MARINElife blog: Seatruck ‘Clipper Pace’ Heysham-Dublin 27 March 2018

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

Outward Conditions: Wind: W 2-3; Sea State: 3; Swell: 1; Visibility: clear
Return Conditions: Wind: WNW 3; SW Force 3-2; Sea State: 1; Swell: 1; Visibility: clear

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 4
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 66
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 30
Gannet Morus bassanus 30
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 39
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 9
Pale-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 221
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 35
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 6
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 4
Common Gull Larus canus 121
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 117
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 24
Guillemot Uria aalge 97
Razorbill Alca torda 31
Large gull sp. 15
Auk sp. 57

Birds at Dublin Port:
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinereal 1
Pale-breasted Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota 18
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 6
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 8
Mixed gulls on distant mudflats 600

Despite arriving at Heysham and boarding the Clipper Pace at past midnight I was still warmly welcomed by Captain Peeran Dhatigara, before turning in for a few hours sleep in my cabin. I was on the bridge by 07.30 after the night's rain had finished and began the survey as the sun broke through. The weather remained reasonably good all day, despite some black storm clouds to north and south, and an occasional sharp shower which produced some spectacular rainbow seascapes!

Black Guillemot Peter Howlett 02The only marine mammals seen on the survey were two Grey Seal loafing off Anglesey on the return leg.  However, there was a steady flow of seabirds on both legs to keep me fully occupied, and the first two Manx Shearwater of the spring were a very welcome sight.  A couple of Sandwich Tern flew past as the Pace approached Dublin and a bevy of Black Guillemot in their smart new spring plumage welcomed us as we approached the Seatruck berth.

As the ship reloaded with trailers I scanned the waters to the north for birds where a Great Crested Grebe and a few Shag were fishing, and small skeins of Pale-bellied Brent Goose were flying around.

The usual large number of Black-headed Gull and Common Gull were at the power station outfall and a few Mediterranean Gull, one in fine breeding plumage, were seen here as the Pace left for the return trip to Hesham. A small number of Great Northern Diver were seen as the Pace headed out into Dublin Bay, while there were more Gannet and Fulmar recorded than on the outward trip.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 04As the light began to decline at 19.00 I was about to bring the survey to a close, when a large but dispersed raft of roosting Fulmar came into view. I decided to continue until these had passed and was further rewarded by a raft of roosting Manx Shearwater before ending the survey half an hour later.

My thanks as ever to Seatruck for allowing us to carry out these valuable surveys, and particularly to Captain Dhatigara and his crew for their warm welcome.

Black Guillemot (Peter Howlett)
Fulmar (Rob Petley-Jones)