Sightings Archives: August 2015

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Warrenpoint 'Clipper Pennant & Clipper Pace' 6th - 7th August 2015

Posted 25 August 2015

Rob Petley-Jones and Andrew Gilbert, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Westbound - Wind NNW force 2-4; Sea State 3-1; Swell 1-0; Visibility 2-6
Eastbound - Wind variable force 2-0-3; Sea State 1-0-1; Swell 1-0; Visibility 6-3-6

Summary of Sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 2
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 21
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 172    

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1        
Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 41
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1471
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 452
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 95
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 121
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 66
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 13
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 35          
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 27
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 14
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 64
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 40
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 5
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 4
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 10
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 538
Razorbill Alca torda 5
Unidentified auk sp. 146
Unidentified gull sp. 293

Terrestrial birds:
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 6
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 17
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostreolagus 40
Unidentified small wader sp.2

Other marine life:
Moon Jellyfish Aurelia aurita 2 swarms of many 1000s

We had a prompt start to the survey on the Clipper Pennant with breakfast and quick transfer to the bridge where we were welcomed with his usual friendliness by Captain Colin Batty.  The forecast was promising for good weather and we eagerly anticipated a rewarding survey.

Arctic Skua Mike Bamford 02As we left Heysham port there was the usual flurry of activity from the many gulls there, including the first of several sightings of Mediterranean Gull.   Sea conditions were reasonable as we passed down the Lune Deep, and we were rewarded with a brief sighting of a Common Dolphin and a couple of flocks of Common Scoter which seem to be arriving earlier than usual for their winter's stay in the Irish Sea!  

We were delighted to record two flocks of Black-tailed Godwit on migration near the wind farm, and there was an exciting moment as an Arctic Skua gained a free breakfast from a terrified Kittiwake!       

Towards Isle of Man there was increasing activity from Manx Shearwater, though the calm conditions meant that most were sitting in rafts across the sea.  A common feature of both passages was regular encounters with adult-and-chick pairings of Guillemot, though Razorbill numbers were very low throughout the survey.   

Despite very fair conditions beyond the Isle of Man across to Carlingford Lough, Harbour Porpoise sightings remained elusive until the waters off the Irish coast when three were seen, but two more records of Mediterranean Gull near the lighthouse at the entrance to the lough were welcome.

After a welcome rest at Dan Ryan's B&B, we were welcomed on board the Clipper Pace the following morning and provided with the usual very sustaining breakfast by the steward.  Just after the ship had left its berth, we were warmly welcomed to the bridge by Captain Phil Ankers and began our survey with counts of the many Grey Seal basking on the skerries near the lighthouse, as well as our only sighting of Black Guillemot for the survey.  

Med Gull Mike Bamford 01A solitary Great Northern Diver in the usual area where we see them on winter surveys just out from the lighthouse was a surprise at this time of year.

Conditions were perfect for the first half of the crossing, with the Pace cruising through flat calm sun-bathed waters until well after the Isle of Man, and we were rewarded with a good number of Harbour Porpoise encounters throughout this period, with many animals easily being spotted as they broke the mirror calm surface.

Bird sightings were less rewarding as most were sitting out the calm on the flat sea, but we did record a fair number of Gannet, Manx Shearwater and Guillemot.  A solitary Puffin was briefly entertaining, while our passage through some large swarms of Moon Jellyfish just out from Heysham provided some variety to the end of the survey.    

Rob Petley-Jones and Andrew Gilbert, Research Surveyors for MARINElife