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Heysham-Dublin survey 14 March

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 3

Common Dolphin 4 (reported by a crew member)


Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 26

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 29

Gannet Morus bassanus 79

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 2

Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 9

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2

Common Gull Larus canus 128

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 34

Great Black-Backed Gull Larus marinus 4

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 240

Guillemot Uria aalge 122

Razorbill Alca torda 48

Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 3

Puffin Fratercula arctica 1

Large gull sp. 2

Auk sp. 38

Birds recorded in Dublin Port

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Shag Phalacrocorax aritotelis

Mute Swan Cygnus olor

Light-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Common Gull Larus canus

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus

Herring Gull Larus argentatus

Guillemot Uria aalge

Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle

Feral Pigeon Columba livia

Woodpigeon Columba palumbus

Hooded Crow Corvus cornix


Outward - wind NW to WSW 4 decreasing 3, sea state 4, swell 1-2, visibility excellent

Return - wind NW 3 increasing 4, sea state, 3-4, swell: 1, visibility: clear

It was a pleasure and privilege to be able to undertake another survey with Rob Petley-Jones. After meeting enroute our transfer to the Pennant and departure from Heysham went smoothly, and after a few hours sleep and a good breakfast we were escorted to the bridge where we were welcomed by the officer of the watch and began our survey.

Initially low light levels made for tricky surveying but soon conditions improved, and we encountered individual Gannet and Fulmar gliding past and then a regular passage of Kittiwake and small groups of Guillemot speeding past.

Razorbill (Rob Petley-Jones)

Although relatively few in number the immaculate plumage of Razorbill in the sun was a pleasure to see only surpassed by looking down on a Gannet gliding effortlessly past the window of the bridge with full sun on it. So close that almost very feather could be seen.

Gannet (Rob Petley-Jones)

Approaching Dublin, numbers of gulls increased with good numbers of Common Gull and Herring Gull as we approached the port entrance where we finished the formal survey.

Thousands of mixed gulls were seen on mud flats to the north and as we moved further into the port we encountered two Guillemot, one in winter plumage and the other in summer plumage enabling their plumages to be compared. Black-headed Gull were also sporting all plumages between full winter and full summer. Good numbers of Black Guillemot were also seen.

We were able to admire the Samuel Beckett Bridge with the sun glinting on its cables while the ship moved slowly up the river to its new berth near the centre of Dublin. While the ship was unloaded, we were treated to a welcome lunch and then had a brief spell on deck to admire the sights of Dublin and observe several Light-bellied Brent Geese feeding on the algae on the harbour walls, seemingly oblivious to the ships and activity all around them. A pair of Mute Swan were seen just across the river from the ship.

Light-bellied Brent Goose (Rob Petley-Jones)

With the kind consent of the Captain we were again able to observe the birds in the port as we started our return journey. Large numbers of resting Shag and Cormorant tested our identification skills with these two similar species while a few Teal were observed under the harbour wall, although not in the numbers seen the previous month. The thousands of gulls observed on entry to the harbour had been moved off by the rising tide.

Soon after leaving port an intense sleet shower caught up with us and reduced the visibility while it moved over and past. For the rest of the journey we had excellent visibility and the warmth of the sun behind us was in sharp contrast to the ice and freezing temperature that greeted us back in Heysham.

We were delighted to see several groups of Manx Shearwater already heading back towards their breeding areas, a sure sign that spring is on its way. None were seen at a similar time three years ago. Soon after we came upon a group of Gannet fishing and drawing other birds in, but no cetaceans were seen with them. The general dearth of mammals on the survey was more than compensated for by the beautiful views of seabirds we encountered during the crossings.

Kittiwake were observed during most of the crossing, but as numbers of birds reduced as we approached the Welsh coastline we encountered mainly individual Fulmar. With the light fading by 19.30 a Fulmar gliding past was a fitting finale to a varied survey.

Given the number of dead seabirds recorded on recent surveys it was reassuring to find that numbers of birds recorded were generally as expected and no dead seabirds were encountered.

We had a short time to relax and complete our survey summary before an efficient docking back at Heysham brought our day with Seatruck to a very satisfactory close. As ever with MARINElife surveys, we had been privileged to see and enjoy some wonderful wildlife. Our thanks go to the Captain Jaak Karm and the crew of the Pennant, and the staff of Seatruck at Heysham, for allowing us to make this very enjoyable crossing and for their interest in what we were doing and recording. We are already looking forward to the next surveys.

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

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