MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 18th April 2015

Duncan Fyfe and Jan Ozyer - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions westbound:     Sea state 0 - 4; wind force 2; visibility 6; cloud 0

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 9
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates 4
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3

Seabirds:
Black-throated Diver Gavial arctica 6
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 31
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 23
Gannet Morus bassanus 59
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 79
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 26
Eider Somateria mollissima 4
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Common Gull Larus Canus 101
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 78
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutes 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 53
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicenus 1
Commic Tern Sterna/paradisaea 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 9
Guillemot Uria aalge 353
Razorbill Alca torda 65
Auk Sp.    105
Larus Gull Sp. 16

Leaving home early on Saturday morning with bright clear skies was a good omen and it was a quiet drive for me over the Pennines and a pleasant one for Jan through North Wales.  We began the survey just after the ship was free of port in the Mersey Estuary.  The sea state and weather conditions were really good - barely reaching above sea state 4 with many stretches barely a force 2 and with clear skies.

BND Peter Howlett 01Many Cormorant adorned the marker buoys and it wasn't long before we spotted a couple of flocks of Common Scoter, again in the outer Estuary where we have both encountered them on previous surveys.  There were large numbers of Common Gull still present along with a small number of Little Gull to add some extra interest.

The ship took a north westerly route around the Isle of Man and it was off the Cumbrian coast that we encountered our first fleeting glimpses of Harbour Porpoise. A while later, with the island in sight and the outer reaches of the Solway Estuary coming into view we encountered our first Bottlenose Dolphin, seemingly appearing out of nowhere some 200 metres off the port side of the bow before presumably heading towards the bow wave.  It was again a fleeting glimpse of 2 juvenile animals - not as large as I have seen them before and without the patterning or distinctive dorsal fins that would identify them as something else.

Kittiwake started to make a more noticeable appearance mid survey and there were smatterings of Guillemot to observe.  Interestingly there appeared to be more Razorbill than I recall observing on previous trips.  Most of these auks were seen in mixed groups and where they were flying together it was always the Razorbill that was 'in the lead'!

Common Tern Peter Howlett 02A Grey Seal and a 4 more Harbour Porpoise sightings were had around the north of the Isle of Man and between Stranraer and Belfast Lough.  As we got closer to Belfast the species diversity increased again and we a few sightings of Black Guillemot, some 'commic' terns and another Grey Seal.  

We ended the survey about 30 minutes before disembarkation which gave us enough time for a quick 'bite' before stretching our legs on shore.  The harbour area had a good number of Black-tailed Godwit on the mud and a possible Spotted Redshank to keep us busy before we re-boarded for the return journey.
Once again our thanks go to the staff and crew of the Stena Mersey who welcomed us on board and helped to make this another enjoyable crossing.

Duncan Fyfe and Jan Ozyer - Research Surveyors for MARINElife