MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Dublin 'Clipper Ranger' 29th March 2016

Rob and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Outward - Wind WSW 2-3; Sea State 3 decreasing 1; Visibility 6
Return: Wind SW 2-4; sea state 1 increasing to 2; Visibility 6

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 21
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 105
Gannet Morus bassanus 37
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 28
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 23
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 10
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 166
Common Gull Larus canus 111
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 552
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 473
Razorbill Alca torda 132
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 14
Unidentified large gull sp. 1
Unidentified auk sp. 27

Terrestrial Birds at sea:
Knot Calidris canutus 20
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 7
Pipit sp. 8

This was another late Monday night run down to Heysham for me and Jane with an easy transfer to the Clipper Ranger - how can the Seatruck staff and crew be so awake and friendly at 12.30am!  The Ranger is a new vessel for this run with its accommodation stacked all at the stern and with lots of steps to reach the cabins and bridge!  With the clocks having gone forward for British Summer Time a few days before, we were able to sleep well until 07.00 to be on the bridge to start recording by 07.30.

Manx Shearwater RPJ 2It was good to meet Captain Tim Broughton again, having sailed with him on one of the very first Heysham-Warrenpoint runs in 2011.  He and his officers were very welcoming and interested in our work.

The sea state was just too choppy for us to hope for many cetacean sightings, and we saw none on the first leg into Dublin.  However, there was a steady stream of Guillemot and Kittiwake throughout the crossing, with small numbers of Gannet and Fulmar.  A solitary Puffin reminded us how infrequently we see this super little bird out in the Irish Sea, while a welcome first sign of spring came with the first Manx Shearwater of the season.

BH Gull Rob Petley-Jones 01Razorbill numbers steadily built as we approached Dublin - such smart birds!  As we approached the port there were large numbers of Kittiwake, Common Gull and Black-headed Gull by the breakwater, with two smart second year Mediterranean Gull flying past the bridge. Some Cormorant in spectacular breeding plumage were seen around the various lighthouses and a single Red-breasted Merganser and small numbers of Black Guillemot accompanied us towards the Seatruck berth.

After a couple of hours rest when we were entertained by a small flock of Brent Goose and a lazy Grey Seal next to the berthed ship, we slipped out of Dublin port on the return leg.  Despite a steady SW breeze and a powerful swell (courtesy of Storm Katie of the previous day) we did manage to catch brief sightings of two pairs of Harbour Porpoise. A couple of Red-throated Diver and two more Mediterranean Gull flew by at one stage, but generally the return voyage was much as the outward leg, although we were pleased to see many more Manx Shearwater moving steadily north.

Despite our hopes, there were no more cetacean observations with only a solitary Grey Seal to excite us before the light began to fail as we passed the Great Orm far to the south.

Another satisfying survey with Seatruck, and our thanks goes to Captain Tim Broughton and his wonderful crew of the Clipper Ranger for their warm welcome and care throughout the voyage.


Manx shearwater (Rob Petley-Jones)
Black-headed gull (Rob Petley-Jones)