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Heysham-Dublin survey 13 March

We boarded the Seatruck Pace on Monday evening around 22.30 and were made very welcome aboard by the crew and shown to our comfortable cabins. After a light supper we turned in and awoke around 06.00 to a bright morning with a light overcast sky. After a tasty breakfast we made our way to the bridge to start our survey at 07.10.

We started seeing a steady stream of Razorbill and Kittiwake in groups of up to six for the over the next couple of hours, and a group of five Gannet circling alerted us to a pod of Common Dolphin which then came in to bow ride in front of the ship. This palpably raised the tempo of the sightings as larger numbers of auks, Gannet and Fulmar became visible as well as two more small pods of Common Dolphin.

Common Dolphin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Heading into towards Dublin the visibility continued to improve, and the predicted precipitation did not materialise. With the improved sea state more gull species appeared in increasing numbers, including Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull, and Herring Gull. Diving species including Shag and Cormorant became more easily observed as the sea state continued to drop.

The morning survey was fully occupied with a continuous set of sightings with no lulls in activity, so we were very thankful to stop surveying as the ship passed the Red Lighthouse.

In Dublin harbour the captain very kindly allowed us to use the helicopter deck to setup a scope and check out the surrounding water inlets and marshes. Although we did not actively count the birds in Dublin harbour area the water was alive with large number of gulls of all species, as well as several Red-throated Diver, Black Guillemot, Red-Breasted Merganser, Hooded Crow, and Great-Crested Grebe. A small group of Light-breasted Brent Geese took advantage of a large puddle on the quayside next to the ship for preening, while a couple of Grey Seal in lounged the River Liffey. 

Red-throated Diver (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

As the ship reloaded with containers, we were treated to a hearty lunch from the superb galley staff, which went down in a way you hope no ship ever would! Refreshed and revitalised we reconvened on the bridge at 13.30 for the afternoon's return crossing to Heysham.

Leaving Dublin, we had a clear horizon and large numbers of gulls including the first Black-headed Gull of the survey as well as a couple of Red-Throated Diver. With a calm sea state for about an hour out from Dublin we were treated to a steady stream of Harbour Porpoise sightings as well as a single Grey Seal and another small Common Dolphin pod.

Manx Shearwater (Library photo: Steve McAusland)

The continuous seabird activity culminated in a couple of Manx Shearwater, the first of the year, darting across bow of the ferry and beautifully reflecting the rays of lowering sun. The activity slowed as the evening set in, with far more birds appearing to rest and raft, largely becalmed by the dropping wind.

After a delicious tea, a quieter evening session concluded with a beautiful sunset over the Emerald Isle. The survey ended at 18.15.


Our thanks go as ever to Captain Jaak Kalm and his crew for the welcome they gave us, and to the CLdN staff at Heysham for their efficiency at getting us on board. Particular thanks go to the stewards on board for keeping us so well fed!

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



Outbound: overcast but good visibility, wind S-SW force 2-7

Return: overcast with increasing visibility, wind S-SW force 2-6


Summary of Sightings

Marine mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 13

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 8

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1



Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 3

Shag Gulosus aristotelis 7

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5

Gannet  Morus bassanus 36

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 1

Guillemot Uria aalge 81

Razorbill Alca torda 120

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 85

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 13

Common Gull Larus canus 27

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 9

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 1

Shearwater sp. 1

Gull sp. 15

Auk sp. 44


Terrestrial Birds

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix 2


Birds in Dublin port

Pale-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla ssp.hrota

Mallard  Anas platyrhynchos                                                     

Teal Anas crecca                                                                         

Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator                           

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus                 

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata                                          

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo                              

Black Guillemot  Cepphus grylle                                              

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus                   

Common Gull Larus canus                                                        

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus                                 

Herring Gull Larus argentatus                                                 

Dunlin Calidris alpina                                                                 

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix

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