17th - 18th of October 2015.

MARINElife survey Liverpool to Belfast.

As I arrived at the Birkenhead Stena Line terminal for our survey to Belfast, I met up with fellow surveyor Emma, whom I've surveyed with before. We checked in and were soon transported to the quayside to board the Stena Mersey Ferry. Upon checking in at the quest services desk we were allowcated our cabins. After dropping off our bags and enjoying a quick coffee we were escorted to the bridge and introduced to Captain Neil and his crew who made us feel very welcome.  With an early departure, the Stena Mersey left her berth and we began our survey.

Travelling into the mouth of the Mersey we passed the exposed sandbanks which had numerous Oystercatcher and Cormorant sitting at the water's edge, as well as some Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull feeding around a dredger.  We also observed a large group of Sanderling flying swiftly across the bow.

After passing the breakwater we moved further out into Liverpool Bay where we found a sea state of 3, good visibility, scattered sunshine and a few Gannet sweeping across the waves.  It was not long before the first cetacean sighting was made, a single Harbour Porpoise making a brief appearance ahead of the ship.

Whilst we were taking an effort reading, Captain Neil informed us that the ship would be taking the north route to Belfast, therefore keeping parts of the north-west coast of England visible. We had not expected to see Blackpool Tower and the mighty Big One rollercoaster in our binoculars!

As the ship continued its journey visibility improved to 20km and the eastside of the Isle of Man could be seen in the distance, and with this it brought the second mammal sighting of the day. Here, a group of six Common Dolphin charged through the waves and fed underneath a number of circling and diving Gannet 500 metres off the starboard side.

Reaching the Mull of Galloway, the southernmost point of Scotland and an area known for whales and dolphins, we were hopeful of another sighting and we were not to be disappointed!  We were enjoying views of the beautiful coastline now basking in the afternoon sun when three Common Dolphin surfaced 300 metres ahead of the starboard bow. We were able to observe the animals leaping several times as they travelled towards the headland. During this time a Great Skua made a pass in front of the bridge and many rafting Guillemot were seen.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse
 As we headed towards Belfast Lough a solitary Harbour Porpoise surfaced several times as it moved away from the port side, and just as we thought that was our final sighting of the day we saw lots of Gannets diving.  Amongst this frenzy were eight Harbour Porpoise creating lots of white water as they surfaced to chase their prey.

As the light was quickly fading, we decided to end our survey; so we thanked the crew for their hospitality and left the bridge feeling very happy after a successful trip.

The days cetacean sightings were 9 Common Dolphin and 10 Harbour Porpoise.

Bird sightings were, Gannet, Cormorant, Brent Goose, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Great Skua, Great Black Backed, Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed and Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Guillemot and Razorbill.


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