The Safari set off after a light breakfast in lovely sunshine and light winds - today was gonna be a good day!
We arrived at the small dock about an hour later and told the lady we'd booked the all dayer on the interweb, to which she said "it's off!!!" Due to the wind direction and swell landing on the first of the islands wasn't possible and the other island isn't open for landing until late lunchtime so now we had a three hour or so wait for the trip to start in a no-horse town. Not to worry; she suggested driving down the coast a couple of miles and a short walk along the beach to a tern colony. Needing to kill the time that's what we did. A five minute drive and an ominously large swathe of beach to cross...it seemed miles more than the she inferred!The beach was very clean with Lugworm casts aplenty and no litter just strands of Kelp and a single Mermaid's Purse. In the dunes we saw a Stonechat, only our second of the year.
Half an hour later we were at the ranger's hut looking at the2500 or so Arctic Terns on the beach and were told that they'd only laid the first eggs of the colony amongst the dunes that very morning. Some birds were still pairing up, some cementing their bonds with Sand Eels and some fighting for territories.
The rangers had their scopes set up on a different part of the beach where a few pairs of Little Terns (163) had chosen to nest (or been forced) on the edge of the Arctic Tern colony.
A very pleasant way to spend the morning and all too soon it was time to trek back across the sands and get to the quayside for our boaty ride.
We were deffo over-dressed and got a good sweat on but would probably need those layers once on the open water despite the blistering sunshine!
It's a little over two miles to the nearest island and a Minke Whale had been seen in the Sound earlier in the week - long gone by now though but unfeasibly early in the season for this coast.
The passage was flat calm and we soon added Puffin (164) to our Year List Challenge list and then Shag (165) fell too, both seen about three quarters of the way across on the sea but we'd no doubt get much better views.
The boat steams round the islands getting up close and personal with the breeding cliffs, the aroma of the guano is 'interesting' we don't find it too unpleasant but others on the boat found it wretchlingly offensive!
|Guillemots, including one of the 'Bridled' form|
|Aren't Kittiwakes great - look at those colours|
The stars of the show aren't the birds though, it's the Grey Seals, there were loads but high tide had washed them off the rocks and they were in the water where it was very difficult to photograph due to the large swell.
Fortunately a big bull was still hauled out on the rocks - what a beast.
No cetaceans today which would have made a great day even better.
Hope the pics are OK; it's difficult processing them on Wifey's laptop, and the light then cloudy conditions along with glare off the sea and guano encrusted rocks were playing havoc with getting the camera settings right for every shot.
Where to next? Back in a bit with news from the island.
In the meantime let us know who's spaces out in your outback.