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Heysham-Warrenpoint survey 2-3 May

Both outward and inward surveys were blessed with good viewing weather but an elevated sea state on the outward journey made detection of mammals and birds on the sea challenging.


The outward journey started promisingly and following a light passage of Swallow northward and a male and female Eider flying south, a steady occurrence of Guillemot with the occasional Razorbill on the sea was evident off Blackpool. Perhaps surprisingly, no Common Scoter were seen on either trip (despite a count of 10,000 off Walney Island to the north on 3rd May).  

Common Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

As we progressed across the Irish Sea, bird records declined significantly with just occasional auks along with fly-past Kittiwake, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, and the occasional Fulmar, and with a smattering of immature Common Gull. The only mammal seen on the outward journey was a single Grey Seal.


Predictably sightings increased again on the approach to Carlingford Lough with a single Red-throated Diver a highlight, and with Common Tern, Sandwich Tern, Cormorant, and Shag present both at the mouth and within the lough.  Black Guillemot were regular as we navigated the lough along with Herring Gull and immature Common Gull.


Carlingford Lough was beautiful in the early morning glow of the sunrise the following morning and did not disappoint on the return exit with a stunning Great Northern Diver in full breeding plumage, together with another Red-throated Diver. 14 Grey Seal were loafing on the skerries by the Haulbowline Lighthouse, and immature Common Gull were regular associated with fronts of seaweed.

Great Northern Diver (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Again, seabirds were scarce during the open passage across the Irish Sea, with similar levels as on the outward trip.  There were fleeting sightings of a Harbour Porpoise and an unidentified dolphin, and a Grey Seal popped up in front of the boat with a fish in its mouth – I don’t know who was more surprised, us or the seal!


Just as we had to finish the survey a large mixed feeding association of auks, shearwaters, gulls and Gannet was visible in the distance in Blackpool Bay, these numbers probably surpassing all our totals for each species during the survey, but these are not included in the survey totals below.


More notable were five different party balloons on the return trip, these no doubt originating from the Blackpool party scene and destined for an Irish beach strandline or a marine mammal's stomach! – lovely!!!!


With thanks to the captains and crews of both the CldN Point and Performance for catering for us, particularly the vegan amongst us!

Robin Langdon and Dave Shackleton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)


Outbound:  wind W 4-5, sea state 4-6, overcast

Return: wind W 1-3, sea state 2-3, generally sunny

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 16

Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 1

Dolphin sp. 1



Eider Somateria mollissima 2

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata 2

Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 1

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 6

Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 27

Gannet Morus bassanus 33

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo  2

Shag Gulosus aristotelis 11

Cormorant/Shag 1

Common Gull Larus canus 26

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 114

Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 21

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 42

Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 2

Common Tern Sterna hirundo 4

'Commic' Tern Sterna hirundo/paradisaea 2

Guillemot Uria aalge 117

Razorbill Alca torda 25

Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 4

Auk sp. 27


Land Birds

Curlew Numenius arquata 1

Swallow Hirundo rustica  4

Carrion Crow Corvus corone 3

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