MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 14th November 2015

Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions: Overcast with heavy rain; Wind S, force 2-4

Summary of Species Recorded

Gannet Morus bassanus 7
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 3
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 66
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 6
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Common Gull Larus canus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 5
Razorbill Alca torda 3
Unidentified gull sp. 5      
Unidentified auk sp 5

Other species recorded
Starling Sterna vulgaris 1

The weather forecast was not too promising thanks to Storm Abigail but in the event there was a lull in the run of strong winds and I decided it was worth having a go at the survey.  The transfer onto the Stena Mersey was very smooth and the captain welcomed me to the bridge before we left the berth.  As we departed the Mersey I was treated the usual but not to be forgotten views of the Liverpool waterfront, as well as close range views of the Mersey ferry which is currently decked in very eye-catching livery thanks to the artist Peter Blake.

Shag Peter Howlett 02A few gulls and Cormorant were seen as we entered the bay.   A Shag then came alongside the bridge on a couple of occasions, whilst this species is becoming more regular in Lancashire it still remains quite scarce and this first year bird had presumably been blown in during the recent adverse weather conditions.

A few seabirds began to be recorded, particularly Gannet, Guillemot and Kittiwake, but things did slack off a bit for a while until we neared the Isle of Man.  In Manx waters the numbers of Kittiwake picked up significantly and I was then treated to two skua sightings.  Initially, two Great Skua were seen together to the north east before splitting up, when one flew towards and right across the front of the boat.  

Pomarine Skua RPJThis was if anything eclipsed by fine close range views of an adult Pomarine Skua.  While a trickle of reports had come from the Irish Sea during the autumn, when immature birds are more to be expected, this stunning adult bird was a real bonus.

The mist was closing in, so much so that a migrating Starling spent some time on the front of the boat before resuming its journey.  The light failed early in the overcast conditions and I left the bridge after a survey which had been enjoyable and features some interesting observations.

Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)