MARINElife survey report: Liverpool-Dublin April 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

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.