MARINElife blog: Seatruck Ferries ‘Seatruck Performance’ Heysham-Warrenpoint 11 October 2018

Carol Farmer-Wright and Harry Ashcroft, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Weather Conditions:
Westbound: Increasing cloud with rain early afternoon; Sea state force 2-6 roughest in open sea; Wind SSE to WSW force 6.
Eastbound: Returned at night therefore no survey undertaken

Summary of Sightings:

Marine Mammals:
Common Dolphin (Short-beaked) Delphinus delphis 15
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 89
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 104
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 2
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 28
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 287
Common Gull Larus canus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 15
Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 70
Razorbill Alca torda 11
Gull sp. Laridae 1

Terrestrial Birds:

Carrion Crow Corvus corone 5

Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea 1

StarlingSturnus vulgaris 3

Passerine sp. 2


Harry and I met up early in the morning and proceeded to the Seatruck Performance and enjoyed a cooked breakfast before being escorted up to the bridge to prepare for our survey.  Captain Paul Matthews welcomed us onboard the bridge and we began our survey just before 10am. Immediately a Harbour Porpoise was seen by the captain as we headed through the narrow, dredged channel that enables vessels to enter and exit Heysham port, but the sighting was too brief for we surveyors to see the animal.

Razorbill Peter Howlett 06As we left the harbour we encountered a number of Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull.  Moving into the bay a couple of Common Scoter passed in front of us and sightings of Guillemot and Razorbill passed by on a regular basis, the majority resting on the water.

Further into the Irish Sea the auks became scarce being replaced by Kittiwake and Gannet.  Despite being mid-October a couple of Manx Shearwater were still evident, the majority having already left to spend our winter in the south west Atlantic.

Common Dolphin Sharon Morris 03Our next cetacean sighting happened just after 2.20 pm when five Common Dolphin came in to bow-ride, one sub-adult being among them.  Harry was off-effort at the time, so I was relieved that half an hour later a larger group of ten Common Dolphin approached the ship to bow-ride whilst both of us were surveying.

As the day drew to a close our last sighting of marine mammals was of three Grey Seal seen around the skerries protecting the entrance to Carlingford Lough.

With the light failing we left the bridge and returned down to the drivers' mess to have a substantial meal before returning overnight to the port of Heysham.

We would both like to thank Seatruck port staff, and Captain Paul Matthews, his officers and crew for looking after us so well whilst on the survey.

Razorbill (Peter Howlett)
Common Dolphin (Sharon Morris)