Sightings Archives: May 2014

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham–Warrenpoint 'Clipper Panorama’ and 'Clipper Pennant' 22nd - 23rd May 2014

Posted 01 June 2014

Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Westbound - Wind E force 3-5; Sea State 2-3; Swell 1; Visibility 5-6
Eastbound - Wind NE force 5-7; Sea State 5-6; Swell 2-3; Visibility 4-6

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 7
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 33

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellate 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 2        
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 9
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 138
Gannet Morus bassanus 109
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 79
Common Gull Larus canus 10
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 91          
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 36    
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 35
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 324
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1
Unidentified large gull sp. 33
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 2
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 15
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 35
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 24
Guillemot Uria aalge 56
Razorbill Alca torda 25
Unidentified auk sp.3

Terrestrial birds:
Swift Apus apus 1

Other waterbirds recorded in Heysham harbour:
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 8

After a swift check in at Heysham and transfer to the Clipper Panorama for breakfast, we were welcomed onto the bridge by the Captain Paul Matthews just before departure.  Conditions were clear but cloudy with a steady Easterly wind giving a choppy sea, but our hopes of some exciting seabirds and cetaceans were nevertheless high.

Black guillemot pair RPJ

An early sighting of Harbour Porpoise in the Lune Deep was followed by two more encounters in the first two hours including a group of three animals.  However, we had to wait until our approach to Carlingford Lough before we had a final porpoise sighting.

A northward travelling Swift off the Fylde coast was the only sign of migration.  Numbers of the usual sea birds like Gannet, Razorbill and Guillemot were relatively low throughout the survey, although a large raft of sitting Kittiwake and Manx Shearwater near the Isle of Man boosted our total count.  The highlights were a Red-throated Diver near the Lune Deep and a Great Northern Diver near the Carlingford Lough lighthouse.

It was very pleasing to see a good number of Black Guillemot in their smart summer plumage in the entrance to the Lough, with many sitting on the channel marker buoys

After docking, we decided to look at bird life on the Lough from Warrenpoint, and were delighted to have some very close views of more Black Guillemot by the sea wall where nest boxes have been provided for their use.  They seemed completely unconcerned by the passing traffic as they sat on the sea wall with cars zooming by a few feet away!

The following morning we boarded the Pennant in bright sunshine, but with a strong North-easterly wind we were prepared for rough seas once we left the shelter of Carlingford Lough.   Here, the sea was pretty rough with a large swell and these conditions stayed with us for the whole crossing, becoming even stronger as we approached Heysham.  However, there is something mesmerising about an exciting sea, and we really enjoyed the continual movement of the waves and spray.

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 01

Cetacean spotting was clearly going to be challenging and we saw no porpoises on the return trip.  However, our patience was rewarded near the Isle of Man with a fabulous sighting of a Short-beaked Common Dolphin which came leaping in to briefly bow ride in front of the ship.

Bird activity was clearly badly affected by the strong wind, and we saw even fewer numbers than on the outward trip.  We were treated to some close views of Gannet as they sailed past the bridge windows and were able to practise our skills at ageing the immature birds we saw.

Our thanks as always to the Captains and crews of both the Panorama and Pennant for making us so welcome.


Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)