MARINElife blog: Seatruck ‘Clipper Ranger’ Heysham-Dublin 27th September 2016

Rob and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Weather:
Outward: Wind SW-W force 5-6; Sea State 5; Visibility 4-5 Return: Wind NW force 0-1; sea state 0-1; Visibility 6-5

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 50
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 13
Gannet Morus bassanus 106
Cormorant Phalacorcorax carbo 23
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 30
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 39
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii 5
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 25
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 133
Common Gull Larus canus  4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 22
Puffin Fratercula arctica  3
Guillemot Uria aalge 94
Razorbill Alca torda 17
Large gull Sp. 5
Auk Sp. 15

Terrestrial Birds at sea:
Swallow Hirundo rustica 15
Pipit Sp. 1

 

We had the usual efficient boarding of the Clipper Ranger and a warm welcome from the steward, and we were able to get a nice long sleep before beginning our survey at first light.  Actual survey time on this route begins to shorten significantly at this time of year, so we only had three hours of observation either side of the docking in Dublin.

Initial conditions were less than favourable for wildlife observation and there was a good swell and some strong cross winds which produced a rather lively sea!  A few Gannet, Fulmar and Manx Shearwater sightings were all we had until our approach to Dublin, where a small group of Harbour Porpoise gave us our only cetacean record of the outward crossing.  There was a clear movement of Swallow throughout the crossing as the last of the migrants battled their way south. 

Unusually there were no Black Guillemot at Dublin port, but a steady number of the now established Mediterranean Gull passed by as we eased toward the Seatruck dock.  The sea conditions remained lively right into Dublin port with a strong westerly wind, allowing Master Tim Broughton to show his supreme skill at bringing she ship to its berth!

Med Gull Rob Petley-Jones

Mediterranean Gull (Photo: Rob Petley-Jones) 

How different a few hours can make.  After a welcome lunchtime rest in the cabin we moved out of the berth into a much calmer Dublin Bay, with more sightings of Mediterranean Gull as they flew past the bridge on their way back into Dublin. 

Med Gull 2nd winter Rob Petley-Jones

2nd winter Mediterranean Gull (Photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

Very soon we had a couple more Harbour Porpoise encounters, followed by a brief sighting for Jane of three Common Dolphin.  A few more sightings of late Manx Shearwater and a solitary Grey Seal were the only other highlights of the crossing, and with sightings tailing off we finished the survey as the sun set behind us into a calm Irish Sea.

Our sincere thanks go as ever to the crew of the Clipper Ranger and in particular to Captain Tim Broughton for his ever friendly welcome to his bridge. 

Rob and Jane Petley-Jones,Research Surveyors for MARINElife

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