|Gannets and guillemots and (one or two) puffins, oh my!
||[Jul. 15th, 2016|09:26 pm]
Speaking - as we were - of seabirds, that boat trip to Ailsa Craig:
The trip - in a RIB, which is a Rigid Inflatable Boat - was certainly an experience, and I'm glad to have done it. It's quite a palaver, though. The boat is open, and goes fast, so they wrap you up in generous quantities of waterproofing, as much, I suspect, against the cold as against the wet. The overtrousers were a snug enough fit that I was not entirely confident that I would be able to sit down, but I wasn't called on to put that to the test: the saddle seats carry you as much standing as sitting. This is never exactly comfortable, and the two and a half-hour trip was close to my limit (I was quite surprised how quickly after disembarking I was walking more or less normally!).
Ailsa Craig is 18 miles out (if I've got that right) which is 40 or 50 minutes fast going each way. Outbound, particularly,we seemed to hit the waves head on, and I was reminded of riding lessons, and learning to rise to the trot. Once there, we made a leisurely circuit of the island - though just one way, and I was sitting on the 'wrong' side of the boat, so my view onshore was always obstructed (all my photographs feature a knitted hat, as worn by the lady between me and the island).
But the gannets didn't care, and soared above us in considerable numbers (though we didn't see them diving, as D. had from our cottage). The puffins were nothing like as numerous, and it feels rude to say "is that all you've got?", so I didn't like to ask whether their numbers are down here, as elsewhere, or whether the rocky island is not actually prime puffin habitat*. I did, all the same, see several puffins in flight, including one pair who did an obliging fly-past close to my side of the boat.
Puffins and gannets are clearly the A-list celebrities, and the birds our driver made much of. We also saw large numbers of guillemots (including at least one black guillemot which passed us when we had barely left Campeltown harbour), and I could hear the kittiwakes yelling 'kittiwake' from their cliffs, though I couldn't make out which of the carpet of white dots were kittiwakes and which were gannets**. Plus one or two razorbills, and a shag or so.
*The internet suggests that although there are fewer puffins than other birds, their numbers are growing.
**Blowing my photos up as far as they'll go, I can see mostly gannets!