MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 25th July 2015

Steve Morgan (Team Leader) and Peter Lewis (Researcher) for MARINElife
Conditions: Sunny intervals to overcast; visibility very good; wind varying from 7 - 27 knots mostly from the NNW; sea state 2-4, then falling to 1-2.

Summary of Species Recorded

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 5     

Seabirds
Eider Somateria mollissima 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 12
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 467
Gannet Morus bassanus 74
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 14
Common Gull Larus canus 59
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 50
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 63
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 4
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 28
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 9
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 4
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 62
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Black Guillemot  Cepphus grylle 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 317
Razorbill Alca torda 154

Terrestrial Birds
Dunlin Calidris alpina 333

We passed through security and were welcomed aboard in good time for a cup of coffee before gaining access to the bridge and setting ourselves up on the starboard side ready for departure.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 11As we headed out of the estuary the wind had picked up from the NNW but little swell was produced and waves were generally small so despite some whitecaps viewing conditions were reasonably good across to the Isle of Man.  There was the usual variety of Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull with some Kittiwake appearing as we got further out.  All this and an adult Little Gull just for good measure.

Approaching the Isle of Man the wind lessened and the sea was calm so viewing conditions were even better.  The auks had decided that this was the area to be with their young of the year, so we were able to see hundreds of Guillemot and Razorbill out here along with large numbers of Manx Shearwater.  

There was some excitement when the spreading area of white water ahead revealed its cause to be a circling group of four Risso's Dolphin, two of whom leapt from the water splashing on their sides whilst yet another appeared slightly further south but heading straight for us.  These are quite a large dolphin species, pale grey in colour with tall dorsal fin and characteristic whitish scratch marks on their bulbous heads and sides: not a common sighting and especially not "having a party" like these!  

Following on from this sighting we soon added eleven Harbour Porpoise to our cetacean tally, some of these being in a tight group which included two young ones.

Rissos Dolphin Adrian Shephard 08After this we reached Belfast Lough all too soon although we were greeted by four Black Guillemot, cute black-and-white seabirds with bright red legs and feet.

We used our dock-time in Belfast to enter some of our data on computer before the return overnight crossing to Birkenhead.

Our thanks to the excellent Stena Line staff who were all friendly and helpful as usual; particular mention must go to Neil (Senior Master), Paulo (Night Master) and Ray and Taylor from Guest Services for their assistance.

Steve Morgan (Team Leader) and Peter Lewis (Researcher) for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)