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Heysham-Warrenpoint survey 2-3 February

Summary of Sightings:


Marine Mammals

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1


Seabirds

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 5

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 153

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 55

Common Gull Larus canus 1

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 4

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5

Gull sp. Laridae 456

Guillemot Uria aalge 34

Razorbill Alca torda 2


Weather

Outward: overcast, wind W, force 7-8, sea state 4-6

Return: overcast, wind SW, force 5-6, sea state 3-4


This was going to be a tough survey for the cetaceans! The sea state was 5-6 which is not the best, although things did improve on the return passage being mainly state 3.


The sky was quite overcast which made the sea look dark making it more difficult to spot the cetacean, but worst of all I accidentally filled out the header information on the cetacean sheet before spotting the first cetacean! I know you are saying “how could you? - there is now very little chance of seeing one and that piece of paper will go to waste!” My only hope was that this was a two day survey, and provided I did not alter the sheet on the second day then there may be a chance…?


As predicted, on the way out there were no sightings of cetaceans or any other marine mammals, and the bird sightings were also rather infrequent. There was one period of two and a half hours when no birds were seen at all, and there were only just over 30 sightings in the whole day.

Guillemot (library photo: Peter Howlett)

On other surveys I would normally say “all the usual birds were seen”. However, very unusually, this was not the case on this survey, when there were no sightings of Gannet or Lesser Black-backed Gull and only a couple of Fulmar. There was one fishing boat that had 150 gulls round it but was a bit far off to tell exactly what species they were. But no Gannets….


Hoping that for day two of the survey the curse of filling in the sheet would wear off, it was a close call! It took up until 16:20 in the last 20 minutes of the survey before finally a Harbour Porpoise did finally show its head and this was the only cetacean seen on the whole survey.

Harbour Porpoise (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The birds were nearly as scarce as they had been on the previous day, where a couple of encounters with fishing boats and their followers boosted the numbers a bit, but still no sightings of Gannet or Lesser Black-backed Gull. I think this must be a first for me not seeing either of these species on a survey, and I guess it must be the impact of the bird flu outbreaks in 2022 that has taken its toll.


So what have we learnt today:

• DO NOT fill out the header information on the cetacean sheet until you spot your first cetacean. I think we knew this one already!


I would like to thank the captains and crews of the Seatruck Performance and Point for looking after me so well.


Robin Langdon, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

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