Kevin Waterfall and Nuala Campbell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outbound: Winds light from the S, mainly sunny with good visibility and sea state slight.
Return: Wind light from the S backing NE and freshening, sunny to start but cloud inc. with rain towards the end, visibility good to start but poor in rain, sea state slight.
Summary of Sightings:
Cetaceans and Seals:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 15
Unidentified Whale sp. 1
Auk sp. 9
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 18
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 12
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 25
Common Gull Larus canus 5
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 112
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14
Gannet Morus bassanus 92
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11
Guillemot Uria aalge 148
Gull sp. 280
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 151
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 21
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 141
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 2
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 540
Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 2
Puffin Fratercula arctica 1
Razorbill Alca torda 21
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 7
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix 3
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 2
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 2
Swift Apus apus 1
Leaving Heysham the gulls were busy nesting on the low-pitched roofs of the dockyard and the tide was just coming in as we went up to the bridge. Departure was prompt on both days and after leaving the harbour we were welcomed by the captains Tim Broughton on the way out and Steve Cheeseman on the return trip.
The weather was good on both crossings and we had good views of the wind farm and gas platforms in Morecombe Bay, as well as the Isle of Man as we passed Chicken Rock lighthouse. There were a good many jellyfish on this trip, particularly the large Barrel Jellies.
There were a few solitary Grey Seals dotted along the route, plus on the outlying rocks near the lighthouse in Carlingford Lough, but not as many as during the winter trips. We were fortunate to spot a Bottlenose Dolphin as it leapt out of the water and had a frustrating time trying - and failing - to identify the whale that was just visible on the return trip. The deep channel on the Irish side of this crossing seems to be a place for cetaceans, plus the areas where water depth transitions from deep to shallow.
There were good numbers of Manx Shearwaters both skimming the water and rafting on both legs of the trip and lots of Cormorant and gulls sitting on the old wooden structures and the rocks as we left Carlingford Lough and Hooded Crows along the shoreline. However, from a bird perspective the groups of Black Guillemots and the Little Gull were a pleasure to see.
As ever the crew provided us with substantial breakfasts and evening meals on the crossings and there were ample refreshments on the bridge. We wish to thank both captains, their officers and crews for their helpful and professional support during the surveys.
Chicken Rock lighthouse, Isle of Man (Nuala Campbell)
Fishing boat with gulls (Nuala Campbell)