Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Holyhead-Dublin 9th July survey

Survey Report
9th July 2014.
Vessel: Stena Nordica
Time of departure from Holyhead: O855
Time of arrival in Holyhead: 1850
Present:                  Katy Hobson
                              David Williams
                              Richard Barlow.

Upon arrival at Holyhead at 0730hrs, I was shortly afterwards joined by David and then Richard in the ferry terminal. Check in time was around 0805, after which we boarded the vessel without incident.  We were seated in the cafĂ© area and then taken up to the bridge by around 0915.
Weather conditions were initially turbulent, Force 6 and northwesterly with bright, sunny conditions and scattered clouds. Sightings of rafts of seabirds, notably manx shearwater, guillemot and the occasional gannet or fulmar presided for the first half of the outbound leg. First porpoises were sighted around halfway across, small group of adults and a calf. One individual sighting was noted as a result of Mr. Williams experimenting with his camera and capturing a clear porpoise fin. Time was correlated with the ship’s log along with the bearing and range of the shot to give an accurate sighting and positive ID.
Closer to Dublin, the weather improved, decreasing to a force 3-4 Northwesterly. Cloud cover reduced and conditions became much more suitable.  Seabird sightings, Particularly guillemot and shearwater were sighted along with the known Tern colony on the inbound leg into Dublin harbour. Large numbers of Black Guillemot were also present within the Harbour limits and there seems to be a resident population, given the high numbers noted on previous surveys.
Arrival time in Dublin was around 1230, at which time the team went on break for lunch, having been invited down to the crew mess.  Weather conditions in port remained stable, where Mr. Williams recorded large numbers of Black Guillemot in the harbour.
Departure back towards Holyhead was at around 1530.  Similar numbers and species of seabirds were observed on the outbound passage. Approximately three miles offshore, a large sighting of approximately ten Harbour Porpoise in a group was observed to starboard, containing adults and juveniles.  Mr. Barlow then reported a smaller group following the larger group a few hundred yards behind.  We believe this may have been a movement between food sources.
Sightings of harbour porpoise were seen in small numbers along the return passage, possibly becoming more apparent due to calming weather conditions.  Wind force decreased as low as Force 2 after around 1700, with many birds settling out onto the water into rafts as opposed to their foraging behaviour seen in stronger wind conditions.
Arrival into Holyhead was around 1850.  The trip proceeded smoothly without incident from either the team or the crew. Everyone seemed happy with the results and the crew expressed their thanks and that they would see us again shortly.

K. Hobson