MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Dublin 'Clipper Pace' 19th May 2015

Nik Grounds and Andy Gilbert, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Conditions: Wind NW; Sea State 4-2; Visibility clear

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2    
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6    

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 465
Gannet Morus bassanus 31
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 18
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 338
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 26
Commic Tern Sterna/paradisaea 5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvincensis 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 413
Razorbill Alca torda 58
Auk Sp.    95
Tern sp. 12
Wader sp. 3

This was the very first Marinelife survey on this new route and we were eager to get started when we boarded the Seatruck Pace at Heysham at half past midnight!  After being welcomed by Captain Paul Matthew we quickly settled down to get a few hours sleep in our cabins whilst the ship left port.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 13We were up on the bridge at 5.30am with the Isle of Man in view off the starboard beam.  Visibility was clear but sea state was level 4.  There were good numbers of Manx Shearwater and Kittiwake were spotted throughout the crossing and an Arctic Skua was picked up not long into the survey.  

Around 6.30 am three Common Dolphin appeared on the crest of the waves just in front of the ship before disappearing into the seas.  This was to be the norm as all cetacean sightings throughout the trip were brief and sighted within 300 metres.  Considering the handful that were spotted close to the ship in such a relatively difficult sea state it seems likely that there were good numbers in the Irish Sea on the day, and possibly with better conditions we could have had larger sightings.  The ship's officers spoke about big numbers of dolphins in Dublin Bay the day before!

A Great Skua, some Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Fulmar and another dolphin sighting added to the variety and as we approached Ireland, when some Common Tern and the occasional Sandwich Tern made an appearance.  We passed Dublin breakwater by 11.15am and retired from the bridge to watch several Black Guillemot and terns in the harbour before getting our heads down for a couple of hours.

Sandwich tern RPJAt 2.30pm we were off again and whilst the sea state had reduced a little it was still at level 3.  A number of Sandwich Tern were logged along with another two Common Dolphin and two Harbour Porpoise.  Towards the end of the survey 3 unidentified waders crossed some distance in front of the bow of the ship, but by 9pm visibility had diminished enough to call an end to our watch and we retired for a couple more hours sleep before docking at Heysham at 12.30am.  We were in our cars and heading off home by 1am.

We had an excellent survey and as a new route we both agreed that the ability to complete it in a day made it an interesting one for the future.  It was certainly a long day but there were enough opportunities to catch up with sleep to make it more than achievable.  As always, thanks to Seatruck for supporting our work and to Captain Paul Matthew and his crew for their excellent hospitality.

Nik Grounds and Andy Gilbert, Research Surveyors for MARINElife