Brian Ruckley's News & Views

Monday, June 16, 2008

Return to The Isle of May

A ritual of sorts has been enacted: the all but annual trip to the Isle of May (2007 version was recorded here). Good news for me, since it's one of my favourite places. Less predictable in its consequences for readers of this blog, as it leads inexorably and inevitably to ... my photos! Hooray.

That's the Isle in question, and very pretty it is too, but here's the real reason I actually take the hour long boat trip required to reach it:

The birds, obviously. But there's no denying the place itself is so extremely pleasant it might be worth even if there was nothing with wings within ten miles of it:

The last of the bird pictures, by the way, is an Arctic tern. These are heroes of the bird world, going from the Antarctic to the Arctic and back again every year (and no, Scotland is not quite in the Arctic - for all that it feels like it occasionally. I guess our Arctic terns are ever so slightly less motivated than most of their brethren). Watching them, if you take a moment to reflect that not so very long ago these very birds were surfing the breezes of the Antarctic Ocean, perhaps even dodging Antipodean icebergs, it blows your mind just a little. I think they're fantastic.

That sentiment is not, it has to be said, mutual. This year, the tern colony has taken a collective decision to locate itself right next to the landing stage. To reach the boat, therefore, you have to run the gauntlet of righteously agitated and protective parents. I am thus able to leave you with this world exclusive video. A brief (and I do mean brief, like 2 seconds brief, so pay attention) clip revealing, for the first time anywhere, the sound a fantasy author makes when the immensely well-travelled beak of an Arctic tern connects with his skull at high velocity:

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OpenID Scott Marlowe said...

Looks like a beautiful place.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

The place is lovely. And there's no such thing as too many photos of beautiful landscapes with and without birds.

Or castles, for that matter. :)

1:19 PM  
Blogger Brian Ruckley said...

Yeah, it's pretty special. Although sad to report the populations of the birds are in pretty steep decline (especially the cute little puffins - down something like 30% this year, I think). Casualties, it's thought of overfishing and/or climate change.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Neth said...

I love the video.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Climate changes do influence birds. We've had several species who usually flew south in winter deciding that Germany is just fine as winter quarter the last years.

7:37 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

As a chap who hails from south Buckinghamshire, imagine my surprise (and delight) to be watching Arctic Terns on lake just by the Thames! I like to think they were having a brief rest before making the last 1000 miles north, but maybe they were just lazy! We also have a very healthy population of Egyptian Geese down here which is curious to say the least.

I'll be sure to pay a visit to the Isle of May next time I'm in the area :)

11:23 AM  
Blogger Brian Ruckley said...

There's definitely a subset of arctic terns that aren't firing on quite as many feathery cylinders as the rest of their species. I kind of sympathise - I mean why go all the way to the tundra if you don't absolutely 100% have to?

I quite like Egyptian Geese. They add a certain exotic flavour to humdrum British waters. They turn up in all sorts of places these days. My favourite 'unexpected' birds in the UK, though, are the great big lurid green parakeets that are swarming all over south-east England these days. Bit questionable from the ecological point of view, but fantastic fun. Everywhere should have some parakeets, I reckon.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Parakeets? Where on earth do those come from?

We have Nandus. They escaped from a zoo some years ago and have developed into a healthy wild population by now.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Brian Ruckley said...

Rose-ringed Parakeets. They're escapees from captivity, now thriving in such numbers there's been vague talk about the possibility of a cull, since it's feared they might be having a negative impact on native birds (competition for nesting holes etc.)

You've got them in Germany too, according to wikipedia!

9:22 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

I'll have to keep a lookout for them. :)

The Channel won't be a border for parakeets, I'd say, so it can well be they've spread our way.

2:58 PM  

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