Heysham-Warrenpoint survey report 8-9 September
Summary of Species Recorded
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus 4
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis 40
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 3
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 82
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina 3
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 46
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 769
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 1
Gannet Morus bassanus 205
Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis 28
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 5
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 58
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 21
Common Gull Larus canus 12
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 3
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 22
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 9
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 6
Guillemot Uria aalge 719
Razorbill Alca torda 1
Puffin Fratercula arctica 2
Auk sp. 1
Gull sp. 56
Rook Corvus frugilegus 3
Raven Corvus corax 2
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 1
Swallow Hirundo rustica 5
Linnet Carduelis cannabina 3
Outward: mainly cloudy, wind NE 4, sea state 3 dropping to 2; visibility excellent, some glare to port
Return: mainly cloudy, wind NE 2-3 inc. 6-7 for 2 hours then dec. 5-6, sea state 1-2 inc. 6-7 in eastern Irish Sea then dropping 5-6, visibility excellent, some glare to starboard for a while
Fortified by a tasty, cooked breakfast kindly provided by the steward, we were welcomed onto the bridge by Captain Tuuling shortly after we departed Heysham Port. We could not have wanted for a better location to survey from, and even before we had had time to start the survey, we were rewarded with the sight of two Harbour Porpoise crossing the channel ahead of us.
Bird sightings were steady but quiet as we made our way out past the wind farms and gas platforms off Morecambe Bay. We had small groups of rafting Guillemot, occasional Gannet and some close views of adult and juvenile Kittiwake, and an hour in we were delighted to encounter our first Manx Shearwater. This was a flock of a dozen birds, gliding and shearing effortlessly over the wave.
We were also treated to excellent views of 15 Common Dolphin ahead of us, swimming and leaping energetically towards the ship to bowride, and almost immediately afterwards there were another 20 Common Dolphin racing towards us on the starboard bow. These were porpoising out of the waves, the ‘hourglass’ markings on their glistening sleek flanks standing out so clearly.
The western Irish Sea brought more frequent bird sightings, mainly Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet and Guillemot as well as two Puffin. A surprise sighting was of two Swallow, probably starting their migration south. Even more exciting was the sighting of a Balearic Shearwater, rarely seen this far north in the Irish Sea.
Two Bottlenose Dolphin and a further three Harbour Porpoise were added to our survey records before we reached Carlingford Lough, with good views of the Grey and Harbour Seals hauled out on the outer reefs.
After an overnight stay in the Lough & Quay Inn we left Carlingford Lough with a sighting of a Bottlenose Dolphin, possibly the resident ‘Finn’. Rafting Guillemot were common, together with Manx Shearwater and Gannet. We enjoyed good views of the Calf of Man and the Chicken Rock Lighthouse as we crossed to the south of the Isle of Man.
Back in the eastern Irish Sea, we were overtaken by a large flock of Manx Shearwater, and then ahead of the ship we had the spectacle of the whole sea appearing to be full of swimming and flying Manx Shearwater with Kittiwakes dropping out of the air onto the sea surface to catch food.
Our thanks go to Captain Tuuling and Captain Kurach and their crews on Performance and Precision, as well as the other Seatruck staff, who made us very welcome and these important surveys so enjoyable.
Kevin Waterfall and Chris Lumb, Research Surveyors for MARINElife (Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057367)