Manic Day (1 of 5)

Just before tea on Wednesday, we were talking about a visit to the Farne Islands as the weather was set fair. We thought it a good idea, and I checked availability of places on the boat for an all-day bird watch. It didn’t seem possible but I succeeded in booking 2 places, and getting an email to say ‘be at the kiosk no later than 9:10’. Friends instinctively know that was going to be a struggle. We set the alarm for 6:00 and were away by 6:45. We had a painless journey through town to the A1 and set off south with hardly a car or lorry on it. However, we noticed the traffic into town build up such that I thought they were very much like Lemmings hurrying to the cliff edge. We were in Seahouses by 8:30, and had a leisurely breakfast in the early morning sunshine. Tickets were picked up and the sail to Staple Island was great, seals and the usual seabird suspects. There is only one thing wrong with the island and that’s the lack of a toilet, so we had to wait until we got to Little Farne. The birdlife is spectacular, and you get really close to the birds and they don’t seem to care about you. On little Farne are 3 types of Terns; Arctic, Common and Sandwich. The Common and Sandwich are noisy, but nest in the open areas and you can enjoy their flying skills. In comparison the Arctic Terns nest near or on the boardwalks, and defend their space with gusto. You are advised to wear a hat, but it doesn’t stop you getting dunted on your head, getting covered in guano, such that all external garments need washing once you get home, and being too close and fast to make blipping easy. I think they are great birds. I spent a long time trying to get a really good picture of a Puffin with a full beak of Sand Eels. The blip is the best I managed. There are extra shots of a young Cormorant, a Sandwich Tern with fish and an Arctic Tern. The mobile phone coverage on the Farne Islands is non-existent, and the phone didn’t wake up again. I turned it off and then back on again as I sat outside the house. Once contact to the outside world was resumed the day took a turn for the worse. Since the end of March our friend Mary, who lives in Dublin, has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer, and it rapidly became apparent that her prospects were grim. As I sat in the car I got a phone call from M, who told me that Mary had died that afternoon, and that the funeral was on Saturday. This was quite a shock as it takes far longer here in Scotland. The evening was spent with others trying to organise 7 of us to get to Dublin, find somewhere to stay, and come to terms with the news. As Scotland were playing Ireland at football on Saturday, this was rather more difficult than expected, so we ended up having to get the ferry from Cairnryan to Larne, and finding self-catering at Drogheda, north of Dublin. We got to bed late and set the alarm early again.

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