Sightings Archives: November 2014

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 22nd November 2014

Posted 28 November 2014

Joe O'Hanlon, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Visibility good with some glare (port); Wind South-westerly - westerly veering to North Westerly; Sea State generally 3-5

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 6
Harbour Porpoise Phoceona phocoena 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 75
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 64
Shelduck Tadorna taddorna 27
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 17
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 28
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 110
Puffin Fratercula artica 1
Razorbill Alca torda 28
Guillemot Uria aalge 41
Unidentified Auk sp 5

Another unseasonably warm November day, and I arrived at port to a misty Liverpool with sunshine burning through before being welcomed aboard Stena Lagan by the crew.  Once the cabin was allocated, a quick drink then up to the bridge.

BND Adrian Shephard 04Given the last few days weather, the forecast looked a lot better for the crossing so fingers  were crossed that this would not change and give a good chance to see cetaceans.  

I started the survey in great light with the sun coming from behind the bridge, but the conditions clouded over quite quickly but there was still good light.  A short distance out on the Irish Sea brought small numbers of Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and good numbers of Common Scoter and Cormorant.

Within the hour there were good views of six Bottlenose Dolphin feeding on the port side, a sighting which alone would have made the trip worthwhile for the observer!

A steady flow of birds continued as we approached Calf of Man, where a single Harbour Porpoise showed before disappearing as quickly as it had arrived.  A few minutes later the bird list was boosted by Puffin flying across the bow.

GBB Gull Peter Howlett 02As the light started to fail the sea state dropped and conditions would have been ideal to see more cetaceans but by four o'clock the light had gone and the survey unfortunately had to come to an end.  Given the shortness of the period available for the survey, the range of species seen was excellent and the survey very enjoyable.

While I was unable to add to the outward survey tally due to the journey back being during the hours of darkness, it was well worth being up early to see Liverpool lit up with street and flood lighting.
Thanks go to Captain Miller and the crew of the Stena Lagan for their hospitality and welcome, and to Stena Line for their continued support of this survey route.

Joe O'Hanlon, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

Photo credits:
Bottlenose Dolphins - Adrian Shephard
Great Black-backed Gull - Peter Howlett