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Heysham-Dublin survey 13 February

With the Panorama now on its way to its new owners in the Caribbean, we boarded the replacement Seatruck Pace late on Monday night, where after sorting arrangements for breakfast, we turned in for a few hours to get some sleep before starting the survey on Tuesday morning.

 

We were on the bridge by 07.30, and our first Kittiwake was seen shortly afterwards. The Irish coast was well in view and, as we sailed toward Dublin, we had a steady stream of Guillemot, Razorbill and Kittiwake with a couple of adult Gannet passing close to the bows of the Pace. A couple of Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver added to the morning's tally, while a small flock of Oystercatcher passing the bow was unexpected. A solitary Black Guillemot and a Grey Seal ended our survey as we passed the lighthouses, after which we caught up on some gull ID practise with the many birds that were wheeling around the port entrance.

Mediterranean Gull (Rob Petley-Jones)

The mud flats to the south were rapidly disappearing under the very high spring tide, and the roost areas were already teeming with large numbers of Oystercatcher and Curlew, while small flocks of Dunlin and Golden Plover sped past the bridge to get to safe roosting spots before the other birds had bagged them!

 

We were allowed to remain on the bridge for the time the vessel was in port, which allowed us to scan the great views over the mouth of the Liffey and mud flats to the north. A few Great Northern Diver, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, and several Great Crested Grebe were fishing in the waters off the port, while a couple of Raven and several Hooded Crow harried the large numbers of gulls. As the ship left its berth, a rather lonely-looking solitary Light-breasted Brent Goose flew by, while a splendid sub-adult Mediterranean Gull gave us more gull ID practise just before we began the return survey.

 

Sea conditions were ideal for cetacean spotting, and after heading out into the Irish Sea we were soon rewarded with two Harbour Porpoise and a bottling Grey Seal, while a small pod of Common Dolphin sped into bow ride briefly in front of the Pace. Another flock of Common Scoter and a Great Northern Diver were the most notable birds just out from Dublin, and a flock of becalmed Fulmar rested on the waters before scurrying out of the way of the advancing vessel! 

Common Scoter (Rob Petley-Jones)

Although we had a couple more sightings of Harbour Porpoise, seabird numbers remained low through the afternoon and tailed off completely as we entered the outer waters of Liverpool Bay. We ended the survey at 17.30 as the light faded and the forecast rain finally began.

 

Our sincere thanks go again to the two Masters, Viktor Suharevs and Piotr Butrymowicz, and the ever friendly and helpful Seatruck staff and crews for making this survey possible. Next month surveys are already planned, and nothing will change except that the name of Seatruck will be replaced by that of CLdN, the new operators of the Seatruck Irish Sea routes.

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

 

Weather

Outbound: overcast but good visibility, sea state 1-2, wind S force 2-3

Return: overcast with decreasing visibility and some light rain, sea state 1-2, wind E force 1-2

 

Summary of Sightings

Marine mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 4

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 6

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 2

 

Seabirds

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 9

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2

Shag Gulosus aristotelis 15

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 10

Gannet  Morus bassanus 6

Guillemot Uria aalge 49

Razorbill Alca torda 26

Black Guillemot  Cepphus grylle 1

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 31

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 1

Common Gull Larus canus 23

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 19

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 4

Gull sp. 25

Auk sp. 36

 

Birds in Dublin port

Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos 2

Teal Anas crecca 25

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator 2

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 12

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 14

Guillemot Uria aalge 15

Black Guillemot  Cepphus grylle 20

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 900+

Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus 1

Common Gull Larus canus 20

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 6

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 50+

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus 500+

Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria 15

Dunlin Calidris alpina 200+

Curlew Numenius arquata 400+

Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii 4

Raven Corvus corax 2

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix 8

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