MARINElife blog: Seatruck Ferries ‘Clipper Panorama’ & ‘Clipper Pennant’ Heysham-Warrenpoint 1-2 December 2016

Stephen Dunstan and Michael Duckett, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Westbound: wind W force 2-3
Eastbound: wind E force 0-2

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 44
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 9
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 2
Atlantic Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 5
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 12
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 17
Gannet Morus bassanus 1
Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo 195
Shag Phalocrocorax aristotelis 24
Eider Somateria mollisima 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 90
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 6
Common Gull Larus canus 41
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 124
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 57
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 539
Guillemot Uria aalge 173
Razorbill Alca torda 236
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 18
Unidentified Auk sp  398
Unidentified Gull Larus sp  10

Other species seen during survey effort
Redshank Tringa totanus 1
Curlew Numenius arquata 1

We boarded the Clipper Panorama on a calm December morning at Heysham, and soon after dawn we left the quay and headed into a welcoming looking Morecambe Bay. Initially it was quiet, but as we reached the Lune Deep we saw a few Kittiwake joined by a couple of Little Gull and some groups of Common Scoter flew past.

As we approached the Isle of Man a Great Northern Diver flew past and a Red-throated Diver was disturbed off the sea. The lack of cetacean sightings before reaching Manx waters was soon forgotten as we saw two small pods of Common Dolphin heading north in quick succession.

Otter Adrian Shephard 02
Otter (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

Nearing Ireland a couple of large groups of feeding Kittiwake were noted, approaching 400 birds in total. A few more Red-throated Diver were seen along with the first Black Guillemot of the survey as we approached Carlingford Lough in calm and sunny conditions. We stopped formal surveying as we entered the lough but kept an eye on the water after an enjoyable dinner. This proved rewarding as an Otter swam past the ferry at close range, with a couple of seals also noted.

The following morning also dawned promisingly for surveying, and we began to record at the mouth of Carlingford Lough, where sightings included sixteen Black Guillemot and several each of Red-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver. A couple of Common Seal were hauled out on the skerries and at sea we recorded four different Grey Seal.

Approaching the Isle of Man a couple of sightings of Common Dolphin were made, one of an apparently lone individual and one of a small pod. Entering the Lune Deep conditions became flat calm and it became much easier to see Harbour Porpoise, and we were able to pick out several pods, along with some more Little Gull and Common Scoter before darkness fell as we approached the outer limits of Morecambe Bay.

Little Gull Peter Howlett 09
Little Gull (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Our thanks to the captains and crew of the Clipper Panorama and Clipper Pennant, and also the ground staff at both Heysham and Warrenpoint for the kindness extended to us during what was overall a very enjoyable and successful survey.