MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Warrenpoint 'MV Clipper Point & Panorama' 13 - 14 October 2011

Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, MARINElife Research Surveyors
Weather: Outbound - ESE 1-3; Overcast: Return - S 2-3; Bright

Cetaceans and mammals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 34
Harbour (Common) Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Otter Lutra lutra 1 (Seen in Warrenpont Harbour prior to boarding ship)

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 22
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 92
Gannet Morus bassanus 333
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 616
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 41
Whooper Swan Cygnus cygnus 14 (at sea on migration)
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 28
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 11
Arctic (Parasitic) Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 3
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Unidentified Skua sp 1
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 195
Common Gull Larus canus 134
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 208
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 81
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 45
Little Gull Larus minutus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 742
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2
Unidentified Large Gull Sp. 13
Unidentified mixed Gull spp. 165
Guillemot Uria aalge 586
Razorbill Alca torda 178
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Unidentified Auk sp. 9 

Terrestrial Birds
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 33 (mudflats at Heysham)
Lapwing Vanellus vanellus 3 (at sea)
Knot Chalidris canutus 1237 (mudflats at Heysham)
Dunlin Chalidris alpine 135 (mudflats at Heysham)
Redshank Tringa tetanus 2 (mudflats at Heysham)
Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Unidentified Lark sp. 8 (at sea)
Unidentified Pipit sp. 39 (at sea)
Unidentified Warbler sp. 1 (at sea)
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 25 (at sea)
Unidentified Finch sp. 5 (at sea)
Unidentified small Passerine sp. 4 (at sea)

Thursday 13th October: Heysham to Warrenpoint onboard Clipper Point.

We were welcomed aboard the 'Clipper Point' by the friendly crew, who sat us down to a full English breakfast.  We then climbed to the bridge to begin our survey.

We left harbour with fine, still conditions.  Bird recording began with mixed gulls feeding around the power station outfall, including a solitary Little Gull.  As we got further out to sea we began to see Kittiwakes and Gannets in good numbers, and towards the Isle of Man, our first Manx Shearwaters appeared.  These birds move off into the Atlantic to over-winter and so their numbers are much fewer than last month.   

Great Skua 3

There were some exciting views of Great Skua's chasing Kittiwakes to rob them of their catches, with Pomarine and Arctic Skua seen later on in the voyage.  Mid way across we finally had what we had we were waiting for - a brief glimpse of two dolphins!

There was a noticeable passage of small passerines, including pipits, larks and finches, and a solitary warbler that landed in front of the bridge window, but these sightings were so brief that full identification was difficult.

As we entered Carlingford Lough at low tide we had fine close views of Grey Seals hauled up on the islands, with one Common Seal and one final new bird for the day, a Red-throated Diver.

Friday 14th October: Warrenpoint to Heysham onboard Clipper Panorama.

After a good night's sleep in a B&B, our walk back to the 'Clipper Panorama' was rewarded with a close view of an otter feeding amongst the seaweed on the shore, quite oblivious to the hectic lorry movements going on not a hundred metres away.  As we left the harbour behind, Warrenpoint was illuminated by the sunshine and looked a beautiful and tranquil place. 

Common Dolphin 3

Almost immediately we saw our red-throated diver again, and as we left the Lough our insect record for the trip landed on the window - an Angleshades moth!

The return voyage had more choppy seas, but we saw two Common Dolphins in very nearly the same location as on our outward trip.  A group of Harbour Porpoises gave some good views as they surfaced several times in a heavy swell.

Three rather lost looking lapwings were sighted well out to sea, heading south as best they could.  Also moving south was a flight of Whooper Swans. These birds are of particular concern in the Irish Sea as their migration path runs through the vast wind farm development that is underway.  The MARINElife survey will help monitor any population changes.

As we approached Heysham, we were rewarded with spectacular clouds of Knot wheeling over the mudflats, and had close views of Little Gulls and two lovely red-beaked Mediterranean Gulls near the power station.  

Overall we had a very productive survey and are most grateful to the Seatruck Ferries staff and crews for their hospitality.

Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife