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Survey report Heysham-Dublin 21 October

This was to have been a VSAS survey, but due to unforeseen late team changes the survey was carried out as a standard MARINElife survey.

We arrived at Heysham at the tail end of Storm Babet (at least in the west) to find the ferry 3 hours late due to heavy seas. So it was with some trepidation that we boarded at 2.30 am, a feeling reinforced by the steward declaring he had just endured one of his worst crossings for years!

After a short sleep we were on the bridge by 07.30 to find, much to our relief, a much more benign sea. Nevertheless, it was still a sea state six and was to hover around this for the remainder of survey, making detection of mammals and seabirds on the sea challenging.

Mediterranean Gull (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

Not surprisingly in such conditions and because of the time of year, it was a quiet outward trip, notable mainly for a flock of over 90 Redwing and Fieldfare heading north and a Grey Heron heading south, both well out to sea. Pulses of Guillemot on the sea were interspersed with a handful of other species and it was not until we approached Dublin that we encountered more birds, with Common Gull prominent and a single Mediterranean Gull flying past. We stopped survey effort as we passed the green lighthouse and subsequently enjoyed several small groups of Great Crested Grebe totalling 17 in the more sheltered water between the outer breakwaters.

Juvenile Common Tern (Library photo: Peter Howlett)

The passage out of Dublin harbour on the return trip produced a late juvenile Common Tern and the initiation of survey effort immediately yielded a handful of Mediterranean Gulls. Alas, the return passage was even quieter than the outward trip and again we failed to find a marine mammal. However, we were treated to a nice sunset illuminating the waters in front of the boat and were able to survey until 18.00, by which time the light was fading.

Our thanks to the crew of Seatruck Panorama who remained cheerful and hospitable despite what must have been a very demanding previous passage.

Nuala Campbell and Dave Shackleton, Research Surveyors for MARINElife

(Registered Charity No. 1110884; Registered Company No. 5057376)


Outward: Wind NNW averaging 23kn, overcast with good visibility, sea state 6, swell 1m plus

Return: Wind: NNW averaging 17.5kn, overcast with good visibility, sea state 5, swell 1m

Summary of sightings:


Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 1

Gannet Morus bassanus 4

Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 2

Razorbill Alca torda 8

Guillemot Uria aalge 72

Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 16

Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 2

Common Gull Larus canus 27

Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 4

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 1

Herring Gull Larus argentatus 17

Common Tern Sterna hirundo 1

Gull sp. 2

Auk sp. 6

Terrestrial Birds

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea 1

Thrush sp. 90

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