Heysham-Dublin survey 10 October
Updated: Oct 25
The previous survey on this route having been carried out only a fortnight ago, we thought our sightings might be roughly similar, but it turns out that two weeks is a long time for wildlife and things were quieter. There were still some interesting highlights, so our time as guests of the Seatruck Panorama was well spent.
It was still very dark when we met for a tasty, cooked breakfast at 07:00, and by 07:45 we had been welcomed to the bridge and could see well enough to start our survey. This began with a group of five Gannet flying right outside the windows, while regular sightings of Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and a steady stream of mostly adult Gannet followed.
Then just as the ship was entering the channel into Dublin port, a group of feeding auks and gulls was seen with a single Harbour Porpoise joining the fray. The ship was a little ahead of schedule, so we closed the survey at Poolbeg Lighthouse at 08:49 and enjoyed relaxed views of a couple of Atlantic Grey Seal, a swirl of waders over the rocky northern breakwater, and a number of Black Guillemot in their smart winter plumage, as we made our way to Seatruck berth.
After only an hour’s survey we were hardly ready for a break, but nevertheless enjoyed some time on deck, although because it was high water there were not many gulls or other birds to be seen. The busy port is always fun to watch though, with ships manoeuvring, containers being moved around like chess pieces, and even a boat-full of people off on a tour of Dublin Bay!
The afternoon’s survey was more of a challenge, with the wind increasing steadily to force 7 and the swell making itself felt even on the bridge. The ship however managed to steer a course through threatening-looking conditions on all sides and we recorded Gannet, Razorbill, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Guillemot, usually single birds or small groups. A couple of Manx Shearwaters were seen – late leavers for their annual migration. The main excitement was an Arctic Skua crossing in front and almost below us, so that we had a good if very brief view of its characteristic outline. Otherwise, we managed to pick out individual auks from the breaking waves and wind-flecked seas, with the occasional gull as we neared the Lancashire coast.
It is always a pleasure to do a survey on board a Seatruck ship - their officers and staff are welcoming and hospitable, both on board and shore-side, and we are grateful to the Panorama’s master for allowing us to survey from the bridge.
Jenny Ball and Tony Marshall, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outward: Wind: S 20kn reducing to 10kn. Overcast but reasonable visibility and low sea state
Return: Wind: S/SW 20kn increasing to 30kn; Swell: 2m; Visibility and sea state reasonable
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 16
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 3
Gannet Morus bassanus 62
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 2
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 1
Guillemot Uria aalge 76
Razorbill Alca torda 27
Auk sp. 74
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 21
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 60
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 18
Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus 1