Carol Farmer-Wright and Aidan Stonehouse, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outward: Overcast becoming brighter, good visibility with one
period of light rain: wind initially south-westerly turning
south-easterly, wind force 7 decreasing to 4.
Return: Brighter, good visibility throughout: wind direction was West-South-West turning South-Westerly, wind force 4-6.
Summary of sightings:
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 14
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 32
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 7
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 25
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 6
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 21
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 43
Razorbill Alca torda 10
Large gull sp. 58
Diver sp. 2
Auk sp. 9
We boarded the Clipper Point at Heysham at 11.00pm and with the assistance of the experienced Team Leader Carol and the helpful Seatruck crew we quickly acclimatised to the ship's surroundings. As this was to be my first survey as a trainee Carol kindly led a useful refresher on data collection. After getting up to speed on the next day's activities we had a welcome cup of tea and got a few hours' sleep during a relatively smooth overnight crossing.
At first light we took breakfast before making our way directly to the Bridge to begin our survey. In the first hour of surveying we moved through small rolling whitecaps which made cetacean viewing a challenge. The sea state did not trouble our first sightings of Gannet, which circled into view low above the water. Kittiwake, Guillemot and various gull species followed, as well as two Razorbill in winter plumage cutting rapidly across the bow of the ship.
As we moved closer to the Irish coast the sea state became calmer and we scanned for porpoises and dolphins, but the continued ripples made the unobtrusive behaviour of cetaceans difficult to spot. We were rewarded instead with mixed groups of feeding adult and juvenile Herring Gull, as well as several Shag and a lone gliding Fulmar. Finally, just as we pulled into Dublin Port, floating groups of colourful Teal spread below the ship.
As we cruised out of Dublin Port for the return journey, we encountered numerous Shag lining the jettys and spotted a pair of Black Guillemot. For the next three hours we had good visibility and many bird species were seen, including beautiful light Fulmar and many more Guillemot, Gannet and Kittiwake.
Finally, just as the survey was coming to a close, Carol spotted a leaping Short-Beaked Common Dolphin. This individual was quickly revealed to be part of a larger pod of eleven adults and three juveniles all of whom looked fantastic in the waning light. A fitting end to a highly productive survey.
Once again, our thanks go to Seatruck for enabling us to survey on this route, to Master Victors Suharevs and the officers and crew of the Clipper Point, and the shore staff who made this a very fruitful and enjoyable crossing.
Herring Gull juvenile (Peter Howlett)
Shag (Peter Howlett)
Common Dolphin (Sharon Morris)