Sightings Archives: May 2012

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Warrenpoint 'MV Clipper Panorama & Pace' 10 - 11 May 2012

Posted 13 May 2012

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

Weather: SW 4 veering NW 6 (outbound); SW 4 increasing 8 (inbound)


Cetaceans and mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 25     

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 7
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 120
Gannet Morus bassanus 153
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 10
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 336+
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus  2
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 25
Common Gull Larus canus 24
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 12
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 34
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 15
Little Gull Larus minutus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 60
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 10
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 76
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 6
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 33
Guillemot Uria aalge 87
Razorbill Alca torda 20
Diver sp. 4
Large Gull sp. 24
Mixed Gull sp. 50+                                                       

Terrestrial Birds
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 3
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 13
Swift Apus apus 4
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 1
Rook Corvus frugileus 1                     
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix 3    

The usual warm welcome from the Seatruck staff and crew made up for the heavy rain on our arrival at Heysham for the May survey to Warrenpoint and back.  Unfortunately, the rain persisted for most of the crossing with an increasingly lively sea and fairly heavy swell from the previous days' stormy conditions.  These were difficult conditions for cetacean spotting and none were recorded on the crossing.  Birds were not numerous, but there was a steady stream of Gannet, Kittiwake and Guillemot, while a pair of light phase Pomarine Skuas provided great entertainment on the approach to the Isle of Man, which steadfastly remained invisible in the rain! Guillemot

Manx Shearwater numbers began to pick up after Man, and lightening skies on the approach to Carlingford Lough provided better conditions for observations and bird activity picked up considerably, the highlight being several full summer plumage Great Northern Divers not far off the starboard beam. 

Black Guillemots were very active at the entrance to the Lough, and the marker buoys provided ideal resting places for these engaging little birds.  A number of 'Commic' Terns were seen along the shore while a small flight of migrating Swifts passed just in front of the bridge windows as we entered the Lough.  The usual group of basking Grey Seals were not on their favourite bank near the lighthouse, but a small number were seen swimming lazily near the ship as we passed down the Lough to Warrenpoint.

The second day was much brighter and we had sunshine and very clear visibility for most of the return journey which started much as the outward journey had ended, with sightings of good numbers of Black Guillemots in Carlingford Lough and several Great Northern Divers just outside the mouth of the Lough.  Tern numbers were noticeable higher with many more 'Commic' Terns than the previous day, as well as a small number of Little Terns and Sandwich Terns along the shore of the Lough.  The Grey Seals had returned and were hauled up on their bank enjoying the sunshine, close to the usual large roost of Shags on the rocks near the lighthouse.Gannet

The swell of the previous day had decreased, but the increasingly energetic sea state made cetacean spotting impossible and unfortunately none were seen on the return trip.  Bird numbers were better than the outward trip, but they were clearly not flying with enthusiasm with many birds seen sitting out the rough conditions amongst the waves.  Somewhat larger numbers of Manx Shearwater, Gannet and Fulmar were recorded, and two Puffins flew close across the bows of the ship as we passed the Isle of Man.  Our patience was rewarded with a close sighting of two Little Gulls as we passed over the Lune Deep.  It was strange to see storm-blown Gannets flying well into Morecambe Bay as we approached Heysham.

Because of the difficult observing conditions, we were able to take a little longer over the early dinner that Seatruck provided and to chat with some of the passengers who were very interested in hearing about our survey and the work of Marinelife.

The wind picked up very considerably to gale force as we approached Heysham, where the very lively sea presented the crew of the Clipper Pace with an opportunity to show their consummate skill in manoeuvring this large vessel through the very narrow entrance to Heysham harbour under fairly challenging conditions! 

Our grateful thanks as ever to all the staff and crew at Seatruck Ferries for their friendliness and eagerness to help, and their continued interest in the progress of this project

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