Sightings Archives: May 2017

MARINElife blog: Seatruck ‘Clipper Point’ Heysham-Dublin 9 May 2017

Posted 19 May 2017

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

Wind: E-NE force 2-0; Sea State: 2-0; Visibility: clear

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 10
Common dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 3
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Seal sp. 1

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 214
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 255
Gannet Morus bassanus 266
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 8
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 29
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 69
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 849
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 234
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 13
Guillemot Uria aalge 1026
Razorbill Alca torda 60
Tern sp. 15
Auk sp. 143
Gull sp. 240

Terrestrial Birds:
Dunlin Calidris alpina 3
Curlew Numenius arquata 6
Wader sp.  7
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 2
Swift Apus apus 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 9

Other Marine Wildlife:
Barrel Jellyfish Rhizostoma octopus 18

We were on board and in our cabins very swiftly, and prepared for an early start at 05.30 with the dawn.  The master for this trip was Captain Peeran Dhatigara who welcomed us very warmly to the bridge and enthusiastically shared information about cetacean sightings he had experienced in his career.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 13We were up on the bridge by 06.00 and were immediately recording seabirds with several Fulmar, Gannet and Manx Shearwater recorded. There was much bird activity throughout the crossing to Dublin, but we were treated to large numbers of Guillemot and a good number of Razorbill as we approached the Irish coast.  These were passing in large flights low over the water and we wondered why so many birds were still away from their breeding sites.

Harbour Porpoise sightings were low despite the increasingly calm sea conditions but a small pod of Common Dolphin was a pleasure to see, especially as there were two small calves closely following their mothers.

Black Guillemot Rob Petley-Jones 01Some terrestrial migrants were also seen, including numbers of Swallow, a single Swift and a small flock of Dunlin.  As we approach the port, numbers of Common Tern were recorded as they flew out to their feeding grounds from the nesting islands at the entrance to the port, and a small number of Black Guillemot buzzed about from pier to lighthouse and back.  Very large numbers of Kittiwake were massed at the power station outfall and again we wondered at so many birds being yet to move to their breeding sites.

A restful few hours in port allowed for us to have a hearty lunch and catch up on some sleep.  Before leaving we enjoyed some close views of Black Guillemot as they played around the bow of the ship, while a Tree Pipit serenaded us from its song perch close to the bustle of the busy container waggons.

Barrel Jellyfish Rob Petley-Jones 01The return trip was very much the same as the outward trip in reverse, with large numbers of auks just out from Dublin, and regular encounters with Kittiwake and Gannet throughout the voyage.  There were far more Fulmar on this leg of the voyage, with most sitting out the increasingly calm conditions and near absent wind on the flat calm sea surface.  A flock of Curlew was seen flying north towards the Isle of Man, but a pair of Collared Dove flying past the bridge halfway to Anglesey was surprising.

Despite perfect spotting conditions Harbour Porpoise sightings were surprising few but a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphin under a feeding group of Gannet and Manx Shearwater was very satisfying.  As we passed into the sheltered seas north of Anglesey we began to see numbers of large Barrel Jellyfish, ranging in colour from brown through orange to pale yellow with frilly blue arms trailing behind!

Common Dolphin (Peter Howlett)
Black Guillemot (Rob Petley-Jones)
Barrel Jellyfish (Rob Petley-Jones)