Stephen Dunstan and Nick Grounds, MARINElife Research
Weather ESE 3-5
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 10
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 6
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 125
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 20
Pintail Anas acuta 1
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 8
Common Gull Larus canus 23
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 22
Little Gull Larus minutus 18
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 279
Unidentified Large Gull Sp. 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 160
Razorbill Alca torda 124
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1
Unidentified Auk sp. 304
The captain Andy welcomed us aboard, and explained that we would be leaving later than we had thought. This gave us chance to watch the harbour area and there was a lot of activity. A first winter Mediterranean Gull among large numbers of Black-headed Gulls was followed later by an adult. Several species of wader moved south, including thousands of Knot. A Rock Pipit flew over the boat a couple of times, and several finches on the north harbour wall were almost certainly the Twite that are regular in this area in the winter and are known from ringing to move south from their Hebridean breeding grounds.
We knew there were going to be less shearwaters than in previous trips on the route this late in the year, and our hope was that Little Gulls would be increased in number. We were not to be disappointed as we saw no fewer than 16 on the outward journey, most of which were in the Lune Deeps area they are known to favour. It was dark when we were in this area on the return journey, but we did see a couple off the Calf of Man.
The conditions were excellent for observation on the outward journey, putting us in with every chance of seeing some cetaceans, but unfortunately it was not to be on this occasion. A steady stream of seabirds kept us busy until well past the Isle of Man though, when conditions became too dark to continue recording and we drew up stumps for the day.
In the B and B it sounded very windy outside, and unfortunately so it proved. The captain Tim and crew warned us it was going to be a bit of a rough crossing, they were right but fortunately our sea legs were up to it.
Many of the highlights of the return trip were as we left Warrenpoint. We saw a group of four Great Northern Divers, and no fewer than ten were recorded in total. There was also a Black Guillemot, the second to be recorded on this route. The area favoured by hauled out seals was covered by the combination of tide and onshore winds, though we did see a couple of animals in the sea.
We joined the crew in observing a minute's silence at eleven o'clock as we approached the open sea. Thereafter most of the birds seen were auks, Fulmars and Kittiwakes. We did see two Great Skua's, a species which is usually found further south at this time of year. A rather lost looking Pintail (probably a first year bird) was also encountered near the Calf of Man before the dull light finally became unworkable.
All in all a successful trip and it will be interesting to see
if Little Gull and Diver numbers climb further in future
Thank you to the crew of the Clipper Pace and Clipper Panorama.
Stephen Dunstan and Nick Grounds, Research Surveyors for MARINElife