Stephen Dunstan and Sam Harper-Barber; Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)
Westbound: W 2-3, Eastbound SW 2-5
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 324
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 210
Gannet Morus bassanus 66
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 3
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 30
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 16
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii 1
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 51
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 146
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 530
Razorbill Alca torda 538
Auk Sp. 154
Swallow Hirundo rustica 2
The ships departure was later than scheduled due to tides, so I took the scenic route from home in Blackpool through the villages of Over Wyre. There was a large flock of Pink-footed Geese at Pilling, and I picked out a Tundra Bean Goose among them to get the day off to a good start.
We arrived at Heysham terminal in good time and having booked in, made our way across to the Clipper Ranger, retired to our cabins for some sleep before an early morning start.
Unfortunately when he went up to the bridge at dawn we were met with thick fog which persisted for some time. Eventually it did begin to lift, and when it did, highlights of the outward leg included a dark phase Arctic Skua harrying a juvenile Kittiwake and three separate Harbour Porpoise sightings including an adult and calf.
Although no passerine migrants were grounded on the vessel, during the fog we did see a couple of Swallow battling south over the waves after it cleared. As we approached the port of Dublin several Mediterranean Gull were appreciated if largely expected these days, whilst all the ferries were dwarfed by a large cruise liner arriving for the day.
Our return crossing began with much better visibility, but there was a fair breeze up initially and we didn't see any cetaceans throughout the return leg. We were however privileged to see three separate Storm Petrel pattering across the water among other seabirds. The fifth Arctic Skua of the trip was the first pale morph we had seen, and there were good numbers of Fulmar as well with over 300 being seen over the whole survey.
Thanks are due to the captain and crew of the Clipper Ranger for making us feel very welcome during our survey. The rain duly ceased as we left the berth, and the rest of the survey was blessed with slight to calm seas, which allowed for very productive surveying.
Dark phase Arctic Skua (Graham Ekins)
Fulmar (Pete Howlett)