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Heysham-Dublin survey 8 August

Nuala and I arrived at Heysham from Blackpool and St Bees respectively shortly before midnight. The transfer to the Seatruck Pace was very efficient and, following a quick discussion about the survey ahead, we were able to get some sleep before an early start the following morning.

Breakfast was at 6.30 and before we were able to survey in earnest, we kept an eye out for wildlife from the passenger lounge windows. Although it was generally quiet, a Storm Petrel fluttered past which was a good sign for the rest of the day.

Guillemot and chick (Library photo: Rob Petley-Jones)

We joined the bridge at 7.05 and were able to survey until 9.30 when the ship entered the harbour at Dublin. On the crossing we saw a variety of the expected seabirds, including Fulmar, Gannet, Kittiwake, and Manx Shearwater. We were heartened to see plenty of Guillemot and Razorbill, including some young despite the avian flu issues in the Irish Sea. The Storm Petrel tally also advanced with a group of four birds and a single added to the one seen earlier.

Cetacean observations were also good in what is usually one of the best months of the year on this route. Beginning with a small group of Common Dolphin we also saw several Harbour Porpoise, but to crown a good couple of hours we had no fewer than four Minke Whale apparently feeding together ahead of the ship!

Minke Whale (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After we stopped surveying on entering the harbour, we saw a few birds not recorded during the survey itself. As well as a single Black Guillemot there were several Mute Swan. We scanned through the large gatherings of gulls around an outfall to try and pick out a Mediterranean Gull but drew a blank. We were treated to a filling lunch and also made a head start on some of the paperwork whilst docked.

When we returned to the bridge for the return leg at the agreed time the vessel was already outside the harbour, and we began the survey, initially distracted by the tender boats taking passengers to and from the Silver Moon cruise liner moored in south Dublin Bay!

There were again good numbers of auks, gulls, and Manx Shearwater as we headed east, while several more Harbour Porpoise were seen, including one small calf. A pod of Common Dolphin, though never close to the ship, was certainly very active and offered the best views of the survey. A pale-morph Arctic Skua passed close in front of the ship as it headed north, and the tally of Storm Petrel continued to tick over to give an exceptional total for this survey route. We did sadly see a small number of dead Guillemot which was expected given the large bird flu outbreak in the Irish Sea, but still sobering.

Storm Petrel (Library photo: Rick Morris)

As we passed the Isle of Man sightings quietened off as they often do on this survey. We were, however, treated to some stunning skyscapes as the sun set, and a grandstand view of the iconic tower and the ‘Big One’ ride in my hometown of Blackpool before dusk, and afterwards in the case of the then illuminated tower.

All in all, it was an excellent survey in great conditions, and we are hugely indebted to Captain Suharevs and the crew of the Seatruck Pace who as ever were so very welcoming to us.

Stephen Dunstan and Nuala Campbell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Wind N-NE 1-3, sea state 1-3, generally light cloud and excellent visibility

Summary of sightings:

Marine Mammals

Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 4

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 14

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 21

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus5


European Storm Petrel Hydrobates pelagicus 13

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 14

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 453

Gannet Morus bassanus 86

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 4

Cormorant/Shag Phalacrocorax sp. 3

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 188

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 3

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 17

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 756

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 13

Common Tern Sterna hirundo 10

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea 4

Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1

Guillemot Uria aalge 437

Razorbill Alca torda 36

Auk sp. 1315

Gull sp. 55

Seabirds seen only outside survey effort

Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle

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