I hope you are all well and staying safe. The incredible weather I see has come just as we are all housebound, so I thought it may be an idea to take you on an imaginary trip, with the help of our Aire Valley volunteer Karen Nicklin. This contribution should hopefully provide some inspiration for us all to cherish the outdoor world even more so once we are allowed back to our normal lives. Below is Karen's experience:
My memorable day
I hope you are all keeping safe and well during the current situation we find ourselves in. I'm certainly missing my visits and volunteering at RSPB St Aidan's and catching up with everyone. On a positive note, I'm enjoying watching the wildlife visiting my garden, which has included a hedgehog last week. I thought I'd share an article I wrote for the RSPB Wakefield and District Local Group's newsletter in March 2018. The RSPB's Nature's Home magazine regularly featured an article called 'My best day' where contributors shared a memorable experience.
This got me thinking about which memorable experience I would choose as 'My best day' to share with you all. Luckily, I didn't have to think too hard, as one such day springs to mind. A really good friend and myself turned 50 in 2017, and we wanted to visit somewhere special to mark the occasion. After some deliberation we chose the Isle of Mull as we both like wildlife and beautiful scenery. Our adventure started on 20 May 2017 when we caught the ferry from Oban to Craignure. There's so much to do on Mull and we realised that a week wasn't going to be long enough to fit everything in, so we'd loosely planned what we'd like to do and see during our stay.
One of the days we'd pre-booked was a trip to Staffa and Lunga with Turus Mara. We woke on the Wednesday morning to the mist which had set in the day before, and set off on the journey to Ulva Ferry. By the time we set sail the mist had lifted and it turned out to be a lovely warm, sunny day.
Our first stop was Staffa, which contained some of the most unusual and stunning rock formations I'd ever seen. The island was made up of hexagonal rock columns, which were formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions and a huge blanket of lava that spread into the Atlantic Ocean.
Staffa also contained a series of caves, the most famous one being Fingal's Cave, a 227 foot cavern. After landing on the island we headed straight to Fingal's Cave. I really didn't know what to expect, but I was completely blown away when I walked into it. The noise was amazing – it's hard to explain, but it felt like the cave was exploding as the sea crashed against the sides. The sea was aquamarine and the rocks were in layers of different colours starting with beige, then pink, and finally black hexagonal columns. It was a wonderful experience.
After dragging myself away I made my way back to the main steps to head up to the top of the island. The view was wonderful, and a quick walk round and peak over the side revealed more caves, and finally an encounter with puffins. A few were sitting quietly amongst the sea thrift taking no notice of us humans capturing the moment on our cameras. An hour passed far too quickly and it was time to head back to the boat for the next part of our trip.
Next stop was a visit to Lunga, the largest of the Treshnish Isles. On arriving the boat attached itself to a floating pontoon and we then had to make our way across a boulder beach for what would be a two hour visit. To reach the cliff top we had to walk up a steep gravel path which meandered through a carpet of bluebells and primroses, which took me by surprise as I wasn't expecting to see these flowers in such abundance.
We'd been told to make sure we visited the furthest part of the island to see the sea bird spectacular and try not to get mesmerised by the puffins on the way. The views from the top were amazing, and it didn't take us long to realise we were completely surrounded by puffins! I thought the close encounter with them on a trip to the Farne Islands was special, but this was just amazing. They weren't in the least bit bothered by our presence, so we found a good lunch spot, sat down and just watched and listened to them going about their daily business. It was a very relaxing and calming experience. Some were gathering material for their nest burrows and it was interesting to see them with grass and other nesting material in their beaks rather than sand eels.
Despite being told not to, we were 'mesmerised' and stayed there for what seemed like hours before we decided we'd better move on a bit! We walked a bit further and came across more puffins, razorbills, a rabbit sheltering amongst the bluebells and some shags.
Unfortunately, we didn't manage to reach the furthest part of the island, but what we'd seen was well worth the trip. The views were amazing, and the time we shared with the puffins, up close and personal, was something that we will both remember for a very long time.
On our way back to Ulva Ferry we were lucky to see a white-tailed eagle near its nest, and then see one flying nearby – a perfect way to finish the day.
Both Staffa and Lunga were very special places to visit and made our trip to the Isle of Mull even more memorable.
One final thought: What would you choose as your memorable day?
Take care and hopefully see you again soon.'
Thank you Karen. Incredibly, I did this very trip just a year earlier and I would certainly recommend it once a sense of normality is restored.
If you have any contributions you would like to provide, or fancy learning more about blogs and how to get set up, please forward any queries to Alex.Wilson@RSPB.ORG.UK.
Warm regards and stay safe,
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