MARINElife blog: Seatruck Ferries ‘Seatruck Pennant’ & ‘Seatruck Panorama’ Heysham-Warrenpoint 3-4 November 2016

Karrie Langdon and Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
Outbound: Overcast; Sea State 3-4; Wind W Force 5-6
Homeward: Sunny; Sea State 3-4; Wind W Force 4-5

Marine Mammals
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 20

Seabirds
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 18
Cormorant Phalacrocroax carbo 87
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 235
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 61
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 1
Black-Headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 12
Common Gull Larus canus 16
Guillemot Uria aalge 215
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 2
Large gull sp. 2
Gull sp. 114
Duck Sp. 2

The usual array of birds were seen, with Guillemot in their winter plumage being most numerous, while around each port there were also large numbers of Herring Gull.  There were also several Kittiwake, Fulmar, Gannet, Greater Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull recorded during the trip.  There were also a number of Common Gull which were unusual for us as we have only seen a few on previous surveys.

A single Great Skua flew past close to the bridge offering good views of it, and Robin is convinced that there is only a single Great Skua in the Irish Sea as each time he has been across he has only seen the one!

Great Skua Peter Howlett 05
Great Skua (Peter Howlett)

On the way over to Warrenpoint we saw a single Harbour Porpoise near the wind farms, but we were given a bit of insider information by Master Stephen Cheeseman for the return trip to Heysham the following day.   He told us to look at the little islands near the lighthouse as we left Carlingford Lough where there were usually seals.  This information proved to be first-class and we spotted seventeen Grey Seal 'banana-ing' on the rocks and playing in the sea.

Grey Seal Rick Morris 07
Grey Seals (Rick Morris)

On our return to Heysham we were chased by a rain storm which finally manged to catch up with us as we got to the wind farms, where its rainbow appeared to touch down in the 300 metre box just in front of the boat!  We thought this was a good sign that we would see more cetaceans, but as none were seen we can only conclude they are not attracted to gold! As the rain clouds blocked the setting sun and the light conditions faded we concluded an exciting survey.

We would like to thank Master Stephen Cheesman and the crew of the Panorama and Master Paul Matthews and the crew of the Pennant for making us most welcome.

So what did we learn from this survey?  Listen to insider information particularly when it comes from the Master of a ship, and that it also seems that cetaceans are not attracted to the gold at the end of the rainbow!

Karrie Langdon and Robin Langdon, Research Surveyors for MARINElife