Tuesday, May 5, 2009

4th May,2009.

What a dreadful day, improving only at the end of the afternoon. A fresh SW wind (F5/6 at times) brought in successive waves of mist and rain such that I had only 300m
of visibility for a seawatch that I eventually abandoned. It appeared that only Gannets and "locals" were on the move, or could be seen amidst the heavy sea. The first brood of Grey lag Goose goslings on Eilean Mhic Coinnich, just off the SW tip, was a timely reminder that our Greenland White-fronted Geese might only just have arrived on the eastern side of Greenland, and may not yet be there!! Their breeding season has yet to be completed!!!

The photograph in the header is one looking off the southwestern end of Islay. A little to the north of this, three islets are located known as Frenchman's Rocks. Over the years these rocks, located at the very SW tip of the island, have taken various ships to the bottom. The site is that of an historic wreck given full protection under a Statutory Instrument issued in 1976.

Found in the mid 1970's the wreck is thought to be that of a Spanish Armada ship, the Sante Maria de La Vista, one of only two or three Armada ships not discovered. Such would date the wreck as being 1588, but a coin found on the wreck site , a Caralous 111 silver coin ,is dated 1688.

Another theory is that the wreck might be that of a French frigate, which had been in battle with an English ship and come off worst, eventually floundering on the rocks. It appears tidal currents have distributed most of the wreckage, or the ship, badly holed, limped off elsewhere. The fact that the site is named Frenchman's Rocks perhaps adds some credence to the latter story, when the area may have been first named by locals. These are not the only wrecks around Islay and some tragic stories accompany some of the incidents. Anyone interested is directed to the book "Dive Islay - Wrecks" by S.Blackburn, which catalogues many of them and provided the information for the above entries.

Frenchman's Rocks also have a quite different reputation....as one of the premier seawatching sites in Scotland ( although recent entries wouldn't suggest such!!!! ).
Worth watching over at any time , the area comes into its own in late summer into early winter when, routinely, many seabird species are involved in movements to southern wintering areas. The real bonus appears with particular weather systems bringing strong winds from the west accompanied by squalls of rain. Pelagic species such as Leach's Petrels and Sabines Gulls can occur along with enhanced numbers of commoner species. Looking westwards and north westwards, from our coastline locally, I'm reminded that the next landfall is the Eastern Seabord of North America, so there's a fair maritime catchment area in between!! Hopefully future postings will highlight some of the passage we can experience on this side of the pond!!

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