Sunday, June 23, 2013

One good tern deserves another

I'm not quite sure quite how many, but there are hundreds of them on The Skerries at this time of the year. They are amazing birds with a delicate buoyant flight that changes dramatically as they plunge like darts into the sea in search of sand eels.

Arctic terns undergo a seemingly exhausting migration cycle. From their breeding grounds in northern and sub-Arctic Europe they fly to South Africa and South America for the winter, effectively enjoying a lifetime of summers.

This extraordinary migratory pattern is unique to this bird and ensures that Arctic terns see more daylight in a year that any other living thing.

Their nests on the ground are extremely vulnerable. If you get too close to their nests they will fly and swoop at you whilst uttering a sharp squawk. It is not uncommon to get struck on the head with their sharp bill, which is quite capable of drawing blood.

Video clip - Olly Sanders -

RSPB wardens keep an eye on the Skerries terns throughout the breeding season from May until mid-August and are usually happy to show a small number of paddlers around. If you do go, take care to keep away from any nesting areas and approach the lighthouse via the steps on the south side.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Up the Conwy

The Conwy Ascent race is a must for racing or touring paddlers diary. This event is well established and is always run in a pleasingly relaxed manner by Dyffryn Conwy Paddlers.

There is always a 'Le Mans' style racing start with all competitors lined up along the top of the beach. When the word is given, everyone dashes down the beach to their kayaks to launch as quickly as possible, and get under way.

The course starts at 'The Beacons' car park and beach at the mouth of the Conwy estuary and uses the flooding tide as it winds its way 15 kilometres upstream to Dolgarrog Bridge.

The combination of a weak neap tide and strong headwinds meant that no course records were in danger of being broken this time.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sea Kayak Expedition Gathering

Friday evening traffic was kind enough to allow me a jam free journey to the north Yorkshire coast for the Sea Kayak Expedition Gathering. On my arrival I was greeted with a hot meal and a beer (Always a good start). As night fell on Friday evening there were tall tales and ghost stories round the fire just to make sure we all slept soundly in our beds.

In the morning everyone split into different groups for workshops on trip planning, fishing and foraging for wild foods.

At lunchtime the organisers laid on a fantastic spread of food cooked freshly on the beach. Fried fish, malt loaf fritters and stewed fruit re-replenished our energy reserves for the afternoon incident management sessions. The local RNLI lifeboat crew from Staithes joined us to try different techniques for rescuing kayakers.

After dinner I showed pictures and footage from last years expedition to east Greenland finishing off with the film Gino's Greenland. After that there were workshops on emergency boat repairs by Howard Jeffs and navigation & trip planning by Kim Bull.

Sunday was more about journeying with everyone splitting into smaller groups focusing on boat handling and navigation on the move. As we entered Staithes harbour we were once again treated to freshly prepared food before completing the final leg to finish in Runswick Bay.

Many thanks to Ang, Steve, Sophie and the rest of the crew at East Barnby Outdoor Education Centre for a terrific weekend. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Northumberland - A Warmer Return

Since my last visit just after Easter, Northumberland has turned green and sprung into life. The dawn chorus woke us up early and following a leisurely breakfast on the campsite, Dave and I headed for Bamburgh beach in search of the Farne Islands.

The sea was unusually flat with hardly any swell at all. As we arrived at Longstone the sun broke through the chilly morning gloom and blue skies dominated the rest of the day.

The delayed start of spring was obvious here earlier in April but things have finally got into swing. Seals are inquisitive as ever and obviously enjoying basking in the warm sunshine.

Birdlife is building towards its crescendo with Arctic terns and kittiwakes incubating eggs. I wore my kayaking helmet for my visit to Inner Farne but the wardens asked me to take it off. When the terns dive bomb you (occasionally making contact) they could break their beaks. As soon as I took it off i got my head pecked.

Puffins are always everyone's favourite and don't dive bomb you or peck people's heads.