MARINElife blog: Seatruck ‘Clipper Panorama’ Heysham-Dublin 2 October 2018

Steve Benn and Rob Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Outward: Wind: W 3-4; Sea State: 3; Swell: 1; Visibility: clear
Return: Wind: NW 3-5; Sea State: 3-4; Swell: 1; Visibility: moderate

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1 (in Dublin port)

Red-throated Diver Gavia stallata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 8
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 34
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 11
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Sanderling Calidris alba 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 332
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 7
Common Gull Larus canus 15
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 97
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 3
Razorbill Alca torda 31
Large gull sp. 3
Auk sp. 6

Birds in Dublin Port:
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus 4
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo 1
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus 1
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 1
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 5


I arrived at Heysham in pouring rain for my first ever MARINElife survey with Rob (who was to act as my assessor) at 23.30.  We quickly joined Seatruck's Clipper Panorama and got to our cabins with the help of the stewards and managed a few hours' sleep.


An early start at 06.30 with a good breakfast and then up to the bridge to begin the survey.  Rob was a model instructor (we had previously run through all the forms and protocols) and I was quickly set to work with position and wildlife recording.  The regular 15-minute checks on position, weather and sea state made the time fly by!


Gannet Rob Petley-Jones 03

Our first sighting was of a beautiful adult Gannet - what a welcome!  Sightings of Fulmar, Kittiwake and lone Manx Shearwater soon followed.  The sea state never got better than state 3 so cetacean spotting was going to be difficult.  Nevertheless, Rob still managed to catch two brief views of Harbour Porpoise - I missed them both!


Med Gull Rob Petley-Jones 02As we approached Dublin port we saw a good number of Shag, while there were several winter-plumaged Mediterranean Gull mixed iwith the many Black-headed Gull.  Rob spotted a lone Common Scoter - which I also missed!

A large group of Razorbill flew by, these almost the only auks of the passage, while a Red-throated Diver just by the Green Lighthouse completed the sightings on our first leg.

We were asked to finish the survey as we approached the Green Lighthouse by Captain Uusmaa as he also had a colleague assessment going on. and a clear bridge was required for the dedicate docking procedure at the Seatruck berth!  This meant we could not record the large number of gulls around the power station outfall, and the few Black Guillemot which were buzzing around the shipping lane.


The ever-efficient stewards provided us with a welcome lunch, which we fortified with tea and chocolate biscuits in the drivers' lounge!  We then spend some time watching the skilled efforts of the Dublin stevedores loading the vessel with containers - like a well-coordinated ballet!

While on deck we were entertained by some excellent wildlife sightings.  Most spectacular was a Buzzard being pestered by a Peregrine Falcon - what an exciting sight!  In addition, we watched a Harbour Seal loafing on the shipping lane while a skein of Whooper Swan flew over, followed by a late Sand Martin.

Kittiwake Rob Petley-Jones 03

We left Dublin a little early at 13.30 and managed to count the gulls at the power station outfall, where a solitary Sanderling was also seen.  Although the return leg was quiet we did see a Great Skua while Rob saw a high leaping Bottlenose Dolphin well off the port bow - I saw the splash!


As we headed back to 'Dear Old England' there was a late flurry of activity from several Puffin, Kittiwake and Razorbill as the sun set behind distant clouds over Ireland (Rob even got a photo of the Green Flash!)


Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)
Mediterranean Gull (Rob Petley-Jones)
Kittiwake (Rob Petley-Jones)