breeding birds, grey seals and cetaceans
22.6.2011 Since we wrote our last wildlife log, the 'Scaraibhín na Bealtaine' - a rough period of weather around the end of May - has lasted and lasted and lasted. The weather in May was terrible and we had very few trips or sightings. However, a lot is happening, especially in the bird world, around the Blaskets. There are young, fluffy seagull chicks hiding in the grass on Beginish and a thriving population of puffins on Inisvickalaun. This time of the year the parents are feeding the young chicks and can be seen bringing back a beak full of sand eels and/or garfish neatly arranged five or six at a time in their strong beaks.
Their near cousin in the auk family, the razorbills, often hang out with them in rafts off Inisvickalaun and can occasionally be seen from the moorings off the Great Blasket swimming underwater for prey, using their short, strong wings as paddles. Also off the moorings a pair of Oystercatchers has decided to lay on a rock close by, despite constant persecution from great black-backed gulls and ravens. You can hear their sharp piercing screeches from the boat. Manx shearwaters are reasonably common in the Black Sound and in Dingle Bay and do exactly what it says on the tin - they shear the water beautifully in their low, graceful flight. At the end of the summer nesting season on Inisvickalaun, Inis Tuascairt and Great Blasket Island they will be heading back to Brazil and Uruguay, followed a few weeks later by their young - a wonderful feat of intuitive navigation.
Basking sharks are very scarce at the moment, probably due to the cold weather of the last few weeks with biting nor'easterly winds which are not conducive to the surface plankton blooms that they feed on and which gives us a chance to see this otherwise elusive animal.
Likewise minke whales are not as plentiful as earlier in the season but with an improvement in weather conditions we hope that this will change. We are regularly accompanied by common dolphins who like to bow ride as we sail along and every trip has about a 50% probability of encountering common dolphins - so book for two trips for a good chance to see this playful species!
We have had some sightings of two mysterious and as of yet unidentified cetaceans in the last while ( Risso's dolphins? Pilot whales?) and we are hoping to encounter them again and if possible get photo identification.
Our grey seals are still 'hanging out' - or hauled out being the technical term - all over the place and we have a few very special coves where we bring our visitors to see them without disturbing them. By this stage quite a few of the wintering population have migrated back to Scotland and other far-flung places to return again for the breeding season in September/October. However, a resident population of a few hundred has remained which means we can pretty much guarantee to show them to people ( and people to seals!) on all our trips, and for those who take the longer Blasket Islands Eco Marine Tour leaving Ventry Harbour at 13.00 hours and returning at approx. 16.30 / 17.00 hours. On that trip we can also pretty much guarantee to show our passengers the puffins on Inisvickalaun until their departure from the Blaskets at about July 25th (last year). So hurry and book your trip and don't leave it too late in the season to see this beautiful and slightly comical species as people are always disappointed when they come too late in the season after the puffins have already departed our shores again for the marine cycle of their life until the following March when they return again to the beautiful Blasket Islands.