MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Belfast 'Stena Mersey' 1st February 2020

Jenny Ball and Katherine Dunning, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Weather: Visibility: Mostly good, but poor at times; Sea State: Moderate; Wind: Force 7-8 W to NW.

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals
Unidentified dolphin sp. 1

Seabirds
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1010
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 22
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 34
Gull sp, 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 69
Razorbill Alca torda 8
Auk sp. 12

Terrestrial birds
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 1

Cormorant Peter Howlett 03The sunlit brick and terracotta tower at Hamilton Square station looked striking against the blue sky as I picked Kate up from the train to drive to the Stena Line terminal. We were welcomed onto the bridge soon after boarding so had time to get ourselves organised and to enjoy the comings and goings on the Mersey, with the Dazzle Ferry looking funky against the magnificent Liverpool waterfront.

The wind was already force 7 as we followed the channel down past the container terminal, past Crosby and out into Liverpool Bay. The sea was quite agitated over the sand banks and there was no sign of any of the seals or porpoises which are sometimes seen.

We were accompanied by a few gulls, and then a group of around 20 Cormorant flew by, some resplendent in their breeding plumage, with silvery heads and white patches on their flanks showing up well in the sunlight. We watched a Lesser Black-backed Gull challenging a Cormorant for its meal… the Cormorant held on!

Common Scoter Rick Morris 02About an hour into our survey we sailed through a huge flock of Common Scoter which were scattered across a distance of over a mile. Some were flying in small groups and some were resting, with birds swirling as far as the eye could see. This was to be the highlight of the trip, with only small numbers of Guillemot, Kittiwake and a couple of Fulmar being recorded during the day.

The wind built in the early afternoon, with the waves making any prospect of spotting cetaceans fairly remote. I did catch a glimpse of a dolphin rushing out of the way but could not get a good enough view to identify it. In mid-afternoon as we passed the Point of Ayre, we went through a very squally shower with heavy rain and the wind rising to 46 knots. After this, things settled down and although we saw very few birds, we enjoyed scanning the seas in the evening light.

We would like to thank Captain Fresa and his crew on the Stenaline Mersey, who went out of their way to make us comfortable, both during the survey and afterwards as we relaxed in the lounge before retiring to our cabins for the night.

Jenny Ball and Katherine Dunning, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Cormorant Photo: Peter Howlett
Common Scoter Photo: Rick Morris