Sightings Archives: January 2014

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham–Warrenpoint ‘Anglia Seaways’ and 'Clipper Panorama’ 16th - 17th January 2014

Posted 02 February 2014

Colin Gill and Sian Egerton, Research Surveyor for MARINElife
Westbound - Wind N force 5-7; Swell 0-1; Visibility 6
Eastbound - Wind NE force 3-6; Swell 0; Visibility 6


Cetaceans and Seals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 5
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 4

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 6
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1        
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 60
Gannet Morus bassanus 2
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 368
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 103
Common Gull Larus canus 114
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 103            
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 20
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 55
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 32
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 63
Unidentified gull sp. 750
Guillemot Uria aalge 60
Razorbill Alca torda 27
Unidentified auk sp. 15
Unidentified duck Sp. 53
Unidentified goose Sp. 255

Other waterbirds recorded in Carlingford Lough and Heysham harbour:
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 2 (Carlingford Lough)
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 6 (Heysham Harbour)

We were warmly welcomed on board the Anglia Seaways by the captain and after an excellent breakfast we were on the bridge as the ship left Heysham harbour.  The weather after the storms of recent times was pretty good with excellent visibility, although a little choppy.  We were immediately rewarded with a flurry of bird activity, the most interesting being a large flock of geese that crossed towards the Fleetwood area.  Unfortunately they were just too far away to get a clear identification.

Fulmar 01 Rob-Petley-JonesThere was then a constant period where the usual bird species were seen although the areas around the Isle of Man were particularly quiet.  The lack of marine mammal sightings was disappointing but our enthusiasm was revived with increased bird sightings as we neared the Irish coast.  An interesting sighting was a group of 22 Fulmar all on the water, which took off together as the ship approached - it was amusing to see them all start with a quick run on the water before take-off. 

As we came into Carlingford Lough there were still no marine mammal sightings, but we were finally rewarded with a group of Grey Seal and Harbour Seal on the rocks surrounded by hundreds of gulls and cormorants.

After a restful night at our B&B, we were welcomed on board the Clipper Panorama by the Captain who was full of interest and support for our work.   After the previous evening's sighting of seals we were optimistic about adding to the mammal numbers.  However, we were only to have a fleeting view of a seal as it avoided the ship as we left Carlingford Lough.  This was to prove our last view of a marine mammal on this survey.

Kittiwake Rob-Petley-Jones 02The spectacle of the morning was seeing over 300 Cormorant on and around one small rocky outcrop, all taking part in communal bathing in the crescent shape bay by the rocks.  Out from the lough, a Great Northern Diver casually swam by and our expectations were high.  The weather was calm, the sea state excellent for the time of year, and the visibility prefect for spotting anything flying or swimming.  

It was therefore a genuine surprise that only small numbers of wildlife were recorded on the return trip.  Even the Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwake and Fulmar of the first day seemed to have moved off.   However, there was increased bird activity as we approached Heysham with the various gull species coming out to meet the ship and play in the wake.
Our thanks go to the captains and crews of both Panorama and Anglia Seaways for their continued warm hospitality and friendliness.

Colin Gill and Sian Egerton, Research Surveyor for MARINElife