Well it almost was in the The Isles of Scilly...but summer seems to have finished now. The last few days have shown me what summer up here really is like, and I’m not sure I like it! We were not allowed by the Irish authorities to operate our zodiacs on the west coast of Ireland due to the weather forecast (yeah that sounded ‘Irish’ to me too), so with no way of doing what we wanted to do, in the weather that was occurring we decided to cut up the east coast, and had a day in Dublin instead. The wind going into Dublin Port was 40 knots, so not pleasant, although we did see a good feeding flock of gannets with harbour porpoise feeding on the surface. A few manx shears, plus guillemots and razorbills.
We then did a tour of the city and a visit to Mount Usher gardens, which although it was drizzling were actually very nice. A beaut male bullfinch feeding on buds was a nice addition to the list.
That night we sailed from Dublin up to the Isle of Man, where we came in past the Calf of Man around 0730, and then up to Port St Mary’s. On the way in we had a couple of basking sharks, with one right outside the port area. Not great views but nice big dorsal fins were pretty plain to see. The wind at this point was probably about 20 knots...a mere zephyr! We did also see a few manx shearwaters – yes real manx manx shearwaters! Plus a few fulmars, gannets, and kittiwakes. After breakfast we did a zodiac cruise along the south coast towards the Calf of Man, and had a nice colony of razorbills, guillemots (inc bridled form), and kittiwakes on a rock stack called the Sugar Loaf. The kittiwakes were still building their nests, getting grass from along the coast, and I suspect some of the auks had laid, but maybe not all of them. There were hooded crows wheeling along the tops of the cliffs and even a couple of pairs of choughs which was a nice addition. Further along I found a pair of common eiders and a young grey seal, and as the rain started and the wind increased we headed back to the ship for lunch. After lunch it was a bus tour around Southern Isle of Man (Castletown, Cregneash, etc) but first we had to get everyone ashore. The wind was a good 30 knots by now, from the north, so we were going straight into it...a little bumpy and a bit wet. The bus tour was pretty good, visiting the old town of Cregneash and seeing the freaky Manx Loaghtan sheep that are native to the Isle of Man. Weird things with big horns like an Ibex, and some of them had double sets of horns. If there was ever a satanic looking sheep it was these! Back at the port we found the wind had increased to about 40+ knots with gusts stronger than that. It was at our backs heading back to the ship with the passengers, but coming back to the pier unloaded was fun and we had to use another person as ballast. It was very rough and more than a little wetting! Then it was fun trying to get the zodiacs all back onboard.
A pretty comfortable night at sea as we headed north towards Iona. I didn’t wake during the night, but apparently it got a little ‘bangy’ during the night...glad I’m a heavy sleeper. I was on the bridge early again this morning and saw our first puffins, as well as more manx shears, a few fulmars, gannets, guillemots and razorbills. No sign of any cetaceans or basking sharks this morning though, but an Arctic skua was another new bird. It was pretty sheltered in against Iona, but 20 knots of wind or so from the NW for most of the early morning.
Ashore on Iona we had a lovely sedge warbler singing away at the end of the pier, and then the first corn crakes were heard not far off. I led a bird walk, but we didn’t have to go far (to the meadow by the nunnery) to hear and see our first ones. The male was wandering around in the long grass, occasionally showing his head and neck and calling, whilst the female skulked around hardly showing at all until she burst into the air and flew across the meadow. A cuckoo also flew and landed in a tree nearby, calling for some time, and there was a willow warbler, great tit, and linnets around the place, and several starlings nesting in the dry stone walls. So pretty birdy. I managed to get a few distant shots of the corncrake amongst the grass, nothing award winning, but a lifer for me and pretty happy with the sightings we got. At one stage I looked further along the hill to where another bird was calling, and there it was out in the open on the side of a path!
Back on the ship for lunch and we are now heading to Lunga. Fingers crossed the wind does not get up and we can get ashore.
|Basking shark dorsal fin, just off Port St Mary|
|Razorbill flock at sea just off the colony|
|Mainly common guillemots on the nesting cliffs of 'The Sugarloaf'|
|Kittiwakes collecting nesting material|
|Shags on the rocks|
|An 'Irish' phone box on Isle of Man - used in the filming of 'Waking Ned Divine'|
|One of the old buildings in Cregneash|
|Attaching the roof to the building...just as well in this wind!!!|
|One of the old cottages in Cregneash|
|One of the Manx Loaghtan sheep|
|Truly a scary looking sheep|
|Even the lambs look evil....especially from this angle!|
|The village of Cregneash|
|Clearly they are either really prepared in Castletown, or too drunk from last New Years to sort out this sign outside the local pub!|
|Sedge warbler singing away in Iona|
|Starling chicks begging for food from their dry stone wall nest (Sue, I didn't even have to go to Hungary to get this one!)|
|The corny crake|