Monday, 22 July 2013

Seals and speed boats

After a relatively quiet week last week due to bad weather for most of it friday definitely made up for it as we made the most of the good weather and were out for 10 hours.  At least 9 hours of this was spent walking/hiking in the heat (yes, it does actually get hot up here!) so we were all exhausted by the end of it but well worth the effort.

At the beginning of the day I felt like a character out of the famous five as we made our way to 'castle island' which is a very small island just off the coast of eigg.  The purpose of this trip was to check on the seabirds, mainly the gull colonies to determine if they have had any breeding success.  We got their via a speed boat which I have never done before, cue change of character from the famous five to James Bond.  There was a common seal colony basking on one of the rocks we past so we managed to pause to get a few photos, with some of them coming right up to the boat to check us out.  They have very curious natures and not the most subtle although they think they are being when they sneak closer, until they realize we have spotted them!

Although Castle Island is very small, it still took us a good hour or 2 to walk around it, partly due to the fact that we kept stopping to look at the fabulous views/wildlife.  The first colony we came across was arctic terns and there were also some common terns among them, some with chicks which is a huge success as they have not successfully bred here for about 10 years.  On the other side of the island we observed that shags and black guillemots also had fledged chicks as did the gulls.  However, there were only around 30 gull chicks counted, which was not a huge amount as there were about 90 breeding pairs so this either suggests that a lot of chicks didn't make it, or more likely not all the pairs were able to breed this year.

After a much needed lunch break at the tea room when we returned to Eigg, we started the long trek up to the lochs again to check on the red-throated diver chicks.  Away from the sea breeze it did get very warm up amongst the heather and I'm sure I wasn't the only one eyeing up the lochs which were looking very tempting for a quick dip (see photo).  We located the first two chicks in the first loch which were still going strong and perhaps a couple of weeks off fledging where they will head to the sea so the parents can teach them the art of catching fish.  We didn't hold much hope for the other chick as the loch it was on is popular with otters and it was a lot smaller than the other chicks.  However, we were all delighted to see it not only still alive but much larger so its chances of survival have now increased significantly.

A day of success stories then and ended with happy thoughts of a lazy weekend in the sun...

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