Heysham-Warrenpoint survey 1-2 June
Summary of Sightings:
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 7
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 5
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 2
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 1
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 733
Gannet Morus bassanus 82
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 125
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 17
‘Commic’ Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 9
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 3
Guillemot Uria aalge 145
Razorbill Alca torda 12
Auk sp. 8
Weather: calm seas, sea state 2-3, sunny with light cloud
We were welcomed aboard by a friendly Seatruck steward, and smiles from the crew and bridge officers when we reached the bridge. The crossing of the Irish Sea to Warrenpoint was with calm seas and a sunny day.
The thrill of the crossing was Robin’s sighting of a Minke Whale close to the ship, with a dorsal fin seen ducking quickly down to avoid the vessel. We also had a brief sighting of a dolphin dorsal fin and a Harbour Porpoise but oh, the birds!
We encountered terns not far off from Heysham, circling and diving. Further out we came across Manx Shearwater rafting and feeding, and Kittiwake in reasonable numbers given that they are now nesting. Close to the Isle of Man there were many Guillemot with some Razorbill, but sadly we sighted two floating upturned Guillemot corpses, and there was a real scarcity of Gannet compared to the usual numbers seen on this crossing and no skua sightings at all. (Editor’s note: we are probably still seeing the continuing impact of bird flu)
Before we began the return voyage, we had a few hours to wait in Warrenpoint. With the re-greened flanks of the Mourne mountains behind, recovering now from previous year’s fires, I watched the Point, our next ship, execute a perfect port-swing to back into the berth at Warrenpoint. A number of Herring Gull swooped down to feed on the tiny creatures churned to the surface by the Point’s engines, while a few Great Black-backed Gull looking on with disinterest from the old mooring posts, along with the quietly cruising Black Guillemot.
From the passenger lounge, on the way down Carlingford Lough to the harbour mouth we watched the resident Bottlenose Dolphin leaping and pirouetting by a navigation buoy. Once allowed onto the bridge and during the survey, we saw five more Bottlenose Dolphin in a chorus line and doing the same moves.
A Harbour Porpoise and three Common Dolphin, a gathering of basking Carlingford Grey Seals were our other marine mammals on this crossing.
The tiny, elegant Manx Shearwater were in great numbers, skimming the waves, resting, and rafting, and diving for prey. Again, nearer the Isle of Man, there were increasing numbers of Guillemot, Razorbill, and surprisingly this far out to sea, a few Black Guillemot with their distinctive white wing patch and red legs.
The Kittiwake were also feeding, scooping up the shallower prey, but there were few other gull species and virtually no Fulmar. We sighted some Gannet, ranging in development from 2-years to 6-year adult, again flying, plunge diving, and resting on the sea surface.
As we drew close to Heysham we watched the terns again and congratulated ourselves on a satisfying survey and the return of the migrating Manx Shearwater, back to breed again for another year.
As ever, the Seatruck crew were welcoming and helpful, and thanks go to both the Performance and the Point for hosting this vital environmental indicator survey.
Robin Langdon and Nuala Campbell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)