Sightings Archives: April 2015

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham–Warrenpoint 'Clipper Pennant' and 'Clipper Panorama’ 9th - 10th April 2015

Posted 14 April 2015

Alison McAleer and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

Westbound - Wind S-SW force 2-4; Sea State 1-3; Swell 0; Visibility 1-3
Eastbound - Sea State 2-4; Swell 0-1; Visibility 2-3 (wind measurements not available)

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 1
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 17
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2
Unidentified Dolphin sp.  5
Unidentified Seal sp. 1


Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 2        
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 24
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 22
Gannet Morus bassanus 44
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 48
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 49
Common Gull Larus canus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 83
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4      
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 70
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 28
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 23
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 5
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 24
Guillemot Uria aalge 360
Razorbill Alca torda 74
Unidentified auk sp. 164
Unidentified diver sp. 1
Unidentified large gull sp. 309

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Unidentified small passerine sp.  20+

Other waterbirds recorded in Carlingford Lough and Heysham harbour:
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 58
Common Eider Somateria mollissima 3
Curlew Numenius arquata 4
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 8

It was a beautifully still morning as we checked in at Heysham with barely a ripple on the water in the harbour, and after transfer to the Clipper Panorama for breakfast we were treated to a very warm welcome by the Captain and crew onto the bridge.  

It was a smooth departure as we enjoyed the glorious sunrise over Heysham with a gentle mist ahead over very calm waters.  We were full of anticipation that despite the relatively poor visibility survey conditions would be near perfect for cetacean sightings and we were not to be disappointed!   Within half an hour over the Lune Deep we had the first good view of two Harbour Porpoise followed by numerous other individuals and small groups as we travelled out towards the Isle Man.  

Common Dolphin Peter Howlett 04Equally exciting were the splashes of an active group of five dolphins travelling away from the boat as we travelled away from the island, although the mist sadly prevented a clear identification of species.  A Common Dolphin later made a closer approach, clearly visible swimming through the still very calm waters.  

With the misty conditions continuing throughout our journey, many of our seabird sightings were of individual and small rafts of birds on the water with regular flypasts of numerous migrating small passerines.   Among the auks, Razorbill were recorded as we left the Lancashire coast with mainly Guillemot further out into the Irish Sea, while a very welcome lone Puffin appeared beside the boat late in the morning.  

A group of Sandwich Tern were sighted resting on a large marker buoy in Lune Deep and later we enjoyed the first of a few small groups of Manx Shearwater gliding effortlessly over the water.  

The day ended with wonderful misty of views of the Mountains of Mourne in the late afternoon sunshine with a Great Northern Diver, several Black Guillemot and more flurries of terns to welcome us into Carlingford Lough.  

After a good night's rest at our B&B in Warrenpoint, we boarded the Clipper Pennant with another very warm welcome onto the Bridge from the captain and crew.  Conditions were significantly different from the previous day with cloud gathering behind and the wind picking up and stirring the waters of the Lough as we headed out from port.  With the addition of the sun ahead and bright glare on the sea, conditions were slightly more challenging and our expectations for cetacean sightings were significantly lower.    

GN Diver Peter Howlett 01Flurries of Sandwich Tern and small rafts of Black Guillemot accompanied us out towards the open sea with a small group of Eider and another Great Northern Diver being very welcome sights.  As the sea conditions picked up in the strengthening wind, sightings of Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet were frequent with occasional small numbers of Manx Shearwater.  

Large accumulations of gulls were once again gathered around the occasional fishing boat but sadly the cetacean sightings of the previous day were not to be repeated.  However, just an hour out of Heysham we were treated to the rather comical sight of a lone Grey Seal just ahead of the boat enjoying a meal of a very large wriggling crab before it dived quickly with its catch!  

As we reflect on a very enjoyable and successful Marinelife survey we must thank both captains and crew and staff at Seatruck for all their interest, help and kind hospitality over these two days, without which this survey would not be possible.

Alison McAleer and Ruth Crundwell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife