MARINElife blog: Seatruck ‘Clipper Point’ Heysham-Dublin 30 January 2018

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

Outward Conditions: Wind: SW, force 2-5; Sea State: 3-1; Swell: 1-2; Visibility: clear
Return Conditions: Wind: WSW; SW Force 1-4; Sea State: 1-3; Swell: 1; Visibility: clear

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena1
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 8
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 10
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 548
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 127
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 19
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 316
Razorbill Alca torda 10
Large gull sp. 22
Auk sp. 71

Terrestrial birds at sea:
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Teal Anas crecca 61

Birds at Dublin Port:
Pale-breasted Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota 9
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 6
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 6
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix 4

This being my first survey I was pleased to find that I was with Rob who is very familiar with this route, the ships, and captains. We boarded the vessel at 23:00 ready for an 02:00 sailing, and had a brief chat to plan the next day before turning in. Seatruck kindly allocate two cabins and we slept soundly until 07:00. After breakfast we went up to the bridge and introduced ourselves to the Chief Officer, ready to start our recordings at 08:00, which was the earliest time that we had enough light to make definitive identifications.

We had a crossing that was smooth and clear, and although the sea state was a bit too ruffled to pick up cetaceans on our way to Dublin we were rewarded by lots of sightings of sea birds.


Pale-bellied Brent Geese Rob Petley-Jones 01In particular, there were lots of auks, mostly Guillemot, skimming the waves as they flew south westerly. We enjoyed a few excellent close-up views of Gannet and as we approached Dublin the numbers of Common Gull and Black-headed Gull increased dramatically. There were particularly large numbers at the confluence of waters from the River Liffey and the sea.

The cargo ferry port is too far out of Dublin city to go into town, so we rested up, had a good lunch and from the outer deck watched the birds in the harbour.  Several Great Crested Grebe looked resplendent with their white necks and a flock of Pale-bellied Brent Geese enjoyed splashing about in puddles with a collection of gulls.

Med Gull Peter Howlett 02On leaving Dublin there were large numbers of gulls and a sizeable flock of Teal by the outfall from the power station. We were lucky enough to also identify two Mediterranean Gull as we passed the Red Lighthouse.

Our return journey was a lovely smooth crossing with white horses flecking the wave tops.  We were however rewarded with sightings of a Grey Seal, a Harbour Porpoise and two Common Dolphin.  The dolphin and porpoise hurried on their way but the Grey Seal was lying in the water, 30m to starboard as we passed, as though he didn't have a care in the world.

Our thanks once again to Captain Paul Matthews, his officers and crew, as well as to Seatruck for letting us undertake this survey.



Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Dublin Port (Rob Petley-Jones)
Mediterranean Gull (Peter Howlett)