Sightings Archives: March 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham–Warrenpoint ‘Anglia Seaways’ and 'Seatruck Panorama’ 7th - 8th March 2013

Posted 13 March 2013

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

Westbound - ESE force 3 - 6 Overcast and continuous light rain
Eastbound - ESE force 7 - 8 Overcast and continuous heavy rain

Summary of Species Recorded

Cetacea and Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 5
Diver sp. 1
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 4
Grebe sp. 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 26
Gannet Morus bassanus 58
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 37
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 236
Eider Somateria mollissima 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 7
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 3
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 30
Common Gull Larus canus 12
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 136
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 50
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 38
Unidentified large gull sp. 66
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 54
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 43
Guillemot Uria aalge 158
Razorbill Alca torda 103
Unidentified auk sp 37

Terrestrial birds observed at sea
Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 1
Pipit sp. 15
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix 1

Other waterbirds recorded in at Heysham and Carlingford Lough
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 10
(Eurasian) Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 33
(Red) Knot Calidris canutus 750+
(Ruddy) Turnstone Arenaria interpres 8
Redshank Tringa totanus 15

As usual, we had a smooth transfer after check-in to the Seatruck Panorama, followed by breakfast and a warm welcome to the bridge by the Master, Paul Matthews.

Unfortunately, the calm weather conditions of the previous two weeks had come to an end and the steadily strengthening winds made the crossing to Warrenpoint increasingly rough, so the chances to repeat the excellent cetacean observations of the past few Irish Sea surveys evaporated early on.   We had some reward with two sightings of Grey Seal and one of Harbour Porpoise soon after crossing the Lune Deep.  However, bird activity was clearly low with many birds just sitting out the worsening conditions, while the poor visibility meant that more distant observations were difficult.

Gannet 2A single Great Crested Grebe and a small group of Common Scoter added variety to the drifts of Razorbill, Guillemot and Gannet, and a small flurry of Meadow Pipit and a solitary male Grey Wagtail near the Irish coast added some zest to the tally.

Things significantly livened up as we approach the entrance to Carlingford Lough, with sightings of four Great Northern Diver.  Most notable were the good numbers of Black Guillemot outside the entrance to the lough, most in their smart summer plumage.  A single Red-throated Diver and several magnificent Red-breasted Merganser, seen as the Panorama approached its Warrenpoint berth, rounded off sightings for the first day.

Our usual comfortable night's sleep at Meadowlea B&B was interrupted by howling winds and lashing rain on the window, so it was with some trepidation that we boarded the Anglia Seaways early the following morning.  We were welcomed to the bridge before leaving berth, and were entertained by small parties of Turnstone, Redshank and Brent Goose on the southern shore opposite Warrenpoint.

Herring gullAs we left the berth, the wind had strengthened to near gale force and there was a considerable swell in the usually calm Carlingford Lough.   As we passed the lighthouse, we were presented with an angry Irish Sea and a vigorous five metre swell, so clearly cetacean observation was going to be virtually impossible.   However, we were very comfortable on the steady bridge of the Anglia Seaways, and the good numbers of Black Guillemot and a single Great Northern Diver entertained us for a while as we headed toward the Isle of Man.

The return crossing proved as challenging for observation as that of the previous day, with two Puffin being the only notable variation from the usual mix of larger auk, Kittiwake, Gannet and Fulmar.

Only as we approached the southern part of Morecambe Bay did the swell abate and we had a calm passage up the Lune Deep and into Heysham, where we had some good practise identifying different ages of the several Herring Gull around the power station outfall.

Our thanks to all on Panorama and Anglia Seaways for their very friendly welcome and interest in our work.

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