Monday, 29 July 2013

Seatrack Update: late July 2013 survey

The first Seatrack survey of the year took place on Sat 20th/Sun 21st July. With calm weather prevailing, a major passage of seabirds was not to be expected! Saying that, some nice sightings were logged from the various headlands surveyed right along the coast from Donegal to Dublin.

Perhaps most often thought of as being a winter visitor, some Common Scoter actually begin to arrive at post-breeding moulting sites around the Irish coast in mid-summer & a July seawatch can often reveal quite a few passing by. This was certainly the case during the Seatrack survey in question with many observers reporting flocks on the move. Another species which undergoes a strong post-breeding movement at this time of year is Mediterranean Gull, several of which were seen from sites in Leinster, on the move from breeding colonies in North West continental Europe (France/Belgium/Netherlands etc.) to traditional staging areas such as South Dublin Bay.

With the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater being the focal species of Seatrack, it was good to get one logged on the first survey session of the year, seen heading South past Kilcoole on the evening of the 20th. This bird, in the company of a light passage of Manx Shearwaters, was most likely moving between feeding areas around frontal systems at either end of the Irish Sea. A handful of 'Near Threatened' Sooty Shearwaters were noted from Bloody Foreland & Dursey Island, with an impressive Southward movement of over 7,600 Manx Shearwaters at the latter also.

The next Seatrack survey takes place this weekend (start time 06:45am), with a priority date set for Saturday 3rd August, to complement long running seawatching surveys being undertaken by FAME partners along the West coast of continental Europe. The current forecast gives a low pressure breaking against the South West coast from Wednesday, lasting until Saturday morning when some decent, local seabird movements may linger on for those seawatching between Cork & Wexford or potentially a more active passage along the West coast between Mayo & Clare.

If you would like to take part in this international seabird census then get in touch with Niall Keogh at for details on how to take part.

Some July Seatrack sightings reported so far as follows: (E = East, W = West, N = North, S = South & M = Milling)

Saturday 20th July

Bloody Foreland., Co. Donegal (Chris Ingram)
1 N + 1 S Sooty Shearwater, 81 N + 63 S + 200 M Manx Shearwater, 4 N + 1 S Storm Petrel, 2 S Common Scoter, 2 S + 1 M Great Northern Diver, 2 S Diver sp., 1 N Great Skua (Bonxie), 3 S Arctic Skua, 2 N Sandwich Tern, 4 N + 10 S Arctic Tern & 8 N Puffin.

Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow (Niall T. Keogh)
1 S Balearic Shearwater, 370 N + 170 S Manx Shearwater, 25 S Common Scoter, 1 N Red-throated Dover, 2 N Sandwich Tern, 9 N Common Tern, 1 N (juvenile) Mediterranean Gull, 4 N + 1 S Puffin, 2 M Black Guillemot, 2 N Harbour Porpoise & 3 M Grey Seal.

Sunday 21st July

Dursey Island, Co. Cork (Derek A. Scott & Joanna E. Scott)

1 S Sooty Shearwater, 109 N + 7,617 S Manx Shearwater, 1 N Great Skua (Bonxie), 1 S Common Gull, 1 N Basking Shark & 10 M Harbour Porpoise.

Galley Head, Co. Cork (Colin Barton)
199 W + 493 E Manx Shearwater, 15 W Common Scoter & 1 W Great Skua (Bonxie). 

Ram Head, Co. Waterford (Andrew Malcolm) 
560 W + 171 E + 150 M Manx Shearwater, 58 W Common Scoter & 11 W Great Skua (Bonxie).

Brownstown Head, Co. Waterford (Paul M. Walsh) 
85 W + 460 E Manx Shearwater, 62 W + 11 E Common Scoter, 2 W Great Skua (Bonxie), 1 E + 10 W Sandwich Tern, 1 M (adult) + 3 W (2 adults + a juvenile) Mediterranean Gull & 7 W + 1 E Puffin. 

Carnsore Point, Co. Wexford (Kieran Grace) 
138 W + 174 E Manx Shearwater, 6 E + 86 W Common Scoter, 1 E Little Tern, 100+ M 'Commic' Terns & 5 E Puffin. 

Wicklow Head, Co. Wicklow (Steve Newton) 
44 N + 50 S Manx Shearwater, 4 N Sandwich Tern & 3 S (adult + 2 juveniles) Mediterranean Gull. 

Coliemore Harbour, Dalkey, Co. Dublin (Stephen McAvoy) 
253 N + 4 S Manx Shearwater, 11 N + 8 S Common Scoter, 6 N + 4 S Sandwich Tern, 1 S Black Guillemot, 2 N + 2 S Puffin, 2 N Tufted Duck, 1 M Harbour Porpoise & 1 M unidentified Shark sp. (not Basking Shark).

Common Scoter © Mark Carmody

Friday, 19 July 2013

Seatrack 2013

The Seatrack project aims to assess the status & distribution of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater as well as other migratory seabird species in Irish waters through a series of coordinated seawatching surveys from headlands right around the coastline over 8 weekends between late July & early November.

If you would like to sign up your local headland as a Seatrack survey site or simply wish to send in some opportunistic seawatch records at any stage during the season then feel free to get in touch with Niall Keogh (Seatrack project co-ordinator) at for more information on how to get involved.

This coming weekend sees the first Seatrack survey of the season taking place with the current forecast for sunny, calm weather throughout. The 'Azores High' which has been dominating the weather over Ireland for the past couple of weeks has meant that the start of the seawatching season has gone by with very little sightings of note. Saying that, now is a good time to get out and check for rafts of Manx Shearwaters, feeding terns/Puffins & migrating Common Scoter. A Cory's Shearwater was seen off Melmore Head in Co. Donegal on Weds 17th July so some good seabirds are certainly out there to be had.

Please note: East Coast sites may be affected by strong glare in the early morning this weekend so an evening watch with a start time of 17:40pm is available as a substitute.

Manx Shearwater © John Murphy

Seatrack 2013 weekend survey dates & times (priority dates in bold):

July: Sat 20th/Sun 21st (start time 06:25am)

August: Sat 3rd/Sun 4th (start time 06:45am)
August: Sat 17th/Sun 18th (start time 07:10am)

September: Sat 7th/Sun 8th (start time 07:45am)
September: Sat 21st/Sun 22nd (start time 08:10am)

October: Sat 5th/Sun 6th (start time 08:35am)
October: Sat 19th/Sun 20th (start time 09:00am)

November: Sat 2nd/Sun 3rd (start time 08:25am)