MARINElife blog: Seatruck Ferries ‘Clipper Pennant’ & ‘Clipper Point’ Heysham-Warrenpoint 13-14 July 2017

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

Outbound: Wind SW 3-5, visibility good, dry with increasing cloud cover.
Return : Wind  WSW 3-4, visibility good, dry and cloudy.

Summary of sightings:

Marine mammals:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Unidentified Dolphin Sp.  1
Unidentified Seal sp.  49
Common or Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 8
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1

Eider Somateria mollissima 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1628
Gannet Morus bassanus 135
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 141
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 2
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 15
Common Gull Larus canus 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 234
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 195
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 7
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 48
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 35
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 283
Razorbill Alca torda 39
Auk sp.  8
Tern sp.  3
Gull sp.  1
Larus sp.  3

Terrestrial birds:
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 3

Summertime in the Irish Sea is wonderful for surveying as a large number of pelagic birds return in the springtime to breed and their offspring are now venturing onto the sea for the first time. With this in mind Andy and I arrived at Heysham for the morning sailing over to Warrenpoint, were quickly issued with our boarding passes and were driven to the ship. Once on board we were provided with a delicious cooked breakfast before going to the bridge to be welcomed by Captain Olbison.

Guillemot Rick Morris 03a

As we left Heysham we recorded Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Sandwich Tern. After an hour Gannet, Guillemot, Kittiwake were recorded and our first Manx Shearwater was seen. The most delightful sight is that of the Guillemot and Razorbill chicks on the water. These young, called jumplings, leave the security of their nest unfledged after only a couple of weeks and are escorted by their fathers on the sea until they are able to fend for themselves. Both species were seen on this occasion with young, the chicks appearing extremely buoyant and less than half the size of their attentive parent.

As we passed south of the Isle of Man we recorded our only cetaceans of the day, two Harbour Porpoise, which briefly appeared close to the ship before veering away. Bird sightings were fairly consistent throughout the afternoon until we stopped surveying and headed down to the drivers mess to have dinner prior to our disembarkation at Warrenpoint.

After a restful sleep at the Lough and Quay, we arrived back at the port ready for the return survey. The tide was out and Captain Broughton pointed out to us the oyster farms that were exposed to the morning air as we moved through Carlingford Lough. Many seals were hauled out on the small islands exposed at low tide.

Seals Carol Farmer Wright 01Bird sightings in the Lough included Grey Heron, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Cormorant and Black Guillemot, the latter looking very dapper resting on a buoy in the morning sunshine. Once out in the Irish Sea Manx Shearwater were again seen in good numbers. We recorded two more sightings of cetacean on our travel towards the Isle of Man, a solitary Harbour Porpoise and a dolphin that was too quick for us to positively identify. Young auk were again seen and Sandwich Tern became noticeable as we approached the Lancashire shoreline. A solitary pale phase Arctic Skua was seen as we drew our survey to a close.

Our thanks go to Seatruck, Captains Stephen Olbison and Tim Broughton, their respective officers and crew for looking after us so well whilst aboard their vessels and the port staff for aiding us in this survey.

Guillemot (Rick Morris)
Seals (Carol Farmer-Wright)