Colin Gill, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound:North-easterly wind force 8, Sea State 7-8, visibility good.
Return: South-westerly wind force 7-8, Sea State 4-5, visibility fair to good.
Summary of Sightings:
Cetaceans and Seals:
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Gannet Morus bassanus 31
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 88
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 35
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 1
Common Gull Larus canus 4
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus25
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 13
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 36
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 5
Guillemot Uria aalge 106
Razorbill Alca torda 16
Storm Freya had done its damage the day before and had departed towards Europe leaving a windy tail wind and some choppy seas. Nevertheless, the warm welcome from my hosts abroad the Performance inspired optimism for an interesting and fulfilling day at sea.
The ship got underway at midday and on leaving Heysham harbour a very large male Grey Seal was observed having his lunch - a flat fish, which also had a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gull doing their best larceny act to no avail.
The rest of the crossing was quiet for sightings, with the birds yet to fully return after being blown away by Storm Freya, but I was pleasantly surprised to see as many as I did on this first leg. The Isle of Man came and went with no mammal sightings and the arrival into Carlingford Lough was shrouded in darkness, so after a long first day the comfort of the Lough and Quay in Warrenpoint was much appreciated.
After a good night's sleep and an excellent breakfast, the short walk back to the port renewed my enthusiasm for a more successful day of surveying. The morning fog was not to prove an issue, and the prompt departure time meant that the offer of a second breakfast was declined so I could get on the bridge for an interesting first hour as we made our way out of the Lough. This part of the trip is normally rich with a variety of wildlife and although not as plentiful as previous trips there was still much to entertain. A high tide meant that the lighthouse island was empty of seals, but the remaining craggy outcrop was covered with numbers of Cormorant. There were also a few Black-throated Diver and a couple of small flocks of Common Scoter.
The rest of the trip was a constant trickle of the normal Irish Sea birdlife of Guillemot, Gannet, and Kittiwake. Fulmar were there as well but not in any significant numbers and the distance appearance of a Manx Shearwater was a prelude to what may come in the next few months. No marine mammal sightings were noted but this was not surprising due to the sea state…..well, there is always next time!
My thanks go to the Seatruck staff and crews of the Performance and the Precision who always make us very welcome and look after us on these surveys. Their enthusiasm and support is very much appreciated.
Grey Seal (Rick Morris)
Little Gull (Peter Howlett)
Manx Shearwater (Peter Howlett)