MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 23rd - 24th May 2015

Abby Bruce and Carol Bruce, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions: Calm sea, low wind, cloudy/sunshine with a little haze.

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1    
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2    
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3    

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 46
Gannet Morus bassanus 46
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 5
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 64
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 7
Commic Tern Sterna paradisaea 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 43
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Auk Sp.    78
Gull Sp. 1
Tern sp. 1

Terrestrial Birds:
Passerine sp. 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 1

The bank holiday traffic flowed well and we got to Birkenhead dock in plenty of time on a bright Saturday morning.  Once aboard the Stena Lagan we were promptly given a cabin before being taken to meet the captain and his crew, an accommodating team of friendly faces.  A lull from the recent high winds experienced by the whole country give rise a calm sea and with the sun in the sky we were set for a pleasant sail.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 06As we passed the Gormley statues along Crosby Beach we spotted a mix of Herring Gull, Cormorant, Gannet, Kittiwake and auks but the real entertainers of this trip were Manx Shearwater.  With 46 seen in total, we could never get bored of these graceful gliders skimming the waves and almost daring each other to dip their wings into the blue!

Within an hour of our survey we had recorded two separate Grey Seal, also enjoying the calm waters.  Their mottled bodies were held vertically and motionless below the water with their heads curiously bobbing above, apparently taking as much interest in us as we were of them.

Around 2 o'clock we saw several jellyfish float by and whilst searching for a turtle, one of the jellyfish's many predators and also as it was world turtle day, the sun reflected off a smooth dark object.  On closer inspection a Harbour Porpoise surfaced silently and surreptitiously, the sun's glare was truly its only give away.  Shortly afterwards the first Fulmar of our journey was recorded along with a single small terrestrial bird and a lone Barn Swallow.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 06A third Grey Seal dodged the bow of the boat, this time a lone darker specimen much broader, with a heavier snout than the first two, making us assume it was male.  This sighting was soon eclipsed as we caught sight of two Common Dolphin swimming down the left of the boat, their yellow flanks clearly displayed in the sunlight.

We were delighted with the day's sightings and shared our findings with Captain and crew before retiring to our cabins for a smooth return journey.  Once again many thanks to the all staff and crew aboard the Stena Lagan, as always there hospitality was above and beyond all expectations.

Abby Bruce and Carol Bruce, Research Surveyors for MARINElife