Sunday, 25 August 2013

Glad we wore our lucky socks

The Safari had a marine safari yesterday on the ferry ship Stena Mersey from Birkenhead to Belfast doing a MARINElife survey. We had a few 'hopes' and to bring them closer we'd worn our lucky 'Wolfy' socks. Even before the survey proper had started we were watching a Harbour Porpoise in the river while the boat was maneuvering away from the dock! 
We had a  short wait in the river while the Star Harmony  was piloted in, all 59,000 tons of her had come from Algeria carrying who knows what
Terns from the local nature reserve kept our survey sheet ticking over and had attracted the attention of an Arctic Skua. Apologies for duff pics ferry windows aren't the cleanest nor angled conveniently for wildlife photography.
Similar pics were taken of Manx Shearwaters
until we got a better one.
Gannets regularly crossed our path too.
Not far in to our voyage we had a small number of Little Gulls but once out in to the more open sea things quietened down a bit. It was very choppy in the brisk headwind making finding any of the local Harbour Porpoises very tricky indeed, indeed we didn't! Nor did we see the three Bottle Nosed Dolphins that have been hanging round the coast for a couple of days now.
We were about to grab a coffee for team-mate OM after we passed the Isle of Man when things picked up. The wind dropped and the sea was suddenly filled with  easy to see Harbour Porpoises; so many that for a while were rushed off our feet totally underestimating large rafts of Guillemots as we struggled to keep up with the Harbour Porpoise sightings until these were out-done by three Common Dolphins! These in turn were out-done by an Ocean Sunfish flopping along in front of us...ohh the lucky socks were working big-time!!! Not to be out-done by a mere fish the birds decided to lap to the fore when a Swallow flew in front of the bow followed by a Sand Martin, we then realised that it would now be easy to pick up any Storm Petrels which might be lurking with ranks of Manx Shearwaters and Guillemots. A Great Skua (173 - first year bird for a while) sat nonchalantly watching us pass on the very still sea and then we saw our hoped for lifer. A tiny black dot in the distance surrounded by much larger Manx Shearwaters was indeed a Storm Petrel (174) - at long last! Thank you lucky socks; we have now seen every regularly breeding species of bird in the British Isles...happy days!
Harbour Porpoises continued to be seen and in the end we had recorded nearly 40 of them. Approaching Belfast large numbers of terns were seen again and they had also attracted the attentions of more Arctic Skuas.
In the harbour beyond the dock 31 Harbour (= Common) Seals were hauled out on the seaweed stewn rocks.
Also in the dock was the wind farm building ship/rig the Pacific Orca which we've watched at work on the horizon from Patch 2. Looks like it's loading up for another trip out to the windfarms.
We slept on board for the return journey and weren't able to an early morning session before docking as it was still too dark as we approached Birkenhead. 
Much more details on our sightings will be on the MARINElife website in the near future.
On the way back to Base Camp we have to pass the home of the Gods.
All great stuff, looking forward to our next survey whenever that may be. We have the small matter of yet another hand operation coming up in the next three weeks which will curtail safaring for a few weeks...we'll see how it's holding up next year before we commit to anything away from home.
Our Extreme Photographer called round on his way back from somewhere at lunchtime and we took Frank to Patch 1 for a mooch - turned out to be a good decision, lots of inverts were about in the warm sunshine. Here's a selection of what we found.
A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours in the sunshine, proving the wildlife on your doorstep is just as exciting and interesting as a sea full of cetaceans and other wonderful stuff.
Where to next? Not sure what might be happening tomorrow might be a chance to have a look at a reserve a little further away or buy curtains - yikes hope not!
In the meantime let us know what creeping and crawling around your outback.


Heather Wilde said...

What a fabulous blog post. Just a little envious over the Storm Petrol.

Anonymous said...

oooh...i`m very envious that you got see a Sunfish, Dave. Nice one.

Warren Baker said...

Lucky socks eh ?
Where can one purchase such items Davyman, I need said socks to increase the chance of a Red Back shrike appearing hear :-)

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Primart apparently Warren