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Heysham-Dublin survey 27 April

This survey was from Heysham to Dublin on board CLdN's vessel, Pace. We boarded on Friday night at around 23.30 and were greeted by the steward who offered us some scrambled eggs, gratefully received, before we settled down for the night in our comfortable cabins.

Alarm set for 5.30am, up and ready for a hearty breakfast, and then straight to the bridge to begin our survey. Weather conditions were superb, being bright and clear. Our first sighting was a Common Gull followed by many Gannet, some in the air and some sitting on the sea. Then we had a surprise, with a House Sparrow flying just above and in front of us! It looked as though it had joined as a passenger on the ship as we sailed out of Heysham, as it stayed with the ship and put in a second appearance on the return crossing.

Then we had a flurry of many Razorbill, Guillemot, and several Puffin, which we were excited to see. These were followed by Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, and more Gannet. Despite some lulls in the sightings, these continued to come with more Common Gull some Kittiwake, and Herring Gull.

Puffin (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Approaching the Irish coast we then had a real flood of auks, with large numbers of Guillemot flying across the bow of the ship in group after group of, these up to 70 birds at a time. Other auks in this period were smaller numbers of Razorbill and even Puffin. As we got closer to Dublin the Cormorant and Shag began to appear, as well as a Great Northern Diver, and a few more Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull as well.

We arrived earlier than expected into Dublin, at around 0930 so with the captain’s permission we spent time on the helicopter deck watching the bird life in port and feeling very sorry for a solitary Brent Goose that looked so lonely by the ferry.

Lunch was at 1200 and the ship sailed earlier at around 12.30, so we went straight back to the bridge. It was a bit overcast but once we were out to sea, the cloud lifted and the sun came out, just beautiful. A flock of dark sea ducks flew past, and the white wing bars on several showed these to be Velvet Scoter, a very scarce bird for Irish waters. Out to sea, the same species were back in our view and again we had a wonderful flurry of Guillemot once we were clear of the harbour and at sea, with flocks of up to and over 300 in number.

There were plenty more sightings of Common Gull, Kittiwake, Gannet, Razorbill, and Manx Shearwater. One shearwater had us scratching our heads, and we cannot be sure whether this was a Balearic Shearwater. This bird flew directly in front of the ship for a while, and it looked slightly slimmer and smaller than the many Manx Shearwater that were also present.

Other highlights were several more Puffin and a Yellow-legged Gull which flew close to the bridge windows.

Yellow-legged Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

On this survey we did not see many cetaceans with a solitary Harbour Porpoise and a couple of small pods of dolphin, but no seals. This was a little disappointing as it was such a beautiful day and with the visibility being so good.

The vessel did slow down at one point as I think we were ahead of time, and it was quieter during that period. Our survey ended at 20.40, with a Razorbill being our last sighting. However, it was a stunning evening, so we stayed on the bridge and just watched the sky change, with a beautiful sunset over Morecambe Bay and the Lakes to the left of us. A wonderful end to the day.

We were well looked after by the steward and the crew were very friendly. They even returned a book that had been left on board by a previous survey team, so all at CLdN really do make these surveys possible and a pleasure to do.

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



Outbound: clear skies with good visibility, sea state 1-2, wind NE - SW

Return: clear skies, clouding progressively into the evening with decreasing visibility, sea state 1-2, wind SW-SE


Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Unidentified Dolphin sp.  4



Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca 10

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 123

Gannet Morus bassanus  66

Shag Gulosus aristotelis  2

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1

Common Gull Larus canus 231

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 28

Lesser Black-Backed Gull Larus fuscus 7

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis 1

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 33

Guillemot Uria aalge 1264

Razorbill Alca torda 183

Puffin Fratercula arctica  42

Shearwater sp. 1

Diver sp. 4

Large gull sp. Larus sp. 55

Auk sp. 199


Terrestrial Birds

House Sparrow Passer domesticus 2


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