Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Conditions: Westbound: S 4-8; Eastbound: SW 3-4
Cetaceans and mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 23
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 185
Gannet Morus bassanus 154
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 252
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 3
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 2
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 33
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 14
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 7
Large Gull sp. 30
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 228
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 18
Arctic Tern Sterna paradiaea 47
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 3
Tern sp. 8
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 31
Guillemot Uria aalge 156
Razorbill Alca torda 24
Auk sp. 9
Terrestrial Birds during survey
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Waterbirds seen in Carlingford Lough
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
I arrived at Heysham in good time and was soon driven onto the
Seatruck Panorama. Following breakfast I was escorted to the
bridge, where all the crew were as ever very friendly. Staff
on land and on the Panorama confirmed what I knew already, that the
outbound leg was going to be very challenging with winds forecast
to reach Force 8. This was clearly going to be little use for
cetacean observation, but the direction of the blow was promising
for migrating skuas getting blown into the Irish Sea so I was not
entirely pessimistic as we set sail late morning.
Large numbers of gulls were roosting alongside the harbour on the warehouse roofs, this was clearly because the sea was no place to be and initially Morecambe Bay was extremely quiet. On the open sea I did pick up some of the regular seabirds including Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Gannet. To the south of the Isle of Man, which was actually shrouded in mist, I did pick up a Pomarine Skua which took off from in front of the boat and cut across the bow offering decent views. A Great Skua was seen further west, and a few Fulmar began to be noted. As we approached Carlingford Lough the swell receded somewhat, and I had excellent views of a stunning Great Northern Diver that just ambled away from the boat. There were lots of terns in Carlingford Lough, which we entered in brilliant sunshine but it was raining when we docked in Warrenpoint.
Surveyors normally stay at a remote B&B, but on this occasion I stayed in Warrenpoint. At breakfast I had a superb view of the Anglia Seaways as it headed up the lough ready to dock. As I walked round to the harbour afterwards a couple of Rock Pipit were on the shore, and even singing perched on a house roof.
As we left Carlingford Lough a Grey Seal briefly surfaced. Outside the lough four more Great Northern Diver were added to the trip total, but presumably these will be departing north soon. Around half an hour out of the lough another Pomarine Skua was disturbed by the boat, this one put an excellent show on for the next five minutes showing the distinctive 'spoon shaped' tail feathers. Other than regular Manx Shearwater, skuas were the highlights of the rest of the trip until Morecambe Bay, with singles of Arctic Skua, Great Skua and Pomarine Skua all added. It transpired it was the best day of the year for northbound Long-tailed Skua in the Irish Sea, presumably following yesterday's gales, but unfortunately they eluded me.
As the winds dropped further nearing the Lancashire coast hopes were high of a Harbour Porpoise to complete a fairly productive trip. It was well into Morecambe Bay before one was finally seen north of Knott End-on-Sea. Around the same time a flock of over 100 Kittiwake were seen on the water, presumably preparing for overland migration.
Thanks to the crew of both the Seatruck Panorama and the Anglia Seaways for their excellent hospitality.
Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)