Colin Gill and Carol Farmer-Wright, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound: Dry with increasing cloud; good visibility; Wind E-NE 5-7; occasional glare.
Return: Cloudy; intermittent rain; moderate-good visibility; Wind SSE-S 4-9 decreasing 7; sea state 3-6.
Summary of Sightings:
Cetaceans and Seals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncates 2
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 7
Red-throated Diver Gavia stellate 2
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica 10
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 2
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 34
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 5
Gannet Morus bassanus 106
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 17
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 1
Common Gull Larus canus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 6
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 76
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 44
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 37
Guillemot Uria aalge 144
Razorbill Alca torda 41
Diver sp. 6
Skua sp. 1
Larus sp. 10
Tern sp. 26
Auk sp. 31
The team met for a very prompt departure and with Captain Tim keen to catch the tide, the Performance left Heysham Port with much optimism for the trip ahead.
The normal suspects of coastal birds were evident early on with a quieter period as we gently slipped past the wind farm. Sea state was a reasonable 3-4 with good visibility and there was a good range of the pelagic birds such as the Fulmar, Gannet and Kittiwake.
Just after the Isle of Man we had our first mammal sighting a female Grey Seal who was taking exception to a group of resting birds... a Gannet being given a particularly close encounter that it definitely did not want! Shortly after this another Grey Seal was seen munching on a large fish.
While contemplating a possible additional sighting of a large black form diving away from the front of the ship a small pod of at least four Common Dolphin surfaced and sped across the bows.
The rest of the survey was a steady bird-rich affair until we entered Carlingford Lough, where just pass the car ferry a pair of Bottlenose Dolphin were spotted and we finished the day in good mood discussing our luck.
After excellent food and a good night's sleep we were up for another early start. However, the promised forecast of fair calm weather was not accurate - no surprise there! The overcast foggy start was brightened up by a range of divers which tested and improved our identification skills, while a group of Harbour Seal and Grey Seal laid up on the rocks by the lighthouse at the mouth of the lough completed a good start to the return trip.
Unfortunately, this was to be the last of the mammals and the stage was left to our feathered friends. A number of Gannet were seen, mainly flying northwards while a steady supply of Guillemot also kept the writing muscles working. Most Manx Shearwater have yet to make their return from their southerly feeding grounds, but a handful of early arrivals were seen majestically surfing the wave tops. As the wind farms approached the bird numbers dropped and the survey concluded before the final approach into Heysham.
Yet again a heart-felt thanks to the Captains and the crews of both the Performance and the Precision, who continue to make our surveys a relaxed and enjoyable experience.
Common Dolphin (Sharon Morris)
Sandwich Tern (Rob Petley-Jones)
Manx Shearwater (Peter Howlett)