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Wildlife Boat Trip of Carlingford Lough

Posted: Thursday 26th July 2018 by LivingSeas

On 26 July, myself and Dave made our way to Greencastle, County Down for a wildlife tour of Carlingford Lough by boat.

Those who were taking part met by the old pier where were greeted by our Skipper Peyton Cunningham and his boat 'Pisces II'. After we boarded the boat, donned our life jackets and were given a safety briefing, we were super excited to begin our trip!

 

 

We began our journey by going towards the mouth of Carlingford Lough, and the large and impressive Haulbowline lighthouse (Haulbowline stems from the Old Norse 'áll-boeli' meaning an 'eel dwelling'). Today the lighthouse is a home to Shags and Black Guillemots, who nest on the window sills and in drainage holes. With the seas at the mouth of the Lough being a bit too lively for our liking, we made our way back towards Greencastle and Green Island, which is inhabited by Harbour Seals, Grey Seal and terns. Being high tide, not many seals were hauled out so we passed on by and would visit them on the return journey with hopes of seeing more.

We then made our way to Greenore on the southern side of Carlingford Lough. We passed by the Harbour and saw lots more black guillemots resting on the old pier, these birds nest in artificail nest boxes placed on the pier for that purpose. Dave talked about species of oyster and mussel that are grown in the Lough, and the native pyster beds that were once present but have now largely dissappeared. We even passed a mussel dredger who were busy working the mussel beds off Carlingford.

 

 

We then searched the inner waters of the Lough for marinelife but things were very quiet on the wildlife front with no birds feeding. Dave produced a large net and scooped up a large chunk of seaweed and also managed to catch a Moon Jellyfish. Dave then talked about the various seaweed species we found and other species found in Carlingford Lough.

On our way back to Greencastle we returned to Green Island and saw a large number of common seals hauled out, some with young pups as June and July are the pupping season for harbour seals. We also saw quite a few grey seals, and noted the differences which enable us to tell the two species apart. Dave talked about not only about the seals of Carlingford Lough but other marine mammals such as Harbour Porpoises, Bottlenose Dolphins, and even an Arctic bowhead whale which made an appearance at the mouth of the Lough in 2015.

Throughout the day we also saw gulls, shags black guillemots, and the protected Tern species found in Carlingford Lough. The weather was amazing, and we had a wealth of knowledge from Dave who informed everyone of the great loss of biodiversity the Lough has suffered since the 1800's, but also the rich biodiversity that Carlingford Lough still holds today.

Edel Parr

Ulster University Living Seas Placement Student

 
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