Rob Petley-Jones and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for
Westbound - Wind NNW 1-3; Sea state 1-3; Swell 0-1; Visibility 6
Eastbound - Wind NNW 2-3; Sea state 1-3; Swell 0-1; Visibility 6
Summary of sightings
Survey 1: Heysham to Warrenpoint 14
Cetaceans and Seals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 105
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 23
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2751
Gannet Morus bassanus 107
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 37
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 69
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 26
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 8
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 11
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 24
Common Gull Larus canus 10
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 16
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4
Guillemot Uria aalge 344
Razorbill Alca torda 2
Unidentified gull sp. 61
Unidentified tern sp. 40
Unidentified auk sp. 132
Other waterbirds recorded at Heysham:
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 25
Survey 2: Dublin to Heysham 15 August 2014 (only part survey)
Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 86
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 964
Gannet Morus bassanus 32
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 91
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 20
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 250
Mediterranean Gull, Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 44
Common Gull Larus canus 14
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 56
Puffin Fratercula arctica 12
Guillemot Uria aalge 358
Razorbill Alca torda 103
Unidentified gull sp. 6
Unidentified auk sp. 178
After a later check-in than normal at the office because of the state of the tide, we were welcomed with the usual friendliness by the crew and master of the Panorama, and were soon in position on the bridge.
As we left Heysham port there was a flurry of activity from many
gulls including Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and
Black-headed Gull. There were many young gulls of various
ages which kept us entertained in trying to identify them!
Bird life remained quiet until we had passed the wind farm zone, but then things got much more active with large rafts of Manx Shearwater as far as the eye could see. We also started to see a good number of adult Guillemot with recently fledged young.
Despite reasonable conditions, we saw no marine mammals until we entered Carlingford Lough, where a large number of Grey Seal were drawn up on the shingle banks.
Before we left for our bed and breakfast, we checked at the Seatruck office to see what time the Pennant would be sailing the following morning. Imagine then our surprise when we were told there would be no sailing to Heysham as there were engine problems with the ship. Although the very sympathetic Seatruck office staff had already booked us onto the Friday night 22.00 return journey of the Panorama, we decided that returning by way of Dublin to Heysham on the Clipper Pace would be more productive, so we were immediately booked in on that sailing.
So the following morning instead of popping down to Warrenpoint port from our B&B we popped over to Newry to catch the Dublin express bus, from where we got a taxi to the Seatruck berth in Dublin Port. The Pace skipper, Paul, is familiar with the MARINElife survey arrangement from his time on the Warrenpoint route and was delighted to allow us on the bridge to make observations along the route back to Heysham.
So instead of a return along the Warrenpoint to Heysham route, we carried out an informal survey out of Dublin Port towards Heysham! Our immediate reward was of two sightings of Mediterranean Gull as we passed the red lighthouse. Conditions remained good at sea, and we were eventually rewarded with a sighting of three Harbour Porpoise off the starboard bow.
Another brief sighting of Harbour Porpoise followed, as well as a flurry of sightings of Puffin when South Stack on Anglesey was a distant view to starboard. A steady stream of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill kept us occupied until the light faded and we headed down for a welcome rest on the passenger lounge.
We arrived somewhat later than planned at Heysham, very relieved to have successfully made it back to England. Our heartfelt thanks go especially to all the staff of Seatruck for being so accommodating in dealing with a difficult situation and allowing us to successfully complete our survey.
Rob Petley-Jones and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife