Sightings Archives: February 2017

MARINElife blog: Seatruck Ferries ‘Clipper Panorama’ & ‘Clipper Pennant’ Heysham-Warrenpoint 16-17 February 2017

Posted 27 February 2017

Carol Farmer-Wright Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

: SW force 5-7, sea state 3-4, visibility good, increasing cloud with occasional rain.
Return : ESE to S then variable force 3-5-4, sea state 3-4, visibility moderate to good, rain in early pm.

Summary of sightings

Marine mammals:
Harbour Seal  Phoca vitulina 7
Grey Seal  Halichoerus grypus 17
Harbour Porpoise  Phocoena phocoena 1
Unidentified Seal sp.  1

Brent Goose Branta bernicla 2
Eider  Somateria mollissima 12
Red-throated Diver  Gavia stellata 1
Black-throated Diver  Gavia arctica 6
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 3
Fulmar  Fulmarus glacialis 3
Gannet  Morus bassanus 4
Cormorant  Phalacrocorax carbo 37
Shag  Phalacrocorax aristotelis 34
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 1
Grey Phalarope  Phalaropus fulicarius 1
Black-headed Gull  Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3
Common Gull  Larus canus 13
Herring Gull  Larus argentatus 36
Lesser Black-backed Gull  Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus 13
Kittiwake  Rissa tridactyla 38
Black Guillemot  Cepphus grylle 2
Guillemot  Uria aalge 22
Razorbill  Alca torda 13
Auk sp.   6
Diver sp.  1

This was to be my first survey to Warrenpoint and I arrived at Heysham port, collected my ticket from the booking office and proceeded to the ship, where I was met by one of the cadets who kindly helped me take my equipment on board.

The day was fairly cloudy and there was a brisk breeze but the sea state was moderate.  Half an hour after leaving Heysham I caught a brief glimpse of a seal diving quickly as the ship approached.  Bird sightings started with Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull, and as we moved westwards I had one fleeting sighting of a solitary Harbour Porpoise.

Grey Seal Peter Howlett 04
Grey Seal (Archive photo: Peter Howlett)

Auks were more evident and Kittiwake and Gannet appeared before the light faded and the survey stopped three miles east of Carlingford Lough.  Once docked, I collected my belongings and left the ship to spend the night at the Lough and Quay hotel, looking forward to the return sailing and a chance to see Carlingford Lough in the daylight.

I returned to Warrenpoint port the next morning having spent a very comfortable night at the Lough and Quay. The day was overcast, but the wind and sea were calmer than the previous day.  The staff at the booking office processed my booking and arranged for transport to take me to the ship. Once aboard I proceeded to the bridge, was welcomed by Captain Olbison and set up for the survey.

Carlingford Lough turned out to be very productive, and within the first minute I saw my first mammal, a Harbour Seal.  Over the first hour whilst navigating the Lough a further six Harbour Seal were seen and a group of Grey Seal comprising thirteen adult and four young seals were hauled out on the rocks exposed by low tide around Haulbowline Lighthouse at the mouth of the Lough.  Many birds were also evident in the Lough, with Herring Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Shag, Cormorant, Black Guillemot, Red-throated Diver and Black-throated Diver were evident together with the best sighting for me, a single Grey Phalarope in winter plumage.

Grey Phalarope Steve McAusland 01
Grey Phalarope (Archive photo: Steve McAusland)

After leaving the Lough sightings tailed off with just over sixty birds being recorded over the next six hours.  Auks, Kittiwake and other gulls were the main sightings together with a couple of Brent Geese.  The Isle of Man was shrouded in mist and rain that started in the early afternoon.  The light failed just as we left the Calder Gas fields, one of the platforms reminding me of the Martian craft in the War of the Worlds!

I left the bridge having thanked the officers and returned to collect my belongings before disembarking the vessel and beginning the drive home.

My thanks go to Seatruck, Captains John Matheson and Steven Olbison, their respective officers and crew for looking after me so well whilst aboard their vessels and the port staff for aiding me in this survey.