Wednesday 6th June – I had jumped at the chance of a day trip out to Ailsa Craig, one of the RSPB’s reserves in this part of the world. Rob unfortunately was unable to go, and offered me his seat. I was hoping to see my very first live puffin, but the day prior to the trip, on a wildflower wander guided walk around the Mull of Galloway reserve with Richard, the curator of Logan Botanic Garden, I spotted 2 puffin on the water off Lagvag Point. Tick that box. Even so, the prospect of seeing more of these birds was appealing. Crystal, the site manager and a group of volunteers were to spend a few nights on the impressive island, doing surveys, and this was my chance to see Ailsa Craig up close whilst we landed the folk and their supplies.
The weather was glorious (as is the name of the boat), and the passage was calm… a relief for me as I am not too enthusiastic about small boats and big waves, nor am I a fan of water, unless its drinkable and suitably diluted with whisky.
We circumnavigated the island, a volcanic plug, also called ‘Paddy’s Milestone’ waiting for the tide to rise to a level where we could safely moor by the jetty. This gave us the opportunity to carry out some surveys and bird counts from the water, and take in the sight of thousands of birds – gannets, razorbills, guillemots, puffins, nesting, flying, feeding and generally going about their business.The water was clear enough to see lion’s manes and other jellyfish as well as comb jellies, the latters’ cilia catching the sun and providing ripples of rainbow colours as they swam/floated close to the surface of the water.
Raven and peregrine were also spotted as were oystercatchers, noisily diverting our attention away from their nests once we went ashore. A few hours on dry land revealed a fascinating insight into the recent history of the island and an opportunity to squint up at the sky to marvel at the circling gannets et al. and, once all the supplies had been offloaded and checked, we departed on the short trip back to Girvan.
One of the highlights of the return journey was my first sighting of manx shearwater, flying just above the calm surface of the sea, and diving after fish. Tick that box, too.
Friday 8th June – Dennis, a regular volunteer with us here on Mull of Galloway, joined me at Port Logan for the first of our activities for World Oceans Day. Organised by Nic from Solway Firth Partnerships, a group of 50 schoolchildren learnt about tides, local coastal place names and got to make their own felt jellyfish (thanks to Linda Irving, a local felt artist). We had the schoolchildren playing the part of gannet parents, hunting jellyfish that might or might not be good for gannet chicks, to highlight the importance of clean oceans and wildlife survival. Feedback was very positive, with Dennis & I being likened to The Hairy Bikers… which he tells me I should take as a compliment.
Saturday 9th June - a more sedate day at Logan Botanic Gardens where I set up a stand complete with a couple of spadefuls of Port Logan beach, complete with plastic pollution. The weather was glorious, and with plenty of visitors to chat to about our work as a wildlife conservation organisation, the day was enjoyed by everyone who attended.
Tuesday 12th June - As is often the case, the weather was too good to last and early during the week, we hosted the full brunt of Storm Hector ….. or so it seemed, with my current residence, a static portacabin on the edge of the Luce Bay beach - reverberating, resonating and positively rippling with every gust of wind throughout Tuesday night. I thought it quite fun, but returned to a rather battered reserve the following morning with many of the plants looking the worse for wear, and the splendour that had been the flowers a week previously, showed signs of a real battering.
Friday 15th June – My day started with a visit from a magician. Not the usual way to start a Friday, you understand, so this was particularly note-worthy. Magic Colin is on a coastal bike ride around the UK, and decided to see how far south a Scottish road could take him. Obviously he ended up here and we spent a pleasant few minutes swapping stories. He has been motivated to complete this journey, a road of inspiration, “to pursue a positive aim”, realising that life can be very short after the loss of a friend. He is also raising funds for Farm4Life, a charity helping the people of Ghana build a greater future. His progress is dotted with stories of warm-hearted people he meets on the road and can be followed on twitter: @magiccolinentertainer.
Saturday 16th June – And finally, as I was closing the Visitor Centre and preparing for the long and picturesque commute back to my caravan, I was presented with a rainbow in front of the VC. It’s not often I see a rainbow at eye-level so to speak, but I had the presence of mind to grab my mobile and take a snap. I hope the pot o’ gold is out there somewhere!
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