MARINElife blog: Seatruck ‘Clipper Point’ Heysham-Dublin 29 November 2016

Rob Petley-Jones and Mike Ducket, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Weather:
Outward: Wind Variable force 1; Sea State 2; Visibility 6
Return: Wind Variable force 1; sea state 0-2; Visibility 6

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 13
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Seabirds:
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 24
Gannet Morus bassanus 9
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 9
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 32
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 98
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 18
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus graellsii 1
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 606
Common Gull Larus canus 110
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 417
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 65
Razorbill Alca torda 8
Unidentified auk sp. 36
Unidentified gull sp. 18

It was good to be back on the Clipper Point and, late in the evening though it was, we were warmly welcomed on board by Captain Tim Broughton.  This was Mike's first Marinelife survey so we had a chat over a cup of tea about the various survey protocols, before heading for our cabins for a good night's sleep as the ship eased out into a calm Irish Sea.

Sunrise at 08.15 found us on the bridge looking over a nicely calm seascape, all ready to find our first cetacean of the day.  The forecast was for the slight winds to drop even further, promising good spotting conditions as the day progressed.

Common Gull Rob Petley-Jones 01Despite the excellent viewing conditions, wildlife activity was quiet until we were closing with the Irish coast where we finally managed sightings of four individual Harbour Porpoise.  With the very light winds many of the birds were just sitting about on the water, but as we sailed into Dublin Port a steady stream of Common Gull and Black-headed Gull passed by, together with a small number of Mediterranean Gull.

After a welcome lunch, we spent the period in port by watching for wildlife around the Seatruck berth.  As the tide reached its height, a small number of Black Guillemot and Shag and a solitary Great Crested Grebe were fishing with some success in the adjacent tidal pools, while four Grey Seal loafed around in the main shipping channel, despite the passage of several large vessels!

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 01With the evenings drawing in early this time of year, a slightly early departure from the Seatruck berth guaranteed an extended period of recording.  With the wind dropping away to virtually nothing we were treated to a golden period of perfect viewing conditions, with several excellent sightings of Harbour Porpoise including a wonderful view of three adults and a calf slowly swimming away from the passing ship, bathed in late autumn sunshine.

Two sightings of Great Northern Diver flying past the bow of the ship were memorable, while a steady stream of Fulmar sightings in the deepening dusk brought an end to a short but very satisfying day of sea-watching.

 

Our thanks as ever to Captain Tim Broughton and his crew for the warmth and friendliness of their welcome, and to Seatruck for their continued generous support for this valuable work by the Marinelife Research teams.

 

Photos:

Common Gull (Rob Petley-Jones)
Fulmar (Rob Petley-Jones)