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Heysham-Dublin 14 June Seatruck 'Clipper Pace'

Updated: Jun 17

Summary of Sightings


Marine Mammals

Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 8

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 25

Short-beaked Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 4


Seabirds

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 42

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 28

Gannet Morus bassanus 557

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 3326

Guillemot Uria aalge 1032

Razorbill Alca torda 73

Puffin Fratercula arctica 7

Black Guillemot Cepphus grille 7

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 290

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 8

Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 5

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 4

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 1144

Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 3

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 6

Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1

‘Commic’ Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 193

Curlew Numenius arquarta 3

Mixed gull sp. 380

Auk sp. 71


Weather

Outward - wind: SE 2 decreasing 1, sea state 2, swell: 0-1, visibility clear

Return - wind: S 2 decreasing 0, sea state 2 decreasing 0, swell: 1-0, visibility clear


It was great to be back at sea with Seatruck across to Dublin and back on this first of the resumed marine surveys since the lockdown of over two years ago – and what a magnificent survey we had! The huge numbers of seabirds and marine mammals we encountered reminded us of just what an exciting and important area of ocean the Irish Sea is.


Little did we know of the glories to come when we arrived on the bridge of the Pace at 05.00 where we were warmly welcomed by the Seatruck Officer-of-the-Watch and Cadet, who immediately made us a cup of coffee! The winds were light and the sea conditions slight, promising an excellent prospect for wildlife spotting.


Within minutes of setting up and taking our position (amazing how quickly the recording procedures came back to us!) we were counting good numbers of Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake and Gannet. It was not long before we had our first mammal encounter with a Grey Seal spy-hopping in the calm waters.

Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)

This was followed very soon by the first of our many Harbour Porpoise sightings, when a pod of four including a small calf appeared ahead of the ship. More encounters with Harbour Porpoise followed with pleasing regularity, and within two hours of starting the survey we had recorded a further twelve animals.


However, the excitement of these sightings was soon more than matched by the first encounter with a Minke Whale, which announced itself with an almighty splash in front of the ship! To our amazement, in the next two hours we saw a further five Minke Whales, with two animals lunge feeding together amidst a whirling flock of seabirds and white water.

Minke Whale (Library photo: Tom Brereton)

As we approached the Irish coast the seabird numbers were phenomenal, with large gatherings of Manx Shearwater sitting becalmed in large rafts, together with numbers of Guillemot and Kittiwake. Our run into Dublin port was marked by good numbers of Arctic Tern and Common Tern and a few Black Guillemot, while several hundred gulls milled around the outfall from the power station just before the Seatruck berth.


While the Pace was unloaded and then reloaded with containers, we enjoyed a welcome rest and lunch followed by some Black Guillemot spotting, and we were off out to sea in good time and into relatively calm seas. The sea state increased for a short while as we sailed away from Ireland, but conditions calmed steadily as we progressed towards Liverpool Bay where we sailed across a windless mirror-calm sea.

Manx Shearwaters (Rob Petley-Jones)

Large numbers of Manx Shearwater and other seabirds were again present as we sailed through the deeper waters of Dublin Bay, and a further two Minke Whale sightings and an exciting encounter with a pod of four Common Dolphin made the first part of the return crossing very productive. Bird activity declined as the light winds dropped to virtually nothing and the sea state became mirror calm, but this allowed for excellent Harbour Porpoise spotting conditions and by the time we finished the survey as the light began to go, we had seen a further twelve of these animals.

Common Dolphin (Library photo: Sharon Morris)

Very disturbing were the amounts of plastic debris that we encountered in Liverpool Bay, with particularly large numbers of spent helium balloons ready to wreak havoc with the marine wildlife we had been recording so avidly all day. It is high time that helium balloons were banned!


Even more disturbing were our encounters with dead seabirds on this trip. I have never seen a dead seabird on a MARINElife survey before, so to see these poor creatures today was something of a shock. Whether these deaths were the result of the current Bird Flu epidemic cannot be guessed, but if so then there must be many thousands of seabird casualties out on the ocean this summer.


As the light faded and the full Rose Moon rose over Blackpool we relaxed in the passenger lounge, reflecting on the huge success of this return to Irish Sea marine surveys with Seatruck. This was a very auspicious beginning to the new series of surveys and the crew and officers of the Clipper Pace could not have been more accommodating, so our thanks to Captain Suhartus and his great team for such a promising resurrection of this productive partnership.


Rob Petley-Jones and Jane Petley-Jones, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

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