Avian Botulism on the Skerries

Our most recent journey to the Skerries was met with the disturbing news that avian botulism has killed 10% of this years arctic tern colony.  Avian botulism is transmitted via the consumption of infected maggots that grow on the carcasses of infected birds.  The resident wardens have therefore been working hard to contain this outbreak by collecting and burning any bird carcasses.

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Mirco at Harry Furlough’s tiderace

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Ed surfing at Coal Rock tiderace

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Victoria Bank tiderace

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Skerries tiderace

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Skerries harbour

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Skerries lighthouse

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Juvenile tern

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Turtle Conservation and Sea Kayaking in Greece

For two weeks, in July 2017, I had the pleasure of leading a school group from Carterton College, Oxfordshire, on their Outlook Expeditions trip to Greece.  The itinerary took us from Athens to the Peloponnese Peninsula and then on to Lefkada, Ionian Islands, before returning to Athens.

The loggerhead turtle conservation project was conducted with Archelon, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.  Firstly, we visited Archelon’s sea turtle rescue centre in Athens, before volunteering to help with three days of morning and night surveys on the Peloponnese Peninsula.  These surveys are useful for collecting data on the turtles’ nesting behaviour and nest numbers.  Additionally, they enable Archelon volunteers to install protection around the nests to deter predation from dogs and foxes.

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Our rare sighting of a morning turtle, still nesting on the beach after sunrise.

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An attempted predation by a dog on a bamboo and steel mesh protected nest.

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Locating a newly laid nest.

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Protecting a newly found nest with bamboo and steel mesh.

For the final week of the expedition we travelled to Lefkada for a four day sea kayaking trip to the island of Meganisi.

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A secluded Lefkada island beach.

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Two of our double sea kayaks.

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Evening 1 camp site.

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Syvota

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Evening 2 and 3 camp site, Meganisi.

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Returning to Lefkada.

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Lefkada’s Blue Cave.

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Celebratory meal.

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Temple of Hephaestus

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The Acropolis

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The first modern Olympics Stadium

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Athens

Song of the Sea – By Richard Janes

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Song of the Sea

Follow the rhythm as the waves surge and fall,

Then rise, fermata to shake their salten heads

Charging, wind driven to the pebbles rasping call,

Plastic cups and sea shells, spewed from curling reach.

Feel the pounding of the sand heavy load,

And stones grinding in the maw,

Rock graded, shingle beach.

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Listen to the wind as it roars and moans

As the oystercatcher runs his lines,

Singing, piercing staccato

Busy in windrow, where his harvest is blown.

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With time the tide turns and the wind starts to slow,

Sensual, dolce as she moves through the dunes

Now hear the hiss, sand driven like snow?

As water ebbs and flows,

Weed sways, obligato to a melodic tune.

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Hear the Guillimots’ Parliament voice

And the whirr as they take to the air?

Pause for the Kittiwakes’urgent chant,

And the silence of the Fulmars stare.

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The haunting sigh of a seal on rocks

With pup she tries to hide,

From the hungry Gulls’ raucous lament.

This is the ensemble for all to hear;

Conducted by wind and tide.

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From howling storm to summer surf,

With Nature following in harmony,

This is the beautiful libretto text

And eternal song of the sea.

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Richard Janes
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Incident Management at Penrhyn Mawr – By Richard Janes

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Richard, Paul and Ed
Porth Dafarch Saturday 6th May
Wind North East (F5/6) Overcast and cool
Highwater (Liverpool) 0953 8.1M
“Where to go, where’s the fun?” The spoken introduction to so many paddling days. “And not the fear?” …..Unspoken, unless the obvious, guaranteed outcome of a plan.
Today was a more difficult decision. The West Coast seemed a good idea, based on the prevailing wind but which part? Rhoscolyn is a lovely area but we figured the outer race would be exposed to the wind and actually, not likely to be doing very much. Penrhyn Mawr was predicted to start running around 1530. Would it be fun before beer time?
Being decisive decision makers, we drove to Trearddur and Porth Dafarch to ‘have a look’. With an offshore wind, the ocean looked flat, and after the Mediterranean blue of earlier in the week, when Paul and I were playing (Ed working), decidedly grey!
Now, young Ed is a clever lad (youth) and came up with the idea to rock hop along the coast to Penrhyn Mawr and incorporate a skills session. Rocky landings, rescues etc followed by a late lunch and more rescues in the race. Paul and I had obviously been thinking about this whilst desperately trying to digest a massive Truckstop bacon sandwich. Great idea!  Wish I had brought my Drysuit and not ‘separates’ (Ah, ha! …now I know Ed’s cunning behind the plan) But to his credit, the youth had a good idea.
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At Porth Dafarch we bumped into Dave Southern and the Shrewsbury Gang along with a very tanned (just back from Spain, surely he’s too young to join us retirees?) Jim Krawiecki.
With a slow start (still trying to digest that bacon butty), we left the beach empty as we glided out of the Bay with a tail wind, pretending our forward paddling had really improved.
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Porth Dafarch was once used as a port for packet boats to Ireland when the port at Holyhead was unavailable. Close in, one can appreciate the splendour of the rocks hereabouts. The Geological map showing these to be rocks of the South Stack Formation. Heavily folded sandstones and siltstones with folding which relates to the overturned limb of a major anticline that dominates this coastline. It is a stunning place!
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However, it pays to keep a look out around here as rock can quickly change to lead as it wings its way to sea, attached to a string of feathered hooks one end and a hopeful, sometimes stroppy fisherman at the other.
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Ed was now eager to exit his boat and you shouldn’t hold back youth, so we discussed and planned rocky landings. We moved onto extricating a swimmer from a gully, short tows and towing a swimmer with his boat. Paul towing Ed who was lunged on his back deck, then in the water, legs down and finally in the water kicking ie a more horizontal position. Least resistance and easiest towing was lunged on back deck or holding back of the boat kicking, which is more dynamic than just holding on and also helps keep the casualty warm if he/she is fit enough. A technical point; the dynamics of this rescue may change if roles were reversed. There are different coefficients of drag between Loffil legs and Pauls (shorter) Celtic legs.
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Erudite and intellectual conversation dominated lunch.
Penrhyn Mawr had now begun and further built as we practiced rescues and rolling in the race. All this good and sensible stuff faded away as the kid inside took over. Surfing and blasting down the waves! Now, Penrhyn Mawr can be much, much bigger. But these waves were big enough to be fun and friendly enough to allow ‘cocky’ experimentation on the wave. Except, I struggle to get over my emotional attachment to the paddle whilst taking pictures when the waves become more interesting. Perhaps I should see a Councillor? I blame my Mother.
Strangely, we met the Shrewsbury Gang and Jim in the pub after.
PS Dave, sorry we broke the unwritten rule of husband/wife teams and scoffed most of Sue’s chips before you had a chance!

A Paddle to Ynys Dulas with a Girl in a Dress! By Richard Janes

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Saturday 30th April was the first day of the Anglesey Sea kayak symposium. Now, we are not an antisocial lot, but prefer sea space when playing in tide races. We are also lucky enough to have regular access to the well known spots of the West Coast, so tend to ‘go East’ on this busy weekend.
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Forecast: Wind predominantly Southerly, (F4/5). Highwater (Liverpool): BST 1400 (9.7M)
The day started with a coffee, planning and usual banter in the Holyhead Truckstop before launching from Porth Eilian. The West side of Trwyn Eilian / Point Lynas provided a sheltered and scenic ‘bimble’ with lovely rock architecture before the headland is reached.
For the Geologically minded, these rocks are of the New Harbour Group – Mica Schist And Psammite. Metamorphic Bedrock formed approximately 542 to 635 million years ago in the Ediacaran Period. Originally sedimentary rocks formed in deep seas. Later altered by low-grade metamorphism.
Trwyn Eilian is a significant obstacle to fast moving tides. The South East (flood) starts around 5 hours 30 minutes after High Water Liverpool. The North West going Ebb Stream starts around 30 minutes before High Water Liverpool. The ebb was due to start at 1330 and we arrived with swirlings and buoy movements suggesting an early start to the ebb. Not enough to hinder our onward passage to Ynys Dulas, we were now exposed to the Southerly wind which was doing it’s best to slow us down!
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We chose a line crossing Freshwater Bay, close to shore at Porthygwychiaid and stopped for an early lunch at Porth Helygen (Willows). The beach hereabouts being a very narrow strip of rock, shingle, ‘plastic cups and sea shells, spewed from curling reach’ as we were close to Highwater. After lunch, the ebb had got going! And called for a significant ‘ferry’ angle to Ynys Dulas. I’ve often found this an interesting area. Exposed to wind from most directions, it seems to be in line of the confluence between main tidal streams and water emptying from Dulas Bay.
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Arrival at Ynys Dulas is a joy! Boats quickly surrounded by inquisitive heads of Grey Seals, the ubiquitous smell of guano delivered by many Cormorants. The island is mainly rocky, but at low tide sand is exposed, most noticeably on the southern part of the island where it separates the main rock formation from two smaller ones named Garnog (‘Hooved’). A smaller rock called Garreg Allan (‘The Outer Stone’) is found about 100 m behind the island.

The island also marks the termination of an old limestone headland which geologically separated Dulas Bay from Lligwy Bay and Red Wharf Bay.

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On the island is a beacon. Today dominated by ‘head honcho’ Cormorant, it is a cylindrical structure with a cone shaped top, built in 1821 by James Hughes of Llys Dulas Manor to store food and provide shelter for shipwrecked seamen. There is evidence from a map drawn up in September 1748 by Lewis Moore that the island was once known not as Ynys Dulas but Ynys Gadarn (‘Strong or Mighty Island’). Fascinating stuff! But it was time for us to take the escalator (ebb tide) back to Lynas and of greater importance, leave the birds and seals in peace!

 Geth had a Red Hot Date with his Wife, Kirsty and Daughter Heidi and the promise of a night in their campervan following a Red Hot Curry! (Hmmm…)  Paul and I had the promise of a play in the ebb race off Lynas!!

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 Goleudy Trwyn y Balog or Point Lynas Lighthouse grid reference; SH 479936 If you are here at night, look out for ‘Occ. 10s. 39m. 20M’ The lighthouse is a distinctive feature along this section of coast. It was designed by Jesse Hartley engineer to the Mersey Docks and was also responsible for the World’s first great floating dock system at Liverpool.

(Note: As a ‘benson Saesneg’, I’m having trouble translating ‘Balog’. Nearest I can get is ‘flies’, like on trousers! Any ideas?)

The present lantern dates from about 1874. In 1952 the station was electrified and the mechanical elements of the original light-shutter were removed. The light was automated in 1989 and is now controlled from Holyhead.

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By now, Lynas race was running at full spring tilt of nearly 5 knots. Surging, steep waves were very playful and occasionally challenging. Easy access to an ‘eddy return escalator’ made for great fun! Gethin ‘coaching’ Rachel to a new technique whilst terrified of the wrath of our Mancunian Lady if it went wrong, sharpened his technique to a higher level!

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The easy return to Porth Eilian was again, a true joy!

Oh, I nearly forgot. The Girl in a Dress? Well, I had to say something to gain attention! Young Rachel had a ‘Senior’ (has our youthful friend started early?) moment and left some paddling kit at home. Improvising and resourceful (although Rachel didn’t accept all our ideas), we fashioned kit from a spare spray deck, my XL Storm Cag (Rachel’s natural size is probably XS)  and assorted bits and pieces. We thought she looked rather fetching! Rachel said it was like; “paddling in a dress”! Take her word for it, but she did stay dry!

…..And we all had a ‘wet’ to celebrate another great day!

Richard Janes

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