Liverpool-Dublin

Recent Sightings

MARINElife Survey Report: Seatruck ‘Progress’ / ‘Power’ Liverpool-Dublin 4-5 May 2017

Posted 18 May 2017

Jenny Ball; Research Surveyor from MARINElife
Conditions westbound:         sunny; wind NE force 4-5, hazy later on
Conditions eastbound:          sunny: wind ENE force 6-7, sea choppy at first

Summary of sightings
Cetaceans and other mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3

Seabirds:
Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 63
Gannet Morus bassanus 13
Cormorant Phalacrocroax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 24
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 34
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 237
Razorbill Alca torda 9
Tern sp. 3

Terrestrial birds seen during survey
Swift Apus apus 1

An excellent start to the trip.  A quick check-in followed by bacon and eggs, and then straight up to the bridge in good time to watch the Seatruck Progress being manoeuvred from her berth into the Langton sea lock.  We then swept down the river on a lovely bright morning to begin the survey at the Crosby Fairway Buoy… where we saw two Harbour Porpoise just before picking up the binoculars!

Grey Seal Rick Morris 10

Grey Seal (Rick Morris)

Shortly afterwards I saw a Grey Seal logging very convincingly, but then no other mammals until one or possibly two Harbour Porpoise in mid-afternoon.  The sea birds were evenly distributed throughout the crossing, mostly as single birds or in very small groups.  It was nice to watch acrobatic and swooping Manx Shearwater, with the occasional Gannet to add a bit of drama.  As the sun sank towards the west the glare made it more and more difficult to spot birds or mammals, so the survey was closed as we approached Dublin Bay.

After an overnight stay in Dublin I made my way out to the docks and onto the Seatruck Power.  Another beautiful day but this time we would be sailing into the wind, and it was rather stronger than the day before.  The sea was quite choppy early on but flattened nicely as the wind dropped as we reached the middle of the Irish Sea.

My best spot of the day was a Grey Seal bottling.  The sea was still quite agitated, but the angle of the sun meant that there was no reflection off the water at all.  I could not only see the seal's muzzle out of the water but also the whole of its body beneath the waves!  It held its position until the very last minute when it drew its head down and then dived away from the ship.  Similarly, a few minutes later my eye was caught by a shadow which as I looked turned into two Common Dolphin surfacing together.  In the afternoon, I had 3 separate sightings of Harbour Porpoise and later another Grey Seal.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 02

Fulmar (Rob Petley-Jones)

Again the birds were relatively scarce, with Guillemot, Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater and Gannet the most often seen, but on a couple of occasions the ship was accompanied by a single Fulmar.

As ever, Captains Lestan and Daly, their officers and crews were welcoming and very helpful, and I was pleased to see that the Seatruck Progress has a copy of the MARINELife Identification Cards pinned up on the bridge!

Jenny Ball;Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: P&O Ferries ‘European Endeavour’ Dublin-Liverpool 21 November 2016

Posted 27 November 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright; Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Weather cloudy, wind NNE force 5-10, occasional heavy rain.

Seabirds
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 41
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 940
Common Gull Larus canus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 78
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1

Terrestrial birds
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 7

I arrived at the port Monday lunchtime and was quickly able to board the European Endeavour, park my car and collect my cabin key from the information desk. Having settled in, I returned to the information desk, noticing the beautifully decorated Christmas tree that had been put up that day, and met up with Captain Phil Hill to discuss the short survey time I would have on the 3 pm crossing this month.

My survey would only be for around an hour, enabling me to record the birds in the mouth of the River Liffey and the first 10 miles of the Irish Sea.

Whilst waiting for the ship to depart I made a casual observation of the harbour. Some Light-bellied Brent Geese were circling the harbour, many juvenile Herring Gull and adult Black-headed Gull were sitting on the water. A few Hooded Crow were also flying around prior to the survey beginning. There was no sign of my favourite bird, the Black Guillemot, that nest in crevices in the harbour walls during the summer months.

Herring Gull Graham Ekins 01

Herring Gull (Graham Ekins)

On beginning the survey the ship edged out into the River Liffey. Several Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Common Gull were seen as the ship passed the container port located on the South Wall. Ten minutes later the ship passed the Poolbeg Power Station. Here an outfall was attracting around 800 Black-headed Gull that were constantly moving around the area, flying or resting in the water.

A couple of minutes later, European Shag were seen resting on one of the concrete jetties. The tide was rising and the North Bull Wall of the harbour was partially covered as we proceeded through the harbour entrance into the Irish Sea. The birds were limited to Herring Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull until a solitary Kittiwake was recorded as the light faded bringing an end to my survey.

Kittiwake Adrian Shephard 06

Kittiwake (Adrian Shephard)

I retired to my cabin until the vessel approached Gladstone Lock and watched from the window as the Captain and his Officers reversed the ship into the dock and moored alongside.

My thanks go to Captain Phil Hill, his officers and crew and to P&O Ferries for allowing us to survey on this route.

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Seatruck ‘Progress’ / ‘Power’ Liverpool-Dublin 13-14 October 2016

Posted 16 October 2016

Robin Langdon and Alan Altoft- Research Surveyor for MARINElife
E3-4 - SSE 2-4

Marine Mammals:
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 192
Cormorant Phalacrocroax carbo 192
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 601
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 42
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 106
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 505
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-Headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 7
Large gull sp. 12
Auk sp. 2
Gull sp. 3
Shearwater sp. 2

This was Alan's first MarineLife ferry-based survey from the bridge of a ship, although he has done some trips for MarineLife as a Wildlife Officer.  It was also his first time in Dublin so it was nice that we got a guided tour to all the sights in Dublin from a friendly taxi driver that picked us up from the port.

The usual array of birds were spotted including Herring Gull, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Cormorant and Gannet.  About thirty minutes outside Liverpool there was a large raft of gulls and Guillemots, the birds sitting closely together on the water but not doing any feeding that you would normally expect in a raft of birds like this.  We spent a while studying the raft in the hope that we might see some associated cetacean but alas none were observed.

Great Skua Peter Howlett 10

Great Skua (Peter Howlett)

Manx Shearwater numbers were much reduced from earlier in the season with only 3 being seen.  The most unusual bird spotted was a single Great Skua that crossed the bow of the ship on the return journey.

Conditions were not ideal for spotting cetacean but we did our best, as previous survey reports showed a number of Harbour Porpoise having been seen in the bay just outside Dublin.  On the return leg we started the survey as soon as we got to the bridge but no cetaceans were spotted, and it looked like there were to be no marine mammals on this trip.  Right at the last minute Alan trained his binoculars on a sand bank just outside Liverpool and spotted a small family of Grey Seal basking on the sand and playing in the water.

Grey Seals_Robin Langdon

Grey Seals (Robin Langdon)

We would like to thanks Master James Clarke and his crew aboard the Seatruck Progress and Master Simon Townsend and his crew aboard the Seatruck Power for making us welcome.

Robin Langdon and Alan Altoft- Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin September 2016

Posted 01 October 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin August 2016

Posted 19 August 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin July 2016

Posted 01 August 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: P&O Ferries ‘European Endeavour’ Dublin-Liverpool 20 June 2016

Posted 27 June 2016

Carol Farmer-Wright and Cheryl Leaning; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather: Overcast;  good visibility;  wind WSW-SSW force 4-5.

Summary of sightings

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus  956
Gannet Morus bassanus  77
Cormorant Phalacrocroax carbo 14
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 11
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 4
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 68
Common Tern  Sterna hirundo 14
Arctic Tern  Sterna paradisaea 8
'Commic' Tern  Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 1
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 271
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 1
Razorbill Alca torda 15
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Large gull sp.  26
Tern sp.   1

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1

The day was sunny with the occasional showers as we drove to Dublin Port Terminal 3 to join the European Endeavour for the afternoon survey.  Our booking was processed quickly and it wasn't long before we were able to board the ship.  We had a lovely meal before Captain Philip Hill met us and we were invited to join him on the bridge.

Whilst waiting for departure we observed three Black Guillemot feeding in the harbour and squabbles for scraps of food between Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Herring Gull Rob Petley-Jones 01
Herring Gull (Archive photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Leaving Dublin behind, we entered the Irish Sea and immediately began recording Common Tern, Cormorant, Shag, Herring Gull and Kittiwake.  Soon we were to encounter small rafts of Common Guillemot, some birds with small fish or sand eel in their beak ready to take back to their growing offspring.  Manx Shearwater were also rafting offshore, taking flight as soon as the vessel neared them to skim the surface of the water.  Guillemots, shearwaters and Gannet were to dominate the rest of the survey.

The light started to fade as we approached the wind farms in Liverpool Bay and we thanked the bridge crew and descended to the restaurant to have a hearty supper before the ship docked in Liverpool.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 01
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Sadly we didn't record any cetaceans on this survey but that was more than compensated for by the good number of birds we saw whilst traversing the Irish Sea.

Our thanks go to P&O ferries, Captain Philip Hill, his officers and crew for looking after us so well whilst surveying.  It was lovely to see so many familiar faces from former routes working on board.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin June 2016

Posted 06 June 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Seatruck ‘Progress’ / ‘Power’ Liverpool-Dublin 12-13 May 2016

Posted 28 May 2016

Jenny Ball, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather: Wind NW 5-6 out, NE F4-5 on return, visibility good, but affected by glare, especially sailing west.

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 53
Gannet Morus bassanus 24
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 22
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 62
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 160
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Gull sp. 36
Tern sp. 52

Terrestrial Birds
Feral Pigeon Columba livia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

It was 'back-to-front day' on board the Seatruck Progress: lunch was served as soon as I boarded the ship at 10:00, with the promise of breakfast later in the day…

I was welcomed onto the bridge once we had entered the sea lock by the Master and the First Officer, who explained that there would be a short delay because of depth issues just outside the lock. We therefore waited for the tide to rise, and finally sailed at 12:00.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 11
Harbour Porpoise (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

The conditions on the outbound leg were by no means ideal for seeing cetaceans or identifying birds - bright and breezy. The waves masked any fins and the glare became more and more of an issue as the afternoon wore on, making large sections of the sea very difficult to survey.

Sightings were fairly sparse during the journey to Dublin, just a scattering of Guillemot, Manx Shearwater and Gannet, with some Kittiwake and the occasional Fulmar deep in the Irish Sea. The main moments of excitement were provided by what might have been a Pomarine Skua on its way north and a fleeting sight of a possible cetacean. This was quickly followed by a big mixed flock of terns. On the way into Dublin Bay, I had a brief sight of two Harbour Porpoise, concluding a fairly quiet day.

Manx Shearwater Mike Bailey 01a
Manx Shearwater (Archive photo: Mike Bailey)

After a pleasant evening enjoying the vibrant sights and sounds of Dublin, I was ready for the return trip back to Liverpool aboard the Seatruck Power. Once again, I was made to feel most welcome by the Master and crew and settled down to a day of steady sightings, mostly of Guillemot, Kittiwake and various gulls. A good number of Manx Shearwater were seen and I had two isolated views of Harbour Porpoise during the crossing. As we skirted the windfarms in Liverpool Bay there were a number of flocks of mixed gulls on the water, some of which were feeding. These were more or less the last sightings and concluded a useful couple of days.

Many thanks to the Seatruck crew and port staff, who made my survey not only possible but comfortable and relaxed.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin April 2016

Posted 02 May 2016

Stephen Dunstan and Graham Ekins; Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather: wind northerly 6-15 knots, sea state 3-4, visibility excellent with light, high cloud decreasing

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and other mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 30
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 19
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 54
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 40
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 36
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1
Razorbill Alca torda 45
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Auk sp.  2

Terrestrial birds seen during survey
Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria 400
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 1

The staff at Seaforth Dock were friendly and very efficient and within a few minutes we were on our way to join the impressive Seatruck Progress. Once on board we were given a cabin to leave our luggage and were taken to meet the Captain and his officers who made us very welcome.

Whimbrel Graham Ekins 01
Whimbrel (Graham Ekins)

Within a short time the ship was passing through the lock and out into the River Mersey.  As we passed out of the estuary we saw a large flock of mostly summer-plumaged Golden Plover and a lone Whimbrel heading north across the estuary

We headed out to sea skirting the beautiful north Welsh coastline.  It looked more like South Georgia with the hills covered in snow edged by the blue-grey sea.  As we left the western most tip of Anglesey we started to see small groups of Manx Sheawater heading steadily north, and we also had an adult pale phase Arctic Skua and a few adult Gannet heading in the same direction.

Large numbers of summer plumaged Guillemot were seen and as we reached the mid-point of the crossing they were replaced by Razorbill and accompanying Kittiwake.  We were lucky to see several Harbour Porpoise even in the deepest water as well as a bull Grey Seal.

Black Guillemot Graham Ekins 02
Black Guillemot (Graham Ekins)

As we approached Dublin Bay we started to see Shag and a summer plumaged Black Guillemot as well as more Kittiwake that nested on nearby cliffs.  In the harbour we were delighted to see several groups of Pale-bellied Brent Geese and Hooded Crow. We also had an interesting array of different aged Herring Gull which provided an excellent reminder of the plumage transition of this species.

Herring Gull Graham Ekins 08
3rd winter (left) and 2nd winter (right) Herring Gulls (Graham Ekins)

After thanking the Captain for his excellent hospitality we left the port for our overnight hotel before joining MV Endeavor the following day for our survey to Bilbao, Northern Spain.

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin March 2016

Posted 15 March 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin February 2016

Posted 19 February 2016

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'Seatruck Power and Seatruck Progress' 14th-15th January 2016

Posted 25 January 2016

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions westbound: northerly wind 35-40 knots, sea state 5, visibility fair to good.
Conditions eastbound: north-westerly wind 25-30 knots, sea state 4-6, visibility poor to good

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 56
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 15
Great Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 36
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Black-headed Gull Croicephalus ridibundus 7
Common Gull Larus Canus 14
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 52
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 19
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 48
Common Guillemot Uria aalge 23
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Auk sp. 6
Gull sp. 34

Terrestrial birds during survey effort
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostreolagus 1

There had been severe gales earlier in the week but a forecast improvement in conditions augured well for spotting marine mammals and birds.  As the Seatruck Power left the sea lock in Liverpool there were several Turnstone on the shingle beside the river and various gulls wheeling around ahead of us. In addition to the usual Common Gull and Herring Gull there were a few Black-headed Gull and a single Great Black-backed Gull.  The tide was almost at its maximum height and so Crosby Sands, often busy with hundreds of Cormorant, was empty as was the bar off Marine Point at New Brighton.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17Out at sea the wind quickly strengthened and a heavy swell developed, making it challenging to find anything between the waves.  I did briefly glimpse a small but distinctly black object which might well have been the stubby dorsal fin of a Harbour Porpoise but the sighting was too fleeting to be sure.

The crossing produced occasional Fulmar and Kittiwake but was mainly very quiet. However, with dusk not far away I did manage to find two Grey Seal, the first lounging about on the surface on its back and the second "bottling" (its head protruding above the water).

The return sailing the following morning on the Seatruck Progress found slightly better conditions, at least at first.  With bright sunshine and a less angry sea I was optimistic of finding Cetaceans.  As we sailed out into the Southern Irish Channel, not far out of Dublin, I duly spotted a pair of Harbour Porpoise.  The first just grazed the surface as it came up but the second, a moment later, produced a more satisfactory roll, revealing its characteristic blunt triangular dorsal fin.  The Channel is just a little deeper than the waters further out towards the Welsh side and seems to be a bit of a hotspot. Certainly it seldom lets me down!

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 02Unfortunately the conditions deteriorated steadily as we sailed further across the Irish Sea.  Close to Dublin with the wind in the north-west we had been sheltered by the land mass of Ireland but further out we were fully exposed to the blast, and once more it became difficult to see between the waves. Twice I glimpsed suspicious black objects, which might have been more Harbour Porpoise or might have been flotsam. Very frustrating!

As on the outward leg Fulmar and Kittiwake were the main avian fare, though late in the afternoon I did find a Red-throated Diver and a few Guillemot.  

By 16.40 it was too gloomy to see much and I called an end to the survey.  The swell was still a problem in the Mersey estuary and the captain called for a tug to help us into the sea lock, which was quite an interesting operation to observe.

My thanks go once again to the captains and crews of both the Power and the Progress for their warm welcomes and unstinting help and support, not to mention the hearty breakfasts on board!

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin December 2015

Posted 30 December 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin November 2015

Posted 30 November 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin

Posted 30 October 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin September 2015

Posted 30 September 2015

This survey was cancelled for operational reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin August 2015

Posted 31 August 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin July 2015

Posted 30 July 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin 25-26 June 2015

Posted 05 July 2015

This survey had to cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin 28-29 May 2015

Posted 01 June 2015

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'Seatruck Power and Seatruck Progress' 23rd-24th April 2015

Posted 09 May 2015

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions westbound:     Sea state 1-2; wind NW very light; visibility moderate
Conditions eastbound:     Sea state 2-4; wind SE-SW moderate; visibility poor with fog/mist

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 44
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 8
Unidentified Seal Species 2

Seabirds:
Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 4
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 25
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 19
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 25
Great Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 111
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 22
Black-headed Gull Croicephalus ridibundus 26
Common Gull Larus Canus 15
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 215
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 11
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 58
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 397
Razorbill Alca torda 127
Auk sp. 601
Gull sp. 242
Diver Sp 3
Terrestrial birds during survey effort
Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus 1
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 4
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostreolagus 2
Unidentified Passerines (at sea) 6


I arrived at Brocklebank Dock in Liverpool to find bright sunshine and still conditions and in the dock the water's surface looked like glass, so the prospects for the day ahead looked excellent!  I was quickly checked in by Seatruck's efficient staff and escorted onto the "Seatruck Power", my ship for the outbound passage to Dublin.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 17After clearing the sea lock we turned and sailed out into the Mersey estuary where large numbers of gulls were present, mostly Herring Gull and with a high proportion of juveniles.  As ever, substantial numbers of Cormorant were standing on the sands at Crosby along with large flocks of gulls too distant to be identified.  We weren't even clear of the Mersey before the first Grey Seal of the day rolled in front of our bows.

Beyond the wind farm, about an hour out to sea, I began encountering Harbour Porpoise.  This area along the North Wales coast seems to produce porpoise regularly and this was no exception with sightings coming one after another.  In the almost perfect conditions with a sea state of 2 dropping later to 1, spotting porpoise was easy and by early afternoon I was already in double figures!  

Sightings of Porpoise continued regularly throughout the crossing and by the time we arrived in Dublin Bay I had accounted for an unusually large total of 39.  As the day wore on the sea got flatter and flatter and I was able to spot the tiny dorsal fins of surfacing porpoise at quite long range. Ordinarily, even in quite a gentle sea, this would have been impossible.

We pulled into Dublin Bay in the early evening and Captain Kieron Daley came up to the bridge to supervise our imminent berthing.  As I chatted to him he suddenly announced "oh, there's a Dolphin or something".  I suspected that it might be another porpoise but his identification was instantly confirmed as a single Bottlenose Dolphin leaped clear of the water barely 50 metres in front of our bows. That proved to be the final marine mammal of the crossing as, somewhat surprisingly, there were no Common Seal loitering around the Liffey estuary.

Storm Petrel Mark Darlaston 01The return crossing the next morning saw the end of such wonderful conditions.  The sunshine soon gave way to cloud and then to fog and I had to abandon the survey for nearly an hour at one point as visibility dropped to less than 100 metres.  The fog eventually lifted to the extent that I could resume work but visibility was still very poor. Moreover, a rather brisk south-westerly breeze had blown up and the mill-pond conditions of the previous day had by then given way to a choppy sea, so this was going to be much more challenging!

I did find a few Harbour Porpoise, including three very close to the Mersey estuary, but the sightings were brief and cryptic - just glimpses of stubby dorsal fins breaking the waves.  

Both legs produced vast numbers of Guillemot and Razorbill and equally large numbers of auks that could have been either species.  It had been some time since I had seen so many in the Irish Sea.  There were also some early Manx Shearwater, all of these encountered on the return leg, with a tiny Storm Petrel buzzing across the choppy surface of the water.

Several Barn Swallow passed us by en-route to Wales and a very confused Rock Pipit came to visit us, perching on the safety rail in front of the bridge.  Gannet, divers and Fulmar were a little sparse but gull numbers were good. It was nice to see a Sandwich Tern too.

It had been a very enjoyable and productive survey and one which illustrated just how different each day at sea could be. Notwithstanding the deterioration in observing conditions, on the first day it was remarkable how the sea seemed to be full of Harbour Porpoise and seals, yet twenty-four hours later exactly the same waters seemed virtually barren.

As usual at Seatruck the staff and crews were fantastically helpful and welcoming and a special "thank you" to the seaman on the Progress who brought round slabs of fruit cake to everyone on the bridge!  I look forward to returning to this fascinating and sometimes enigmatic route soon.

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin March 2015

Posted 01 April 2015

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions westbound: Wind NW; visibility good; sea state mostly 5-6
Conditions eastbound: Wind SW light, sea state mostly 2, visibility very good

Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 8
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Unidentified Seal Species 2

Seabirds:
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 19
Manx Shearwater  Puffinus puffinus 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 17
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 187
Shag Phalocrocorax aristotelis 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 85
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 78
Guillemot Uria aalge 147
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Unidentified Gull sp 54
Unidentified Auk sp 145
Unidentified Diver Sp 3

Terrestrial Birds:
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 6
Unidentified Passerines (at sea) 7

Arriving at the Brocklebank Dock in Liverpool in good time I was very quickly checked in by Seatruck's efficient staff and escorted onto the "Seatruck Power", my ship for the outbound passage to Dublin. The forecast was not encouraging for the day ahead but conditions were expected to improve over the coming 24 hours. Sure enough, a blustery wind was rippling the water even in the sheltered confines of the dock.

As we worked our way out to sea through the Mersey estuary, the usual large numbers of Cormorant were standing on the sands at Crosby and Herring Gull and Common Gull were wheeling about in the brisk breeze.  A kilometre and a half to port, on an exposed sand bank, two big grey objects were visible.  They looked like rocks but on closer inspection they turned out to be Grey Seal, one having the indignity of a Cormorant perching on its back!  The seal waved its flippers up and down in annoyance but the unwelcome guest sat tight.

Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 05The further into the Irish Sea we went the rougher it got, and before long an unpleasant swell developed making spotting cetaceans even more challenging.  A few Gannet were around and later some Manx Shearwater appeared.  These were seen gliding and banking from side to side in their characteristic fashion, their wing tips almost "shearing" the water surface.  A diver hurtled past, probably Red-throated Diver, but its exact identity was hard to tell.

Two more Grey Seal materialised in the afternoon, both lounging about on the surface and both completely unfazed by the angry sea.  Unsurprisingly, I could find no Cetaceans and by the time we made our way into Dublin I had recorded relatively little on what was normally quite a bird-rich and cetaceous route.

As I had hoped from the previous day's forecast, conditions the next morning were transformed and the sea now bore scarcely a ripple.  A Red-throated Diver was in the harbour as we left, along with various gulls, a lone Shag and a few Guillemot.

With a more or less flat sea ahead and the sun behind us I was confident that I would soon start finding cetaceans. On cue, a stubby black dorsal lazily broke the surface ahead and the first Harbour Porpoise of the day presented itself.  It surfaced five times before finally arching its back and disappearing for a longer dive off our port bows.  An hour later, two more Harbour Porpoise appeared, surfacing a number of times in unison, their backs momentarily gleaming in the sunlight.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01Throughout the day odd numbers of passerines passed by, all heading for Wales. Wayward European migrants perhaps or were they more exotic American vagrants driven eastwards by the impending gale that, according to the coastguard on the ship's radio, was five or six hours behind us sweeping in from the Atlantic?

Later in the afternoon I began to find quite large numbers of Guillemot and Razorbill, mostly resting in rafts on the flat calm sea. This area around the North Wales coast must have been rich in fish life and after a quiet spell I began to find marine mammals once more.  Several Grey Seal drifted past and, as I paused to make myself a cup of tea, a big disturbance on the surface 500 metres ahead revealed a mother and calf Harbour Porpoise surfacing together, the youngster keeping extremely close to its mother's flanks.

Shortly afterwards, two small black dorsal fins very briefly broke the surface 300 metres off our port side before disappearing, almost certainly more Harbour Porpoise. However, this time they did not re-surface to permit a conclusive identification. Several more seals appeared as we drew closer to Liverpool, at least one of them one a Harbour Seal.  The action had been fast and furious at times on the return leg, demonstrating just how much easier it is to spot small marine mammals in quiet seas.

By five o'clock we were back in the Mersey and it remained only to negotiate the famous Sea Lock before docking in our berth at Brocklebank.  It had been a most enjoyable survey made all the more pleasant by the extremely helpful staff and crew at Seatruck.  From the check-in and security staff at each end who got me checked-in and parked up in double-quick time to the bridge crew who provided comfortable chairs and tea and biscuits, everyone was a model of efficiency and helpfulness. I look forward to returning to this interesting route soon!


Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
(Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Manx Shearwater Photo: Peter Howlett
Harbour Porpoise Photo: Peter Howlett

For a full summary of the species seen during this survey please visit our sightings page.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin February 2015

Posted 11 March 2015

Colin Gill and Vincent Green - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions westbound: Wind NW Variable 26-31 Knots; Swell 1-2; Visibility 1-3
Conditions eastbound: Wind SW Variable 19-26 Knots; Swell 1; Visibility 4-5

Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals: Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 33
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 27
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 97
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 11
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 49
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 47
Guillemot Uria aalge 216
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Unidentified Shearwater sp. 1
Unidentified Gull sp. 2

Harbour Porpoise Mike Bamford 01On an overcast February morning we boarded the Progress and after waiting a short while in the lock finally set off around mid-morning. The lack of birds in the Mersey should have been an early warning but we were optimistic of a good survey with plenty to see. However, the very choppy water and strong winds lowered the opportunity to see any cetacean or bird life.

In fact the whole section along the Welsh coast line was surprising sparse, which we put down to the very variable weather front that had been around for the previous few days. As we passed Anglesey a Grey Seal was seen taking in its surrounding before disappearing into the surf. Then we were lucky to have two Harbour Porpoise sightings as the waves broke in the right way to gift us a very brief glimpse.

Apart from another seal nearing Dublin this proved to be the last sightings of the trip. Even the birds were not coming out to play, although we did discover where most of the Guillemot had gone as they seemed to be taking it easy around Dublin Bay. We thanked Captain James and his crew for their excellent hospitality and headed for a pleasant evening sampling other forms of Irish fare.

The return leg on the Power promised much better weather with clearer skies and calmer seas, so it was very disappointing not to add to our tally of cetaceans or any other marine mammals. The bird life did seem to be returning with all the normal suspects evident throughout the trip. However it was a quiet crossing, but due to the warmth and humour of Captain Daley and his crew the return trip was still enjoyable.
Manx Shearwater Peter Howlett 01

We had a slight delay in getting back through the lock at Liverpool but this did give the opportunity to practice our juvenile gull identification skills as quite a few kept circling the ship.

Overall this was still a very enjoyable survey with enough sightings to test our skills and keep up our enthusiasm. Our thanks go to the Captain and crew of both ships for their hospitality and genuine interest in our work.

Colin Gill and Vincent Green - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
(Registered Charity No. 1110884)



Harbour Porpoise Photo: Peter Howlett
Manx Shearwater Photo: Peter Howlett



For a full summary of the species seen during this survey please visit or species pages.

 

 

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin January 2015

Posted 09 January 2015

Unfortunately survey cancelled due to operational reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin December 2014

Posted 21 December 2014

Unfortunately this survey was cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin November 2014

Posted 28 November 2014

Unfortunately the survey was cancelled this month.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin October 2014

Posted 14 October 2014

Survey cancelled this month for logistical reasons.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin 4th - 5th September 2014

Posted 05 October 2014

Survey unfortunately cancelled this month.

MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin 7-8 August 2014

Posted 11 August 2014

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 10-11 July 2014

Posted 14 July 2014

This survey was cancelled for logistical reasons.

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 12th - 13th June 2014

Posted 13 July 2014

Melissa Goulton and Cassie Bye - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions westbound: Wind NW force 3-7
Conditions eastbound: Wind SW force 2-4

Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Seal sp. 1

Seabirds:
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 286
Gannet Morus bassanus 35
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 224
Guillemot Uria aalge 355
Razorbill Alca torda 4
Puffin Fratercula arctica 5
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1
Auk sp. 28
Gull sp. 2
Tern sp. 15

On this Marinelife survey I was accompanied by Cassie, who studied marine biology with me at Bangor University.  With our rangefinder sticks in hand and wearing our high visibility jackets, we made our way towards the ferry.  As I'd been on the Liverpool-Dublin freight route before and knew what to expect, everything ran pretty smoothly.  Additionally, the Seatruck staff were really helpful, and brought us chairs, offered us biscuits, made us dinner and updated the ships display screens for us with environmental data we required for our survey.

Guilllemot Line_Rick MorrisOn our journey towards Dublin the sea did become quite choppy, which reduced our ability to see any cetaceans.  However we recorded over two hundred birds including Guillemot, Manx Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Gannet, Kittiwake and various terns.  It was only the second time I'd seen a Black Guillemot, but the large oval upperwing patches made this seabird easily recognisable.  We saw a couple of Gannet diving on our outbound journey, but unfortunately there were no signs of any marine mammals nearby.  

As we approached Dublin the numbers of Manx Shearwater and Guillemot increased, and we were greeted by a few Cormorant flying low over the water as we entered the port.  

After taking a taxi ride through the busy streets of Dublin, we arrived at the Jury's Inn hotel on Christchurch road ready to explore the local area.  After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we walked along some of the narrow cobbled streets by the canal, before ending up at one of many Irish pubs nearby.  The pub was a good choice as musicians were playing some traditional Irish songs (amongst other classics), and we ended up getting front row seats.  We even decided to sample the local Guinness...which was slightly nicer than we both remembered!

LBB Gull Graham Ekins 01The next day the sea was calmer and we sighted a lot more seabirds sitting on the surface of the water.  About an hour into our journey we spotted our first cetacean, a Harbour Porpoise in the distance.  This sighting was quickly followed by a further three Harbour Porpoise sightings, and then a seal also made an appearance.  

We were hoping that we might see more cetaceans around the offshore wind farms found off the Welsh coasts, as I'd seen cetaceans there on a previous survey, but unfortunately on this occasion we didn't find any.  As we approached the port in Liverpool we recorded plenty of Lesser Black-backed Gull, Kittiwakes, Herring Gull, Gannet, and some terns.  All in all, a great trip and definitely a survey route we would like to carry out again, despite being quite far from where we both live.

Melissa Goulton and Cassie Bye - Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Liverpool-Dublin 15-16 May

Posted 19 May 2014

This survey was cancelled for logstical reasons

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 10th - 11th April 2014

Posted 16 April 2014

Stephen Dunstan and Melissa Goulton - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions westbound:     Wind W force 1-4
Conditions eastbound:     Wind W force 1-4

Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Dolphon sp. 3

Seabirds:
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 141
Gannet Morus bassanus 69
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 118
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 9
Black-headed Gull Croicephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 62
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 192
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Little Gull Larus minutus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 264
Large gull sp. 337
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 15
Guillemot Uria aalge 427
Razorbill Alca torda 47
Puffin Fratercula arctica 6
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 6
Auk sp. 131

Terrestrial Birds:
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Presumed Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 4

We were smoothly transferred onto the Seatruck Progress and made welcome by the crew.  Conditions suggested the survey might be fairly productive, and leaving the Mersey some initial excitement was provided by a Grey Seal and four diminutive Little Gull.  A small group of Common Scoter headed across the front of the boat off the Sefton Coast.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 09The expected seabirds were seen as we headed along the North Wales coast, though Harbour Porpoise were conspicuous by their absence.  Eventually a cetacean was seen, a Common Dolphin with so brief a view that Melissa didn't see it.  As we came close to the Irish coast a couple of Puffin were a very welcome addition to the survey list.  Brent Geese were seen entering Dublin harbour.

We docked early evening and had a pleasant evening in Dublin, including excellent hospitality in the room kindly provided by Jury's Inn at their Parnell Street hotel.  

The conditions for the return sailing on the Seatruck Power were calmer than some weather forecasts had suggested and we had renewed optimism for the crossing.

Leaving Dublin a rather distant Great Northern Diver was nevertheless a very welcome addition to the survey list.  The lack of cetaceans was becoming something of a concern, eventually though Melissa picked up a couple of splashes ahead of the boat.  These proved to be a couple of Common Dolphin that eventually lingered close to the boat offering decent views.

Red throated diver by MBWe saw several feeding seabird groups.  Each time we looked hard for cetaceans, and were eventually rewarded with several porpoise sightings.  The bird list was further augmented as we neared Liverpool when a single Red-throated Diver lifted off the sea in front of the boat.

All in all it was a successful survey, particularly given a relative lack of seabirds in the Irish Sea during and following the winter storms.  We are very grateful to Seatruck and Jury's Inns for their ongoing assistance on this route.

Stephen Dunstan and Melissa Goulton - Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 13th - 14th March 2014

Posted 21 March 2014

Lee Slater and Sian Egerton - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions westbound:     Sea state 0-1; Wind NW-E
Conditions eastbound:     Sea state 3-5; Wind SW-W

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 8

Seabirds:
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 16
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 11
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 106
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 4
Black-headed Gull Croicephalus ridibundus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 32
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 32
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 40
Guillemot Uria aalge 206
Razorbill Alca torda 95
Auk sp. 45
Gull sp. 43

Terrestrial Birds:
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 4
Passerine sp. 4

I arrived at Liverpool docks in good time and was kindly given a pre-survey cup of tea from the Seatruck office team.  It was here where I met Sian and when our mugs were empty we were briskly escorted on to the Seatruck Power.  Once aboard a further complimentary meal was provided and shortly afterwards we were taken to the bridge, where the crew warmly greeted us as we unpacked our equipment.

Gannet LSThe weather conditions for this leg were extremely contradictory, with the sea being mirror calm but a thick fog limiting visibility.  Various coastal birds flew over the entrance to the Mersey with a range of gull species gliding out of the fog and some Cormorant resting on every structure that protruded from the sea's surface.

The first marine mammals of the survey were quickly spotted with three Grey Seal lazily resting on the bank.  With the calm seas we were able to spot any break in the surface for the first 1500m and we had multiple sightings of more Grey Seal with a total of 8 being recorded for this survey.  As the vessel ventured further into the Irish Sea more pelagic bird species were observed, with increasing number of Fulmar and Kittiwake.  As the light diminished we returned to the passenger lounge to enjoy another fantastic meal as the vessel neared Dublin harbour.

After a refreshing night's rest kindly provided by Jury's Inn we headed back to the harbour the following morning and on to the Power's sister boat the Progress, hopeful of cetaceans.  The fog from the outward journey had dissipated, but the wind and swell had significantly risen.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01aA steady stream of Gannet, Razorbill and Guillemot were recorded from the first section of this leg.  An hour into our survey we had the only cetacean sighting as a Harbour Porpoise swiftly emerged close to the bow, but it only broke the surface twice before retreating away from the ship.  We did have good bird numbers and the first Manx Shearwater that I'd seen this year was a personal highlight.  The Seatruck Progress arrived in Liverpool ahead of schedule when we gather up our forms, thanked the crew, and returned to Liverpool in good spirits after a successful survey.

I would like to thank the Captain, crew and staff of Seatruck Ferries for their hospitality and continued support, as well as to the friendly staff at Jury's Inn for the nights' accommodation.   

Lee Slater and Sian Egerton - Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 6th - 7th February 2014

Posted 10 February 2014

Stephen Dunstan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions westbound: Wind 2-4
Conditions eastbound: Wind 3-5

Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2


Seabirds:
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 17
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 108
Gannet Morus bassanus 4
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 106
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 59
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 98
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 139
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 65
Guillemot Uria aalge 51
Razorbill Alca torda 23
Large gull sp. 53
Auk sp.    8

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01Following a smooth check in I was soon on board the Seatruck Power in conditions that were surprisingly benign given recent storms.  As we navigated the dock a flock of Canada Geese were evident, with 68 birds in total, and a few Turnstone fed on exposed shells as we waited to leave the lock.  Beginning survey effort in earnest as we left the estuary a few gulls began to be seen, including a charming adult Little Gull just beyond the Mersey Bar.

A frustrating glimpse of a porpoise or dolphin was put behind me when a definite Harbour Porpoise was seen passing Anglesey.  In the same area a Great Skua was a welcome addition to the trip list as they are scarce in the Irish Sea at this time of year.  A single Gannet was also recorded whilst Fulmar, Kittiwake and Guillemot were being seen regularly and a few Razorbill were also noted.  Due to the 11.00 departure time, dusk descended whilst we were still at sea.  Following fish and chips on board I disembarked and walked through the port to Jury's Inn Custom House Quay where a free room was kindly provided as part of Jury's ongoing sponsorship.

Day two was sunny and as I walked through the docks there was quite a bit of birdlife including Meadow Pipit and several species of finch.  Adjacent to the Seatruck terminal was a good view of the estuary and among the birds seen were Brent Goose, Great Crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser.

Med gullFollowing another smooth transfer I joined the crew of the Seatruck Power on the bridge.  Leaving Dublin behind an adult Mediterranean Gull was another new species for the trip.  Fulmar were more evident than on the westbound run including a large group around a fishing boat.  The winds picked up during the crossing but despite this a Harbour Porpoise was seen at close range in front of the boat.  Nearing Liverpool two adult Little Gull were seen among the commoner species.

We docked whilst it was still light so a full crossing of observations was made, in glorious sunshine to boot.  Overall it was an enjoyable survey with a very decent range of birds for the time of year and some welcome cetacean records.

Stephen Dunstan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 28th - 29th November 2013

Posted 05 December 2013

John Perry and Colin Gill - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions westbound:     Wind 4 NW; Cloud light and variable
Conditions eastbound:     Wind 6-8 NW; Cloud light and variable

Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Seabirds:
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 3
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 45
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 22
Gannet Morus bassanus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 132
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 78
Common Gull Larus canus 20
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 39
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 29
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 93
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 134
Razorbill Alca torda 13

Terrestrial Birds:
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1

FulmarThursday morning dawned bright and clear with light winds, so conditions were therefore ideal for our survey to Dublin.  Our tickets were rapidly issued by the efficient Seatruck staff and we were then driven to the very modern "Seatruck Progress", where the purser provided us with a filling breakfast.  We were then welcomed to the bridge by Captain Eoin O'Doherty.

Once in the Mersey Estuary our recording began with large numbers of Cormorant as well as a range of coastal gulls and two flocks of Common Scoter.  A solitary Grey Seal was spotted as we passed the Mersey Bar.

Further offshore we started to see Kittiwake, Fulmar and Guillemot as well as a few Razorbill.

With dusk fast approaching we thanked the Captain for his hospitality and left the bridge to start collating the day's entries.

After leaving "Seatruck Progress" we took a taxi to Jury's Inn, opposite Christchurch Cathedral where we were generously provided with a comfortable complementary room.  Jury's Inn's generosity was very much appreciated and after a pleasant night in Temple Bar, we retired for a peaceful night's rest.

The following morning was noticeably windier than the day before.  We took a taxi to the terminal where we boarded the newly commissioned "Seatruck Power".  After an excellent breakfast we were met by Captain Daly who made sure we had everything we needed for the return survey.

Red Throated DiverAs we left the harbour we saw two Black Guillemot, looking outstanding in their beautiful winter plumage, and also a young Grey Seal.  As we travelled east into Dublin Bay it became clear that the increase in wind speed was reflected in the sea state and unlike on the outward journey, we no longer had a flat calm sea.  Nonetheless, we still picked up a number of gulls and auks as well as a Great Skua and a Gannet.  Despite the wind and sea state, the ship was very comfortable and we thoroughly enjoyed the survey.

As the light began to fade we thanked the Captain and his crew for their hospitality and ended the survey. We would like to thank Seatruck and Jury's Inns for their continued support for this important survey route.

John Perry and Colin Gill - Research Surveyors for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 31st October -1st November 2013

Posted 03 November 2013

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions westbound:     Wind 5-8 SW; sea state 6; visibility fair/good
Conditions eastbound:     Wind 3-4 mostly W/SW; sea state 4; visibility fair/good

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 4
Gannet Morus bassanus 57
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 324
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 8
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Croicephalus ridibundus 51
Common Gull Larus Canus  19
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 37
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 10
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 34
Guillemot Uria aalge 40
Auk sp. 45
Gull sp. 844

Terrestrial birds during survey effort
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 9

The Seatruck Progress left Liverpool at 13.45 after some delay due to the previous day's inclement weather.  However, conditions seemed to have improved considerably when we finally got under way and hazy sunshine greeted us as we negotiated the sea lock and turned into the main channel of the Mersey.  I had found, at the last moment, that I would be doing the survey alone since my erstwhile partner had encountered problems en-route to Liverpool.

Harbour Porpoise Peter Howlett 01The usual hordes of Cormorant and gulls lined the sandbanks along the Crosby shoreline, augmented this time by Oystercatcher, Curlew and about fifty Dunlin, while beyond the wind turbines into open sea, there were Kittiwake and Gannet.

The highlights of the relatively brief outward leg were a lone Fulmar and a pair of Manx Shearwater, the latter borne along by a brisk south-westerly wind and almost clipping the surface of the sea with their wingtips as they went.

By 16.45 the light was failing and it had started raining, so I called a halt and retired to the mess for a welcome cup of tea and some dinner.  The Progress lived up to its name and we docked a little ahead of our revised arrival time, after which I spent a very comfortable night in the splendidly appointed Jury's Inn Custom House Hotel.

The next morning the weather had improved beyond all recognition and we departed Dublin in calm seas.  A Grey Seal rolled only fifty metres in front of our bows as we turned left our berth, surely a good omen!

ShagThings were quiet at first even though observing conditions were good.  I knew it wouldn't be long before a cetacean made an appearance and, sure enough, I eventually spotted a Harbour Porpoise three hundred metres ahead and moving to starboard.  I have found that this "one o'clock" position is a prime area to spot porpoises.  Being quite shy, they seem to veer off to the side at around the three hundred metre mark ahead of the oncoming ship and so I have learned to keep a sharp eye on this zone when scanning.  The animal surfaced just once, its distinctive triangular dorsal fin cleaving the surface briefly before it made a lengthy dive.

I came across two more Manx Shearwater (surely not the same two as the previous day?), a Fulmar and a Great Skua.  Nearer the mouth of the Mersey, Gannet were around, as were a few Common Guillemot.  The day ended with a group of eight Shag skimming low across the surface of the sea, their stumpy tails and shorter necks marking them out from the much more common Cormorant.

A big thank you finally to the captains and crew on both legs whose friendly assistance made the job of surveying "solo" relatively easy.

Steve Morgan - Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 26th-27th September 2013

Posted 02 October 2013

Lee Slater - Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions: Westbound 2-4 WSW-NW; Eastbound 1-2 ESE-EN

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 17
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5

Seabirds:
Red-throated Loon Gavia stellate 1
Black-throated Loon Gavia arctica 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 25
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 76
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 109
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 1
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 16
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Common Gull Larus Canus 145
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 87
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 12
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 21
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 44
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 414
Razorbill Alca torda 84
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Auk sp. 3
Gull sp. 3

Terrestrial birds during survey effort
Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 2
Swallow Hirundo rustica 9    
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4
Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus 2
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 1
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 1
Passerine sp. 1

I arrived at Liverpool docks in good time and was swiftly escorted from the terminal to my roomy cabin on board the 'Seatruck Progress'. I was kindly supplied with a hearty breakfast which I enjoyed as the ship slipped out of the dock and in to the River Mersey. The conditions looked reasonably promising and a member of staff promptly accompanied me to the bridge.  The captain and crew welcomed me as I organized my forms and began surveying.

Calm seas leaving DublinThe mouth of the Mersey provided an array of coastal birds, including Herring Gull soaring in front of the bridge and Cormorant covering any structure that protruded from the sea's surface.  I quickly had my first mammal with a large male Grey Seal swimming idly in front of the bow.  Soon after, my attention was drawn to some bird activity on the starboard side where I saw the promising sight of gulls arguing and diving.  A dark shape emerged from the epicentre of the activity and I was hoping for a cetacean, but another Grey Seal popped up and watched bemused as a Great Black-backed Gull flew off with his bounty.  

I recorded another two Grey Seal as we ventured further in to the Irish Sea. Shortly afterwards I saw the avian highlight of the first leg, a young Red-throated Diver, that gracefully passed by on the port side.

Half way through the crossing we hit a large fog bank that reduced visibility.  The rain and condensation on the bridge windows made surveying troublesome and I had to shift my attentions to looking out over the starboard side.  This turned out to be a lucky move as I picked out three Harbour Porpoise being closely tracked by a small group of Gannet.  The evening light descended and I left the bridge and went to enjoy another fantastic meal, as we drifted in to Dublin port where I was safely escorted off the ship and out of the terminal.

Never having visited Dublin before, I was keen to go and explore the city.  Luckily my visit coincided with Arthur's Day and the city was therefore alive and vibrant, so I enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere before returning to my hotel room generously provided by Jury's Inn.  After a comfortable night I returned to the port to board the 'Seatruck Power' and breakfast before being escorted to the bridge.

Common Dolphin Biscay 2005-1loThe conditions coming out of Dublin were a stark contrast to the previous day with the sun shining and the sea calm.  As I was sorting my recording forms the captain alerted me to the presence of a large group of feeding seabirds.  I desperately searched the edges of these gatherings for any fins penetrating the surface, but cetaceans temporarily remained elusive.    

However, I didn't have to wait long and very quickly a group of diving Gannet revealed the presence of two feeding Harbour Porpoise, and I then recorded a pair of Harbour Porpoise every half hour for the first two hours of the survey.  There was a period of rapid sightings as I was counting Guillemot, when initially a Grey Seal popped up, followed by yet another Harbour Porpoise surfacing some 100 metres behind the seal.  As I was recording all these sightings, a pair of Common Dolphin flashed across the bow of the ship!

Guillemot and Gannet sightings were constant throughout the return leg, and I luckily I had another diver species as a Black-throated Diver appeared.  I left the bridge thanking the captain and crew and retired to the passenger lounge to enjoy my dinner as the ship docked in Liverpool.  

I would like to thank the crew and staff of Seatruck ferries for their hospitality and to the friendly staff at Jury's inn for the nights' accommodation in Dublin.   

Lee Slater - Research Surveyor for MARINElife

MARINElife Survey Report: Liverpool-Dublin 'MV Seatruck Progress & Seatruck Power' 29th-30th August 2013

Posted 03 September 2013

Anna Bunney and Steve Morgan - Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions:  Visibility good both Outward and Inward passages; Sea state varied between 1 and 4.

Summary of Sightings:

Cetaceans and mammals:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 25
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 11
Botttlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates 13
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 6

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1337
Gannet Morus bassanus 104
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 202
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 172
Common Gull Larus Canus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 139
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 40
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Little Gull Rissa tridactyla 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 184
Guillemot Uria aalge 382
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Tern sp. 130
Auk sp. 219
Gull sp. 180

Terrestrial birds during survey effort
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Feral Pigeon Columba livia 1
Dunlin Calidris alpina     1

We arrived in Liverpool in good time and were welcomed aboard the 'Seatruck Progress', where as soon as we had finished breakfast we were shown up to the bridge to begin our survey as we entered the Mersey.  

Common Dolphin Biscay 2005-1loWe left the harbour with fine, still conditions and started to spot lots of terns, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black Backed Gull.  Grey Seal were spotted hauled out on a sand bank and also bottling in the water.  

During the crossing we came across huge rafts of Manx Shearwater and Guillemot on the water.  As we got closer to Dublin, three Bottlenose Dolphin were seen briefly surfacing in front of the boat, and then three clear sightings of Harbour Porpoise.  As we approached the harbour, good numbers of Cormorant were seen perching on the buoys.

Following a comfortable night's sleep kindly provided by Jury's Inn, we were excited to start our second days surveying and the sea conditions were perfect; flat and calm.  As we were telling the captain that we were very hopeful for more cetacean sightings, Anna spotted a Harbour Porpoise surfacing regularly very close to the ship just behind the captain!  This sighting was the first of eight Harbour Porpoise that we saw just past Dublin harbour.  

Rissos 2Good numbers of Guillimot, Gannet and Manx Shearwater started our first seabird sightings of the day.  A large area of splashing caught Steve's eye in front of the boat, which turned out to be a pod of fifteen Common Dolphin, and we had a spectacular sighting of these swimming and leaping out of the water as they travelled towards the boat.  As soon as we lost sight of this pod, Anna spotted another pod of Common Dolphin.  These animals were also very active, providing us with amazing views as they leapt and jumped out of the water as they swam towards and then across the front of the boat.  

A group of Bottlenose Dolphin were seen briefly on the port side of the boat, and one single Risso's Dolphin was also spotted vertically leaping clean out of the water.

In this amazing hour of cetacean sightings, all were associated with large numbers of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and auks.

The seabird sightings continued on for the rest of the survey, with good numbers of Gannet, Fulmar, Kittiwake, and gulls.

Thank you to the friendly Seatruck staff and crew for all of their generous hospitality and interest in the surveys.

Anna Bunney and Steve Morgan - Research Surveyors for MARINElife