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Heysham-Warrenpoint survey 7-8 March

Updated: Mar 21

I arrived at Heysham Port on a fine and sunny March morning, CLdN staff soon had me transferred onto the Performance. After setting sail I was allowed onto the bridge to start the survey whilst we were still in Morecambe Bay. An early highlight was a Grey Seal which had caught a large flatfish and was trying to avoid the attention of several Common Gull!

Gradually, the regular and expected seabird species began to be seen. Among a few Guillemot was a single Razorbill, and soon after the first Kittiwake were noted. We are entering the spring migration season and a Meadow Pipit headed purposefully north in front of the boat, two more were seen later including one that landed on the boat just behind the bridge for a while.

Meadow Pipit on board a vessel (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

It's always delightful to see Little Gull on the Irish Sea surveys, and I was fortunate to have a couple of sightings. The first was a group of eight birds, a mixture of adults and youngsters, followed by a two other sightings. A bonus came in the form of a couple of Puffin which were in the same area as the first group. Shortly after this I saw a couple of dolphins heading west at speed. My best guess from fin size and shape was that these were Bottlenose Dolphin, but the sighting was too brief to be conclusive.

The first Fulmar was seen before any Gannet had been recorded, which was unusual, and I still had not seen any Gannet when the boat passed the southern end of the Isle of Man. However, after this point there were a few seen at regular intervals including one group of half a dozen together. The light was going as we entered Carlingford Lough, but I did see a Black Guillemot here, and whilst sightings in the Lough do not count towards the formal marine survey it is always great to see these dapper little auks.

Little Gulls (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

After a night at the Whistledown Hotel I had a leisurely start as the Point was not due to leave until around 10.30. Reaching the CLdN terminal, both the ground and boat staff were again very friendly and helpful. When we left the berth within the Lough I saw the only diver of the trip, a Red-throated Diver, as well as a few more Black Guillemot.

The sea state when surveying resumed was rougher than the first day, and I did not expect to see any cetaceans. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when some Common Dolphin came in to bow ride. The first two I did not see very well, but I then had superb if brief views of a mother and calf leaping out of the water in synchrony.

Common Dolphin and calf (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Beyond the Isle of Man, a first winter Little Gull was seen in front of the boat. As I tracked it flying down the port side of the ship, I saw that there were another fifteen feeding together over the sea. It’s always a delight to see this species on these surveys and was a fitting end to an enjoyable survey.

Stephen Dunstan, Research Surveyor for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)

Summary of Sightings

Marine Mammals

Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 4

Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 1



Gannet  Morus bassanus 31

Shag Gulosus aristotelis 3

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 20

Guillemot Uria aalge 29

Razorbill Alca torda 28

Puffin Fratercula arctica 2

Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 26

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 77

Common Gull Larus canus 20

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 11

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 5

Gull sp. 1

Auk sp. 4


Terrestrial Birds

Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis 3


Seabirds seen in Carlingford Lough/Heysham Port not seen during survey effort

Red-throated Diver Gavia stellata                                          

Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 

Black Guillemot Cepphus grylle                 

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus (also in Heysham)

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