Wednesday, August 21, 2013

 Well I've had fun in the last few days. The summer is still going strong and I'm getting through the sun cream by the litre. One of the things I have noticed in my time over here is that many of the locals forget to enjoy some of the attractions laid on for our visitors. This can even be despite the fact that the trips, nature, sights and activities are often what drew them here in the first place.

I therefore decided to take myself off on a couple of boat trips and rather enjoyed myself. Firstly I went on a shark fishing trip with Joe Pender a boatman from St Marys who has been fishing (tagging and releasing) for sharks for over 20 years.

The trips leave from St Marys and last about five hours taking you approximately four miles off the archipelago. While the fishing is fairly successful there is always the chance of nothing biting. However from the minute the boat starts leaving a trail of bread off the stern to attract the birds  there is always something to look at.
This, and the first shot are of Fulmars. Although slightly resembling a gull these birds belong to the Petrel and Shearwater family. The huge nostril above their beak helps them smell potential food from huge distances. They live out to sea all year round except to breed and were not shy of our boat.
Almost as soon as we left the quay we met these Common Terns using the Spanish Ledge buoy as a place to watch the world go by. With a huge influx of bait fish and sand eels around the islands at the moment I believe the expected arrival of these quite pretty birds at this time of year will be quite numerous.

We also had quite a few juvenile Gannets following our boat. Once they reach their adulthood they become the stunning white birds most people are familiar with. Being the largest seabirds resident in British waters I like the way you can see the wingspan in the second picture.
We also saw quite a few rarer birds while out on the trip and I was wondering how to write up about this. I thought to myself that unless any of my readers were very serious 'Birders' I may bore them half to death. I was quite happy to see them though...
How about I try to do a sentence per picture.
 This is a Cory's Shearwater and is a very rare migrant from the Mediterranean, surprisingly numerous sightings have been recorded recently with our trip spotting seventeen.

The verdict still seems to be out on this one but it is believed to be a juvenile Arctic Skua. As the name suggests it resides in the Arctic and usually only gets as far south as the Orkneys and the Shetland Isles. They are the predators of the sea feeding on eggs and young birds.

Great Shearwaters migrate all the way from their breeding grounds on tiny islands in the middle of the Southern Atlantic Ocean northwards, incidentally the opposite direction than most birds. They follow the American coast before crossing the Atlantic and then venturing back South over the ocean.
Ok so maybe a couple of sentences each then.
Although not the best picture I wanted to add this picture of a Storm Petrel. I had never seen one of these before and I thought they were quite marvellous. They are tiny birds and uncannily agile, they feed on crustaceans and small fish gathered by hovering above the surface using their feet to grab onto their dinner.
Then there were Sharks!!!
After a about three hours they decided to bite. The first one caught weighed about forty pounds and being the first shark I had ever seen I was quite excited, but I wanted bigger. Another hour and we got what we were after.
This beauty was the same size as me, it was six foot four and estimated to be approximately eighty pounds. It fought for a good hour before being landed, tagged and released not before posing for the obligatory photo opportunity.
Blue sharks are beautiful creatures and do live in our British waters, unless you stink of mackerel, ooze pulped fish and are swimming miles off the coast you are pretty safe.
The summer months are the best time for Pelagic trips and if you are keen on your wildlife and want to see things you cannot on the mainland then I would strongly recommend venturing out.
I spent the following morning on dry land looking for the waders we are expecting at any moment over here. I didn't have much luck, again. However there as usual are always things to be seen.
This, I believe is a Blue Darner, there a quite a few of them circling around the Great Pool at the moment. I have always wanted to get a picture of one in flight and this is the best I have gotten so far. They are quite a challenge but I shall continue trying.

Another new one for me was this Sedge Warbler. They are fairly common birds, arriving in August and reside in reeded areas surrounding the lakes. This is another visitor that avoids our cold winter by spending the colder months in Africa.
Having not been on a boat trip around the off islands I ventured out for a few hours around Men-A-Vaur and the Western Rocks. Bird activity in these areas is fairly quiet as most of the visiting sea birds have left after breeding. It proved to be a successful trip though. The following pictures are not the best but I want to put them up to show you what else these islands have to offer.

Sunfish are very odd looking creatures indeed. Being the largest bony fish in the world they can often weigh up to a thousand kilograms and look like a head and a tail with no body. They come to the surface and flap a fin to attract seabirds to feed on any parasites living on them. Very occasionally if no birds attend their needs they will leap clear out of the water to dislodge the pests themselves.

Far away in the distance we also briefly saw a pod of Common Porpoise. This was the only shot of a fleeting glimpse we got but it made me smile.
We got one final surprise while traversing the treacherous rocks that have sunk an innumerable amount of boats in the form of a baby seal pup. It is almost unheard of to see them at this time of year with the days around the September spring tide being the most favoured time.
Yet again a bit of a distance away but it really was not worth risking life and limb for the shot. I'm sure I'll get the opportunity in a month or so.
I hope this bumper blog entry has not bored you to tears and showed you what we have to offer on these islands. There is always something to see and more. Now time for a spell check and to hit the hay. I've worn myself out in these past few days!


  1. I love this blog Max. It should go into The Tresco Times

  2. Hi Max. I agree that as a local people don't go and do tourist things. We decided that we would and now write on the calendar all the events so we can decide what to do and when. We have had some great trips out. Good mix of pics and text-I wasn't bored at all and liked the brief info on the unusual creatures. Love the seabird images.