MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 8th January 2020

Stephen Dunsta, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather: Visibility: Excellent; Cloud: Sunny with scattered clouds; Precipitation: Dry; Sea State: 3-4; Swell: 0; Wind: Force 3-4 WNW.

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 10

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Gannet Morus bassanus 25
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 108
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 96

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus16
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19
Common Gull Larus canus 74
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 35
Gull sp. 572
Guillemot Uria aalge 14
Razorbill Alca torda 8
Auk sp. 12

Terrestrial birds
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1

BND Peter Howlett 24On my way to the port a Woodcock flew over the road in front of me, which seemed a good omen. The transfer from the terminal to the Stena Mersey was very smooth, and I waited in the lounge before accessing the bridge after the ferry had left the berth.

It was 11.15 when we left the mouth of the Mersey and I began survey effort. Initially there were the usual gull species and while I also expected to see many Cormorant close to Liverpool, normally resting on the buoys, on this occasion around 100 were actively feeding in the middle of the shipping channel.

Between Liverpool and the Isle of Man sightings dropped away a bit, but the first Kittiwake were noted and then one of two Gannet. Nearing Chicken Rock at least 20 Gannet were actively feeding by plunging into the sea, and as is often the case the abundance of fish they were targeting was also attended by dolphins. In this case there were ten or so Bottlenose Dolphin actively feeding, and although they were not close, they were throwing themselves clean out of the water, so the spectacle was still a special one to see.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 11There was time for one further notable sighting as a Great Skua passed close in front of the boat as we passed Port Erin. Whilst this species can be expected for much of the year, they are infrequent this far north in January. As we left the Isle of Man behind the light began to fade and the survey was ended after five hours.

All in all, an enjoyable and successful survey for the route at this time of year. Thanks are due to Stena staff both at the port and on the Stena Mersey for being so welcoming and helpful.

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


Bottlenose Dolphin Photo: Peter Howlett
Great Skua Photo: Peter Howlett