Blasket puffin, the next largest colony Skellig|
Eco Adventure in Ireland and Bird Watching
The fine, settled and warm weather is providing the perfect conditions to spot the increased wildlife activity around the Blasket Islands. Yesterday we were watching 5 large basking sharks, the world's second largest fish, as they were feeding on the plankton around the moorings just off the Great Blasket Island. Many more were spotted right across Dingle Bay, and today again there were a dozen or so reported only a quarter of a mile from Ventry. While generally we observe them as they cruise along feeding, their dorsal and tail fins and sometimes the tips of their noses showing above the water, we occasionally see them breaching, ie coming clear out of the water before submerging again with a big splash!
As well as the sharks, there were also at least three to four minke whales spotted in and around the Blasket Sound. One of them was reported to be accompanied by a calf (spotted by Nick Massett some days ago from his landbased watch above Slea Head).
The puffins are back! Although often associated with Scellig Michael, there is also a substantial breeding colony of puffins around the Blasket Islands, in particular on Inisvickalaun. Puffins are diminuitive birds, no more than 30cm in length, but what they lack in size they more than make up with their brightly coloured bills and clown-like appearance. They nest underground, using their large bill to dig into the soil or using disused rabbit burrows. Like other members of the auk family ( guillemots and razorbills, also plentiful around the Blaskets) they use their wings to swim underwater. You may be lucky enough to spot a puffin from the Great Blasket Island, but to really get in amongst them, join us on our Eco Tours where we will be bring you right below the cliffs in Inisvickalaun.
The Blasket Island archipelago is teeming every summer with migratory birds returning from their wintering grounds to their breeding sites on the islands. So far we have encountered large flocks of manx shearwater, medium sized seabirds that travel as far South America during the winter. According to the 'Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland Survey 2000' an amazing 19.000 breding sites have been located on the Blasket Islands. We regularly encounter the manx shearwater on our Eco Tours, especially in the Black Sound, an area between the Great Blasket Island and Inisnabró.
On our Blasket Islands eco tour a few days ago we came across approx 4 harbour porpoises and 2 minke whales. According to one of our local IWDG (Irish Whale and Dolphin Group) members Nick Massett there was also a minke whale and calf in the area which we are hoping to spot in the coming days. The island beach was covered in grey seals - about 600-700 of them - and we also got a good look at the red deer stags on Inisvickalaun. Two days ago we picked up a dispersed group of common dolphins that accompanied us for a while on our jounrney, bow riding alongside us. As the first couple of basking sharks have been spotted from the cliffs above Slea Head in the last while, we wil keep an even closer look out for them now as we cruise along the coastline.
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