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

Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884)

Outward: Wind SW backing NW force 7-6, sea state 4, visibility good, variable cloud with occasional rain
Return: Wind  SW to SE then variable force 3-8, visibility moderate cloud with mist and rain

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Common or Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus

Eider Somateria mollissima 2
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 5
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 3
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 172
Cormorant Phalacrocorax 175
Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis 2
Common Gull Larus canus 7
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 112
Lesser Black-backed Gul Larus graellsii 10
Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 36
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 50
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 123
Razorbill Alca torda 19
Gull sp. 62
Auk sp. 2
Diver (Loon) sp. 4

Terrestrial birds:
Pochard Anthya ferina 3
Curlew Numenius arquata 2
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 1
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix 4
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 3
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1
Brent Goose Branta bernicla 8
Wader sp. 118

Four weeks from my first visit to Warrenpoint I arrived at Heysham port ready for the March survey. I collected my ticket from the friendly booking office staff and proceeded to the ship.

On leaving the harbour Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull were seen. The tide was low and I saw a group of more than 100 waders flying to feed on the sand near Blackpool. They were, unfortunately, too far away for me to positively identify.

Shag Adrian Shephard 03
Shag (Archive photo: Adrian Shephard)

An hour into the survey I started to record Guillemot, Kittiwake and Fulmar, the majority of adults having already moulted into their breeding plumage. I recorded a Grey Seal 25 miles west of Heysham, slowly swimming and observing us as the ship passed by. No Gannet were seen until a fishing trawler came into view with over 100 birds looking for a meal. The rest of the westbound survey comprised of various auks. We entered Carlingford Lough in sunshine and I left the ship for my hotel and the return crossing the following day.

I awoke bright and early and made my way to Seatruck in Warrenpoint to join the Clipper Pennant. The breeze had stiffened from the previous day and there was mist and rain in the air. Travelling out of the Lough I encountered many Cormorant, Hooded Crow and Herring Gull. A solitary Shag was seen in the water, his crest clear to see.

The Lough entrance is 'guarded' by a rocky outcrop marked by Haulbowline Lighthouse. Here various birds and seals are seen. Close observation resulted in a solitary Harbour Seal being seen amongst the Cormorant, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Brent Geese that were resting there. The window ledges on the lighthouse were all occupied by Cormorant, some had already placed nesting material as a sign of possession for the breeding period. The remainder of the survey was spent recording Guillemot, Kittiwake and Gannet until the light failed and I left the bridge to prepare for my drive home.

Common Seal Graham Ekins 04
Harbour Seal (Archive photo: Graham Ekins)

My thanks go to Seatruck, Captains Andy Bradbury and Paul Matthews, 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.