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