MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Lagan' 29th - 30th April 2017

Abby Bruce and Suzie Miller, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Clear viability throughout, light winds and sea state 2/3

Summary of sightings:

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 42
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 60
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 46
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus recorded (no count given)
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 68
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 6
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 27
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1  
Guillemot Uria aalge 43
Razorbill Alca torda 7
Gull sp. 43
Auk sp. 2

Terrestrial birds
Wader sp. 4
Passerine sp. 2

Cormorant Adrian Shephard 04The 'Stena Lagan' set off promptly and as ever we received fantastic service from the reception staff who gave us all the information required and escorted us to our spot on the bridge with Captain Stephen Millar. We set up on the starboard side of the bridge and began the survey as the sun was peeking through the cloud cover. We waved goodbye to Birkenhead and followed the coast line up past Blackpool Tower before heading past the north side of the Isle of Man.

Several Cormorants were eager for the morning's warmth as they perched patiently with wings held out in full sun worshipping position. We followed a fishing vessel for a while as did the bird life circling around looking for fish to snatch, including 'Commic' Tern, Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull. The larger gulls mobbed the smaller species forcing them to dive below the surface if they were to have any chance of saving their dinner from being scavenged.

Shortly after this our first Manx Shearwater of the trip glided into view. They became more numerous and we enjoyed watched them glide seamlessly across the top of the waves like small black and white Kris crosses. Then another from the tubenose family joined, our first Fulmar, shortly followed by a couple more.

Sandwich Tern Rob Petley-Jones 04Around lunch time I spotted what I thought was another Manx shearwater, and then noticed its long swift like tail projections, and more speckled appearance, and realised I was looking at a juvenile Arctic Skua, but it escaped my camera lens much to my disgust.

Another fishing boat nearer our destination created another flurry of activity with more shearwaters, various gull species and auks, and this time joined by several Sandwich Tern. Their size, black beaks with light tips distinguishing them from terns we saw previously.

As we neared Belfast we had a lovely view of a Black Guillemot, the only one of the trip, so a nice treat. Although no cetaceans on this occasion, a lovely trip with great company.

Abby Bruce and Suzie Miller, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Cormorant Photo: Adrian Shephard
Sandwich Tern Photo: Rob Petley-Jones