No not a new game for a Playstation, although it may as well have been, but more of a description of what it is like to sea-watch from Stena's High Speed Service (HSS) from Stranraer to Belfast! The problem with these high speed ferries that skim along the waves like a catamaran on steroids is that they are very difficult to seawatch from. The only bit of open deck is at the rear of the boat and this is encased in steel mesh so it is very difficult to look through. Also, it is tiny and is festooned with smokers and despite of the high speed is shrouded in smog! The other problem is that you are looking backwards after everything has been flushed by the boat.
I found myself in the very plush first class lounge at the front of the boat that has huge windows looking out onto the sea. This is great apart from having to look through glass and the fact that you are bearing down on seabirds at a huge rate of knots; literally! The plus side was that I could relax in a large comfortable chair, with complimentary drinks and watch Manxies as they flashed by.
I divided the trip up into three sections; Lough Ryan, North Channel and Belfast Lough. As you might expect the most productive sections are in the shallower waters of the two Loughs. My only Black Guillemot of the trip was a single bird in Lough Ryan. Next up were numerous Shags followed by good numbers of Gannets. It was great to see Fulmars 'shearing' past the boat with large numbers of their cousins the Manx Shearwater. As I have stated before the Manxie is probably my favourite bird.
Other members of the supporting cast included Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Common, Arctic & Sandwich Terns and a handful of Eiders.
Opening my mail on my return I was reminded of the breeding season with the details of a Pied Flycatcher control from the Bowland Wild Boar Park. It was a male ringed in May 2007 as a chick from a box and amazingly the ring number was read in the field at another nest site near Newton-in-Bowland, only 8 km away. The ring number was actually clinched by looking at a photograph of the bird. Below is a shot of a male Pied Flycatcher taken at the Boar Park by Steve Young this summer.
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