birds following and hoping to pick up free scraps of food.  The larger gulls mobbed the smaller species forcing them to dive below the surface if they were to have any chance of saving their dinner from being scavenged.

About two hours into the survey with English shores a distant memory, we spotted an amazing diving routine being performed by the distinct white with black giants of the sea Gannet.  On closer inspection Guillemot, Razorbill and Herring Gull added to the feeding frenzy.  As I frantically recorded the numbers I said to my trainee 'don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for associated cetacean' and she calmly replied 'I think I can see a dolphin.'  I looked up in awe as another two more breach the surface to feed just in front of us, what a result!  Carol took the first sighting credit and we worked through what we'd both seen and matched it to the books to ID our finding as Bottle-nosed Dolphin, a chunky dark grey species with pale colouration underneath and a prominent beak.  Although the crew missed this brief glimpse of life below the Irish Sea they were impressed to hear our tale and tell theirs from previous trips.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 02Shortly after this our first Manx Shearwater of the trip glided into view.  It glided effortless over the waves' peaks and troughs and I even managed to get a photograph of this graceful species.  Later we saw a few more amongst the more numerous auk species.  A lone Arctic Skua was also recorded migrating across the Irish Sea but outwitted my amateur photography skills.

The sun was setting as the shores of Belfast Lough welcomed us in.  The fading light made recording hard work so we called it a night and retired to our cabins.  Thanks again to all staff on board for being so accommodating and helping to make a memorable trip.

Abby and Carol Bruce, Research Surveyors for MARINElife