Sightings Archives: February 2018

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 3rd - 4th February 2018

Posted 13 February 2018

Duncan Fyfe and Jane Gray, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Conditions: good; Sea state: 5; Wind: force 5-7

Summary of Sightings

Cetacea / Sea Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena: 3
Cetacean sp. 1

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 3
Cormorant Phalacrocarax carbo 19
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 62
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 14
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 10
Great Black Backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42
Guillemot Uria aalge 28
Razorbill Alca torda 18
Auk Sp. 11

Terrestrial Birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 82

We began the survey just after the ship was free of port in the Mersey Estuary. The sea state and weather conditions started out well and maintained a steady force 5 for the early part of the journey.

Many Cormorant adorned most of the marker buoys, and a 70-strong flock of Oystercatcher flying across the outer Mersey was an impressive sight. We were then anticipating seeing some Common Scoter, as this part of the journey is where they are regularly encountered.

Common Scoter Rick Morris 02
However, we were not prepared for the amazing sight of a huge flock of at least 600 birds! For several minutes we were surrounded by ducks moving all over the place, in flight and on the water. It is quite possible that the total is an underestimate of how many there really were.

There were reasonable numbers of Common Gull and Herring Gull in the outer estuary to enjoy as well.

The ship took a north-westerly route around the Isle of Man as the sea state picked up and became a good force 7. Fortunately, there was little swell, so the crossing was comfortable despite the challenging spotting conditions.

Jane caught a quick glimpse of a small cetacean splash as we passed the Isle of Man on the port side.

GN Diver Steve McAusland 01There was a smattering of bird sightings with Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake being the most numerous.  A Great Northern Diver taking off from just in front of the bow was also a good spot.

As we got closer to Belfast the sea state decreased slightly, which resulted in three brief Harbour Porpoise sightings. This small cetacean species is always a pleasure to encounter on a survey, but they are quite difficult to spot in anything above a force 4, so we were quite lucky to spot some on this trip.

We ended the survey about 45 minutes before arrival into Belfast as the light faded, and then we had a good walk around the harbour area before heading back on board for a comfortable crossing back to Birkenhead.

Our thanks go to Captain Neil Whitaker and Captain Adam Paczoska and the crew of the Stena Mersey who welcomed us on board and helped to make this another enjoyable crossing.

Duncan Fyfe and Jane Gray, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Common Scoter Photo: Rick Morris
Great Northern Diver Photo: Steve McAusland