Friday, 13 June 2014

Report from the latest Holyhead-Dublin route from Elfyn

On the 11th June six volunteers from 'Sea Trust' conducted the third survey of the year on the 'Stena Nordica' ferry between Holyhead and Dublin. The sea state was good with a fresh south westerly wind. We were welcomed on the bridge even before we left port but unfortunately on the first part of the voyage our observations were hampered by dense sea mist or fog which reduced visibility to around 200 metres. By the time we reached the halfway mark though the mist/fog suddenly lifted as is often the case on these sea voyages and so we got to work to look for animals.
We spotted a few harbour porpoise and two separate sightings of a dolphin species which we couldn't positively identify.They may have a single bottlenose or common dolphin. Another small cetacean was also recorded.
Whilst we were surveying one of the senior bridge officers, who was looking ahead, suddenly exclaimed 'WHALE' and pointing to the sea area where she had seen the animal. Of course all eyes were then trained on that spot. It was probably a Minke whale but unfortunately as is often the case with these 'slinky' Minke's they can surface once and then just disappear. Anyway it shows that the bridge crew were getting into the swing of things too!
We arrived in Dublin but we remained on board the ship to dine and rest our weary eyes in preparation for the return journey.

The return voyage in the afternoon was much more productive and we recorded a few more harbour porpoise. One of our surveyors Chris Wallbank spotted a Minke whale surfacing a good way ahead of the ship and alerted us to it so we all got good views of it as it passed close to the ship down the port side.

In all we recorded a total of 22 harbour porpoise, 2 dolphins of a species unidentified either bottlenose or common, an unidentified small cetacean, 1 definite Minke whale and possibly a second spotted by a bridge crew officer.

The bird life didn't disappoint either as this is an excellent crossing to see a variety of seabirds. Here is the list:-

Rafts of Manx shearwater, auk species were common guillemot, razorbill, puffin, black guillemot in both Holyhead and Dublin harbours, kittiwake, Northern gannet,fulmar, the usual gull species, Arctic, common and Sandwich terns, a great skua, cormorant, a couple of good flocks of common scoter which may have included a single velvet scoter.

Some of us stayed at the excellent Anglesey Adventure Centre and youth hostel the previous night and enjoyed an evening visit to the nearby RSPB 'South Stack' reserve where we observed the auks on the nesting cliffs. We had excellent views of 2 adult peregrine's and their advanced chick on a nest on a cliff visible near 'Ellen's Tower'. There were choughs and ravens about to. 

We spent a convivial evening at the 'Paddler's Bar' which is part of the Anglesey Adventure Centre complex.

If you want to take part in a 'Sea Trust' survey on this Holyhead to Dublin route this summer then please contact Hannah Harries or Cliff Benson at the 'Ocean Lab',Fishguard Harbour, Goodwick, Pembrokeshire. Tel- 01348 874737/01348 875639.

The survey team wish to extend a huge thanks to all the crew, especially the bridge and the mess crew, of the 'Stena Nordica' for their incredible hospitality once again. We simply could not conduct these surveys without their support.

The team members were Elfyn Pugh, Chris Wallbank, Shenaz Khimji, Katy Joy Hobson, Rhian Tilley, Liz Docwra. All from Wales!