Sightings Archives: September 2013

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham–Warrenpoint ‘Anglia Seaways’ and 'Clipper Panorama’ 12th - 13th September 2013

Posted 15 September 2013

Alison McAleer and Rob Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Westbound: Wind SW 1-3; Swell 0-1; Visibility 4 decreasing to 2
Eastbound: Wind NNW 1-4; Swell 0-1; Visibility 5-6


Cetaceans and Seals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 15
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 19
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 178
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1        
Diver  sp. 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 51
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2571
Gannet Morus bassanus 211
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 225
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 160
Shag/Cormorant unidentified 167
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 49
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 2
Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus 1
Unidentified skua sp. 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 350
Common Gull Larus canus    39
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus    8
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34            
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 52
Little Gull Larus minutus 1
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 81
Unidentified large gull sp. 9
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 11
'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea    13
Puffin Fratercula arctica 5
Black Guilletmot Cepphus grylle 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 338
Razorbill Alca torda 10
Unidentified auk sp. 1

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Pipit sp. 4    
Finch sp. 6

Other waterbirds and land birds recorded in Carlingford Lough and Heysham harbour:
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea - Warrenpoint
Oystercatcher haematopus ostralegus - 38 at Heysham jetty
Turnstone Arenaria interpres - 40+ at Heysham jetty
Curlew Numenius arquata - Warrenpoint
Jackdaw Corvus monedula - 2 over Carlingford Lough
Rook Corvus frugilegus - 2 over Carlingford Lough
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix - Warrenpoint

As ever, there was a very warm and friendly welcome on board the Panorama where after the usual hearty breakfast we were escorted to the bridge just before departure from the berth at Heysham.

A sighting of two Mediterranean Gull just outside the harbour was followed by two encounters with Harbour Porpoise and several flocks of Common Scoter near the Lune Deep.  However, despite this early promise, the initial half of the crossing was very quiet with a few sightings of Manx Shearwater, Gannet and Guillemot.

Med gullFortunes improved as we passed to the south of the Isle of Man when a juvenile Long-tailed Skua appeared right in front of the bridge windows!  It gave us a marvellous if somewhat brief show as it gracefully dipped down to examine a small item of flotsam in front of the bow, before heading off towards the island.

Visibility began to decrease steadily, but there was a steady and busy stream of Manx Shearwater through our recording box, although it is likely we missed a number of these that would ordinarily have been easily recorded outside the box.  Excitement rose when a small group of three Common Dolphin came in to the ship's bow, and we watched them as they continued to show well into the wake of the ship.  There were also a couple more encounters with singles of Harbour Porpoise as we approached the entrance to Carlingford Lough.

Our progress through the Lough towards Warrenpoint was marked by good numbers of Black-headed Gull, though there was a decided lack of the usually active Black Guillemot with only two being seen.  As we approached the berth, a solitary Harbour Seal was seen close off the starboard beam.

We had a restful night at Ryan's B&B and took the chance to eat their excellent cooked breakfast as we did not have to join Anglia Seaways until 09.00.  We were allowed access to the bridge in very good time to get sorted before departure along a very tranquil Carlingford Lough where there was a lot of Grey Seal activity both in the water and on the shingle banks, and we even had two sightings of Harbour Porpoise to raise our hopes for a good crossing.  

Pair kittiwakeAnd good crossing it was, with an unprecedented three pages of 'Cetacean Sightings' forms filled in!  There were regular encounters with Harbour Porpoise before we reached the Isle of Man, and then a procession of eight more sightings of this species as we crossed the Lune Deep and approached Heysham.  Two encounters with small groups of Common Dolphin south of the Isle of Man made this a very productive crossing.

With much better visibility, seabird recording was more productive and we were kept on our toes by lots of activity by Manx Shearwater as well as Guillemot and Kittiwake as we crossed the deeper waters an hour out from Warrenpoint.  There was added bonus for our efforts in the form of a couple of Puffin, two Great Skua and at least one Great Northern Diver.

After a period of lull in bird activity between the Isle of Man and the first windfarms, we were eventually rewarded with a lot of gull activity as we approached the Lancashire coast where there was the usual challenge with identifying the various adolescent gulls!  There was significant reward in the form of a single Little Gull and several Mediterranean Gull, three of which followed the ship into Heysham harbour and gave us excellent views as the ship manoeuvred before berthing.

An excellent two days of marine surveying, made all the more satisfying by the warm hospitality of the captains and crews of both Panorama and Anglia Seaways.

Alison McAleer and Rob Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife