Heysham-Dublin survey 13 June
Summary of Sightings
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 12
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 2
Commic Tern Sterna hirundo/Sterna paradisaea 3
Common Gull Larus canus 1
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 20
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 8
Gannet Morus bassanus 42
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 541
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 89
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 101
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 3
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1501
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 4
Razorbill Alca torda 55
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 1
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 18
Gull sp. 3
Birds recorded in Dublin Port
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Common Gull Larus canus
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle
Common Tern Sterna Hirundo
Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea
I nearly didn’t get to Heysham for this survey trip: I was having dinner with a friend near Liverpool before setting off for the port, when her neighbour’s fir tree was struck by lightning, flinging branches and pulverised tree trunk all over the road. Thankfully all was soon well, with the fire brigade clearing the road in time for me to meet Tony in the Seatruck carpark for our trip to Dublin.
We were soon on board the Seatruck Pennant, agreeing with the helpful steward that we would be accompanied to the bridge the following morning at 06:00. It would be fully light by this time, but as the day’s survey was expected to be very long, we thought an extra hour’s sleep would be a sensible idea. It was a good job we didn’t leave it a moment longer though, as almost as soon as we started our survey, we saw the first of an impressive 8 cetacean sightings! This was a group of 6 Bottlenose Dolphins, two of which were younger animals, cruising away down the starboard side of the ship.
Over the next hour and a half, we saw five more small groups or singles, and some Common Dolphin too, with a total of 13 dolphins seen. On the seabird front, we had very regular sightings all morning, with several large flocks of Manx Shearwater either feeding or resting on the water. Guillemot were seen in good numbers too, with some Razorbill and a few Puffin to brighten up the scene. We also saw the regular favourites Kittiwake and Gannet, as well as Shag, Cormorant and Black Guillemot as we neared the port.
Just after seeing a Mediterranean Gull with other gulls a Grey Seal welcomed us into Dublin Harbour, and once docked in Seatruck’s berth just downstream of the Tom Clarke Bridge over the River Liffey, we enjoyed an excellent lunch followed by some time on deck to admire the skilful manoeuvrings on the freight deck, and to enjoy the sights and sounds of port life.
As we sailed back down the river, we had good views of two of the port’s tern platforms, which were full of Arctic Tern and Common Tern nesting activity. The Dublin Bay Birds Project monitored these birds in 2022, counting over 500 nests - an amazing number in such a busy port.
Once outside the harbour walls our work started again, with the sun behind us giving us a glare-free sea to survey. Once again, there were plenty of Manx Shearwater and Guillemot, though in smaller aggregations than in the morning, with the occasional Fulmar and Gannet swooping by. A trainee officer on the bridge asked about our work and was telling me that he had been seeing whales fairly regularly in recent weeks – and then he spotted one out on the starboard side of the ship! Tony already had his binoculars on it, and we were excited to identify it as a Minke Whale. Very exciting for us all, and hopefully the young man will be inspired to continue his wildlife spotting! We saw a further three dolphins over the next couple of hours, making this by far the largest number of cetaceans I’ve seen on one trip.
Wildlife activity tailed off as the evening wore on, with the last few of hours between the Isle of Man and the Walney Wind Farms virtually devoid of sightings, except for a few Gannets and the occasional Guillemot and Manx Shearwater. We closed the survey shortly after sunset, just as we turned past the Lune Deep buoy and on up the channel to Heysham.
This was an excellent survey in perfect conditions, and we are very grateful to the ship’s Master Viktors Suharevs and his officers and staff for their hospitality on board the Pennant, and to Seatruck for allowing us to conduct our surveys on their ships.
Jenny Ball and Tony Marshall, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)
Outward: Wind ENE 4-2, visibility poor initially then improving
Return: Wind NE 4-5, visibility clear