Sightings Archives: October 2014

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham–Warrenpoint 'Clipper Pennant' and 'Clipper Panorama’ 16th - 17th October 2014

Posted 21 October 2014

Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Westbound - Wind SE Force 2-4; Swell 0-2; Visibility 5-6 but light fog at Irish coast
Eastbound - Wind S-SE Force 2-5; Swell 2; Visibility 6-4 and poor at English coast


Cetaceans and Seals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 8
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates 3
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 64

Brent Goose Branta bernicla 6
Wigeon Anas penelope 1
Eider Somateria mollissima 2
Red-breasted merganser Mergus serrator 7
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 3
Diver sp. 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 232
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 6
Gannet Morus bassanus 172
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 161
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 285
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 8
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 59
Common Gull Larus canus 21
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 138  
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 59    
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 69
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 382
Gull sp. 114
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 28    
Guillemot Uria aalge 235
Razorbill Alca torda 225
Auk sp.  97

Other waterbirds recorded in Carlingford Lough:
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostrolegus 4

Terrestrial birds
Pipit sp. 1
Starling Sturnus vulgaris 9

We received the usual warm welcome on board the Clipper Pennant from Captain Colin Batty and his crew and left on time from Heysham harbour.  We were very fortunate to carry out this survey between two spells of strong winds in the Irish Sea with the westbound passage initially presenting fairly calm conditions.  
BND Carol Farmer-Wright 01
There was activity from the very start with a flurry of observations of various gull species to record as we passed out into the Irish Sea while a frustratingly brief glimpse of a diver did not allow for positive identification.   There were early sightings of Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Gannet very close to the Lancashire coast, these probably having been blown in by the stormy conditions of the previous few days, and a small flock of Starling were seen heading east towards Lancashire.

A small group of late Manx Shearwater was very welcome, as was our first sighting of three Harbour Porpoise that gave us a couple of minutes of observation as they calmly swam past the ship.  These were followed by another small group of Harbour Porpoise followed soon after by a small pod of Bottlenose Dolphin which gave us some excellent views as they cruised away to the south of the ship.

Beyond the Isle of Man visibility began to deteriorate but there were spells of much bird activity including some unusually large flocks of Fulmar resting on the sea, while several Great Skua and a single Pomarine Skua were also recorded.  Because of increasingly foggy conditions observations became more difficult as we approached the Carlingford Lighthouse and recording was stopped for the day as we passed into the lough.

Fulmar Rob Petley-Jones 04The following morning was much brighter after a night of torrential rain, and we had a hurried breakfast before being welcomed to the bridge of the Clipper Panorama by Captain Steven Olbison.

The passage down Carlingford Lough was as magical as ever and we were entertained by a good number of Black Guillemot in their smart winter plumage, together with a small flock of Red-breasted Merganser.  As we counted the resting Grey Seal on the exposed shoals, we were delighted to see a smart Little Egret feeding along the tide line.

Despite a strong swell from the previous night's winds, we were able to record a good number of birds including the usual small flock of Great Northern Diver, one still in summer plumage, and a Red-throated Diver just out from the Carlingford lighthouse.  There were again some unusually large flocks of Razorbill, Kittiwake and Fulmar resting on the sea as we approached the Isle of Man, with more sightings of Great Skua and of a single Arctic Skua.

A brief view of three Harbour Porpoise was the only cetacean sighting of the day and bird records became very sparse after we passed the Isle of Man.  Our approach to the Lancashire coast was hampered by increasingly poor visibility but a sighting of a fine Mediterranean Gull just off the starboard bow was a reward for our patience, and we managed to count Great Northern Diver RPJthe Cormorant roost in the evening gloom as we entered Heysham Harbour.

Thanks as ever to the wonderful Seatruck staff for their splendid hospitality and friendly welcome.

Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Photo credits:
Bottlenose Dolphin - Carol Farmer Wright
Great Northern Diver - Rob Petley-Jones