Heysham-Warrenpoint survey 4-5 May
Summary of sightings:
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 1
Unidentified seal 1
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 11
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 56
Gannet Morus bassanus 64
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 5
Great Northern Diver Gavia immer 5
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 18
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 2
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 15
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 5
Gull sp. 26
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 8
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis 3
Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle 38
Guillemot Uria aalge 79
Razorbill Alca torda 31
Auk sp. 7
Carrion Crow Corvus corone 1
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Rook Corvus frugilegus 3
Swallow Hirundo rustica 1
Swift Apus apus 4
Whitethroat Curruca communis 1
Siskin Spinus spinus 1
The weather on both crossings was generally good with clear visibility and only a little intermittent light drizzle as we left Warrenpoint. Sea state did get to 5 for a period on the return but ended as a glassy mirror sea by our return to Heysham. There was partial cloud cover at times, but the sun shone through brightly.
After a hearty breakfast on board and just as we were leaving Heysham a group of six Common Tern circled around the piers as we set off towards the wind farms in Morecombe Bay. Departure was prompt on both crossings, and we were soon welcomed onto the bridge by the captains, where we introduced ourselves and were briefed on the instruments on the starboard bridge wing by the second mate.
Weather was fine and we had good views of the gas platforms in Morecombe Bay, as well as the Isle of Man as we passed Chicken Rock lighthouse. It was rewarding to see so many Gannet with birds being seen even into Carlingford Loch. We logged several immature birds, just a year from breeding age so potentially having escaped the bird flu due to being away from the colonies last year.
It was pleasing to see so many adult Kittiwake and quite a lot of Manx Shearwater, Guillemot and Razorbill, where the auks were mostly rafting but some were actively fishing. We passed a lot of Barrel Jellyfish, the largest species found in UK waters and often found washed up on beaches in May and June.
As we are still in bird migration season we saw quite a few terrestrial birds, some of whom perched on the vessel for a while including a Whitethroat that was on the handrail stays just in front of the bridge. On the return crossing we saw a lot of Swift flying past the ship, but none of those stopped.
This only cetacean on this trip was a Common Seal by the rocks at the entrance of Carlingford Loch along with many Cormorant and Shag. There was a good variety of bird species around the loch including Hooded Crow and several Black Guillemot with their smart white wings and black body plumage.
Next morning as we travelled along Carlingford Loch several corvids crossed our bows as we sailed towards the brightness of the Irish Sea. As we left the loch we had spectacular sightings of several Great Northern Diver, with their white striped patch on the sides of their necks standing out clearly as the took off. A few Sandwich Tern were also seen, possibly from the colony on Green Island. We tried to get good pictures of Gannet but they seemed camera shy, or teased us by changing direction at key moments!
We wish to thank Seatruck, Captains Tuuling and Kurach, their officers, and crews of both vessels and shore staff, for their assistance and interest which make these surveys so enjoyable. Especial thanks to those officers who showed us cetacean videos on their phones and for the banana milkshakes.
Kevin Waterfall and Emma Knowles, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)