Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound: Frequent showers, sea-state 3-4, wind force 3-4 SSW, visibility poor.
Return: Generally dry/decreasing cloud, sea state 3-4, wind force 3-4 SSW, visibility good.
Summary of Sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 446
Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 110
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 11
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 28
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 361
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 41
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 237
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 10
Puffin Fratercula arctica 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 225
Razorbill Alca torda 137
Auk sp. 297
I had a smooth and relatively short journey from Blackpool to Heysham port, and the friendly shore staff soon transferred me across to the Seatruck Panorama, where I was equally quickly resting in my cabin ahead of an early start.
I made my way to the bridge shortly before 06.00. The forecasts had been a bit mixed, and in the event the force 4 winds were a little too strong for picking out cetaceans easily. Things were further complicated by a number of showers interrupting visibility, but nevertheless a few Puffin were seen on the water as well as the more expected Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar, Razorbill and Guillemot. As is often the case at this time of the year a number of the auks had a juvenile bird in tow.
As we approached Dublin the winds dropped a little and I was able to pick out a couple of Harbour Porpoise in front of the vessel.
Three adult Mediterranean Gull were added to the tally as well as Cormorant, Shag, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull before I left the bridge as the Seatruck Panorama entered the harbour.
I caught up with a bit of sleep, did a bit of data entry, and had a bit of lunch while we were unloading and reloading in Dublin, and after the Panorama had left the harbour I resumed the survey from the bridge. It was generally very similar to the outbound leg, with conditions too choppy to pick out cetaceans.
However, the seabirds were more productive due to a couple of large feeding flocks being seen, while the undoubted highlight was a Balearic Shearwater as we passed halfway between the Isle of Man and Anglesey.
Guillemot with fledgling (Rob Petley-Jones)
Manx Shearwater (Peter Howlett)
Balearic Shearwater (Tom Brereton)