Sightings Archives: September 2015

MARINElife Survey Report: Heysham-Warrenpoint 'Clipper Panorama & Clipper Pace' 3rd - 4th September 2015

Posted 16 September 2015

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

Summary of sightings

Cetaceans and Seals:
Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 6
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 297
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1    
Seal sp. 1

Atlantic Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 35
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 5497
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus 520
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 256
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 271
Eider Somateria mollisima 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 33
Great Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 90
Common Gull Larus canus 90
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 33         
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 40
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 26
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 65
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 9
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 17
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 73
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Unidentified auk sp. 3
Unidentified gull sp. 302

Terrestrial birds seen during survey:
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 2
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostreolagus 175
Knot Calidris canutus 1
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 78
Redshank Tringa totanus 2
Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Rook Corvus frugilegus 1

Other wildlife:
White-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lucorum 1

After the usual very efficient transfer onto the Clipper Panorama, we were welcomed to the bridge by Captain Steven Olbison well in time to start the survey as the ship eased its way out into the Irish Sea from Heysham Port's tight harbour.

Barrow Array and Cumbrian Fells RPJThe usual gulls at the harbour mouth were accompanied by a couple of juvenile Eider, a large number of Oystercatcher and a couple of Little Egret, now a common sight around Morecambe Bay.  Apart from a small number of Common Scoter off Blackpool, things were very quiet as we passed through the wind farms in amazingly clear conditions.  

One surprise of this survey was the virtual lack of auks, with only a very few adult and juvenile pairings of Guillemot and singles of Puffin and Razorbill on the return leg.  Gannet and Manx Shearwater numbers began to build as we approached the Isle of Man, but only after we had passed the island were we treated to the most spectacular sight of thousands of Manx Shearwater when at times the many large rafts seemed to cover the sea.   

Sea conditions were too active for us to expect many sightings of cetaceans but three Harbour Porpoise, caught unawares, did an emergency dive right in front of the bows!  Three bold Common Dolphin came speeding in to try to bow ride the ship but these were soon left well behind as the ship continued on its way towards the Irish Sea coast.  

Manx Shearwater RPJ 1As we approached the County Down coast Jane's sharp eyes caught sight of two Risso's Dolphin some way ahead of the ship, this being the latest in a number of sightings of this large dolphin in the Irish Sea this summer.  

A solitary Black Guillemot welcomed us to the entrance to Carlingford Lough, while a superb Mediterranean Gull in winter plumage wheeled among the Black-headed Gull as the ship manoeuvred to its berth at Warrenpoint.

The return leg started as efficiently as on the first day, with a warm welcome by Captain Colin Batty to the bridge of Clipper Pennant before the ship left the berth at Warrenpoint.

There was no sign of the Mediterranean Gull but many Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Sandwich Tern and Commic Tern as well as a solitary Harbour Seal were seen as we sailed along Carlingford Lough toward the lighthouse.  Here we recorded a good number of Grey Seal hauled out on the rock islands, together with large numbers of Shag.

Med Gull Rob Petley-Jones 02As we sailed out into the Irish Sea and with the Isle of Man in view on the horizon, we were again inundated with huge numbers of Manx Shearwater with activity so great that we found it difficult to make accurate counts.  

A pair of Harbour Porpoise showed briefly as we approached the Isle of Man but the sea after this and towards the Lancashire coast was very quiet, although we were accompanied for the whole crossing by an intrepid White-tailed Bumblebee!  

It was not until we turned into the Lune Deep that we picked up a distant Pomarine Skua followed quickly by a Great Skua.  As we approach the entrance to Heysham Harbour at the top of a very high tide we had a final welcome sight of a solitary Harbour Porpoise just out from the harbour breakwater.

Thanks as ever to the crew and staff of Seatruck for their warm welcome and continuing support for the work of Marinelife.

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