Sunday, June 2, 2013

At Sea

If the sun is shining and the seas are flat the locals and visitors on Scilly do everything they can to get out on the water. The islands are dotted with everything from kayakers to motor yachts. My girlfriend and I decided to opt for a ridiculously powerful R.I.B to take us around the islands and we definitely felt we made the right choice.

Mark and Susie Groves who run Island Safaris took us out from St Marys harbour to Puffin Island (where no Puffins dwell!) to Mincarlo, then across to Annet and the back of St Agnes through the Western Rocks and over to Peninnis Head on St Marys and we then tore back around the Garrison and return happy and in one piece back to the harbour.

Going out in a smaller boat than the 'tripper boats' makes it so much easier to approach the wildlife and therefore it is wonderful being able to see the array of sea life with the naked eye. However it is rather tricky keeping the camera still when you are bobbing around in the ocean. This resulted in me taking hundreds of shots of wonky horizons, out of focus blobs and many a bird half in and half out the shot. However persistence is the only way!
Our first sighting was a surprising one and occurred within five minutes of leaving the Quay. As we cruised towards Puffin Island, near Samson we noticed the profile of something we couldn't quite make out. As we got closer we could make out a pair of Peregrine Falcons perched on an outcrop.
Neither myself or our hosts had seen, nor heard of Peregrines in this area before. Coupling this with the fact that it was a male and a female present could suggest that they may be scouting the area for breeding maybe? I was enjoying the fact that the male on the right (you can tell by the lack of marking on his chest) was rather lazily perched while the female was flying around scanning
 the area at regular intervals. He seemed to have rather chauvinistic tendencies!
We do have a few Peregrines on the Archipelago with a family being present on the Eastern Isles. You can sometimes see them on Round Island or occasionally I have seen one or two on the North End of Tresco too.
We then zoomed off towards Mincarlo, seeing Gannets and Fulmars above, but they were too far away to capture on my camera. When we arrived at our destination we were greeted with Puffins and Razorbills galore. It was a real change from my last visit three weeks or so ago when it was rather quiet out there. The oohs and aahs were definitely appropriate as we were surrounded by auks diving, flying and swimming all around us. There were hundreds of them!
It was fun watching these masters of the sea on dry land as they awkwardly stumbled around on the rocks.
Razorbills are part of the Auk family along with Puffins and are in good number this year. They are larger than puffins and obviously lack the colour on their beak.
You can see in this picture that with wings as squat and stubby as theirs they are not the best of fliers. Watching them take off from the water you can often see them running across the surface for tens of metres before getting properly airborne. Every now and again they skim on their plump bellies as they struggle to get moving. This following picture of a Puffin shows you what I mean.
Although I had a picture of a shag in my previous post, I wanted to put this image up as I thought the green hues on this Shags feathers were really rather stunning.
Whenever you are visiting off islands and uninhabited areas it is almost impossible to not see any of our resident seals. We were met by quite a few off Annet. As the tide was high they were all in the water and therefore I didn't get any pictures of them basking on the rocks this time. I think that although you only see their heads I prefer seeing them at seaas you really get a sense of how at home they are amongst the white water and tidal surges.
Please don't take this as some sort of cheeky advertising but I truly feel that if you are visiting Scilly, or are lucky enough to live here, then a trip out with Mark and Susie is a must. Apart from have an amazing boat, they are friendly, genuinely passionate and extremely knowledgeable.
Back on dry land.
I am slightly worried about the fact that I may have been noticed, staring at a patch of reeds by the Abbey pool for rather prolonged periods of time on quite a few occasions. I think I must look rather peculiar staring away and possibly even, slightly deranged. I have been trying to catch a picture of one of our visiting Reed Warblers for bloody ages. They are so easy to locate as they relentlessly 'sing' a cacophony of garbled noises at a very loud volume. However, they do so while tucked away at the bottom of the reeds and rarely come out into sight. The above is the best image I have got so far and I'm sure I'll be lurking by the edge of the pool on many more occasions to get a better picture. These guys are the prime target for another summer visitor, the Cuckoo. They target the nests of Reed Warblers laying their eggs and leaving the unsuspecting soon to be parents to raise their young.

That's it, weekend over, time to think about going back to work tomorrow. Ah well........



  1. Lovely post with some super photos. The Peregrines were amazing- I've never been lucky enough to see them before so really enjoyed your pics and description. Also loved the puffin taking off!

  2. Fabulous wildlife post, I love the Puffin running! I would love to visit the Scilly Isles, it's somewhere I've never been. We have taken lots of boat trips on all our holidays, it's a great way to see the wildlife. Great to have a pair of Peregrines, lets hope they stay and nest. We have them in Brixham on the South West Coastal Path, no images yet but hope to get them this year!

  3. Once again, thank you all for your comments. They put a smile on my face. Time for another post.....