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Views from a sea kayak (1 Viewer)

Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria
Supporter
England
(I'll put this in here because I'm not really sure which is the best place to put it as it's not purely about birds. No doubt the mods will move it if they see fit)

If you have ever wondered whether a sea kayak would be a good platform from which to watch wildlife, the answer is yes it is. However, it's probably not a good idea to just buy all the kit and head off out to sea. Best to get some instruction and training first as the marine environment is a particularly unforgiving one.

Once you get out there though there are some wonderful experiences to be had. These are a random selection of experiences I have enjoyed over the last twenty five years. I often don't manage to get any photos at all as I usually only have my little waterproof compact camera on deck so I try to just focus on the experience instead.

I was slightly miffed though on the occasion when my camera absolutely refused to focus on a Great Shearwater off Scotland's Treshnish Isles. It remains my one and only Great Shearwater experience. If you fancy it though, it is well worth the effort of learning the ropes.

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09060094 Lion's Mane Jellyfish, Moon Jellyfish-2.jpg

Pics are -

Great Northern Diver - Loch Sween, Scotland in winter - this bird seemed to follow me around for some time.

Basking Shark - Treshnish Point, Isle of Mull, Scotland - one of many Basking Shark encounters I have had off the west coast of Scotland.

Common Guillemots / Murres, Staple Island, Farne Islands, England.

Black Guillemot, Treshnish Isles, Scotland.

Lion's Mane Jellyfish eating a Moon Jellyfish, Treshnish Isles, Scotland.
 
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Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria
Supporter
England
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IMG_0779 Hydroid medusae - Aequorea forskalea-2.jpg

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Pics are -

Manx Shearwaters, Point of Sleat, Isle of Skye Scotland - these birds always seem to break their journey in order to do a circuit of my boat (as do Northern Fulmars). The island in the background is, perhaps appropriately, Rum.

Great Skua taking off from a somewhat lumpy sea near Stoer Point, Scotland.

Atlantic Puffins, Faraid Head, Scotland.

Some sort of hydroid, Aequorea forskalea I think, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

Another Lion's Mane Jellyfish, Lochailort, Scotland - I'm always paranoid about scooping up the tentacles of these with my paddle as they have a nasty sting. On this occasion I did get a few strands on my paddle shaft but avoided being stung.
 

Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria
Supporter
England
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Pics are -

White-tailed Eagle, Ardnamurchan, Scotland - this bird just stayed put and watched us as a friend and I paddled by thirty feet below.

Purple Sandpiper, St Bees, England - I spent some time watching this bird from a few feet away - after a while a small wave washed my bows against the rock but the bird just jumped over my boat and carried on feeding. At that point I decided to back away and leave it to get on with its feeding.

A few Northern Gannets, Bass Rock, Scotland.

Great Skua with prey - a Northern Fulmar I think, Handa Island, Scotland.

Green Urchin, Handa Island, Scotland - I wish I had brought this home with me - I don't often find them with the Aristotle's Lantern (the jaw parts) fully intact like this.
 
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Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria
Supporter
England
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Pics are -

Sponges, species unknown, Lock Laxford, Scotland.

A massive Barrel Jellyfish passing beneath me, St Bees, England.

Eurasian Otter, Sound of Harris, Hebrides, Scotland - otters don't seem to be particularly bothered by kayakers. We watched this one from a short distance away for some time whilst it fished for crabs.

Waiting for the auks, Common Guillemots / Murres and Razorbills, to get out of the way, Handa Island, Scotland.
 
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ClarkWGriswold

Carpe Carpum
Staff member
Supporter
Wales
Lovely photos Andrea. Was watching a distant pod of Dolphins off Devon a couple of years back. The person in the kayak must have had amazing views.

Rich
 

Sancho

Registered User
Supporter
Stunning photos, Andrea. I've often thought about getting a sea kayak for just this purpose, but I'm nervous. To practise, I bought a moulded 'sit-on' kayak and use it in a very safe bay in West Clare (where we spend a lot of time). The seabirds curiously allow very close approach, as in your photos, as if they feel you're no threat in 'their' neighbourhood. But when I look past the reef out into the open sea, I must say it scares me...I'd love the solitude, but the Atlantic admits no trifling....
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
Fantastic Andrea ! I love sea kayaking ! :D

Is that a one or a two person sea kayak ?

I have only done it a few times in NZ with guides - so the whole concerns about capsizing etc were lessened. It was a big two person kayak - and it was awesome ! especially 'surfing' through the rock caves !

I was a natural (probably from watching so many Ironman competitions ;)) , but my friend was quite hopeless (didn't extend his arms fully enough) - lol - he looked like a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and couldn't move his arms for 3 days afterwards ! :-O






Chosun :gh:
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
Oh that's the life Andrea!!! Wish I could do it now. As a teen, with two friends we actually built our own and paddled them along the Thames for the DofE Scheme awards. Loved it.

We never even thought about sea trips in those days.

Get the weather right and I can imagine no better vacation than paddling round the West Coast seeing all that delicious wildlife.

Many thanks for letting us in on the adventure Andrea. Awesome pictures these too.
 

sbarnhardt

Traveling man
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
I really like these. I've developed a fondness for good landscape pictures here lately. These are superb and, in my opinion, are National Geographic quality. Be proud! You have a great feel for this. Keep up the good work!
 

YuShan

Well-known member
Very nice! How do the birds react to your presence? From your photos it seems like they are pretty confiding.
 

Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria
Supporter
England
Thanks for the comments. Bear in mind the photos here were taken with a small compact camera. They don't really do the actual experience justice.

I started paddling with other people but slowly graduated to paddling alone even in very remote areas as I found the rewards more than outweighed the additional risks. The important thing to bear in mind is to practise, practise, practise.

It's possible to just buy all the kit and set out by yourself but it might not end well! The ocean is a very unforgiving environment. I practise my self rescues in fresh water lakes in winter where the water temperature is probably about four degrees C. I work on the basis that if they work OK in such an environment they might work OK on the relatively warm ocean but there are no guarantees.

The reaction of wildlife to seakayakers does vary quite a bit. Exploring sea caves is fantastic though does increase the risk level to the kayaker substantially. Equally it also increases the risk levels to European Shags which are often found nesting on ledges in sea caves. They really don't like kayakers getting too close and there is a risk they will fly off in a panic knocking eggs into the sea as they do.

Both Grey and Common seals also don't like kayakers approaching too closely when they are hauled out on rocks. There is some suggestion that the profile of kayakers looks a bit like an Orca. Once in the water however they will often come very close.

Auks on the other hand can often be approached very closely. I usually like to just drift along with the wind and tide without using my paddle and the birds will often come very close. There have been many occasions when I could have just reached out with my paddle and hit them over the head.

Get it wrong however and they will skitter away wildly across the water or dive en masse, and I prefer to try and avoid that sort of thing as much as possible. Northern Fulmars and Manx Shearwaters will often come for a closer look and typically do a wide circuit of the boat before continuing on their way.

Even fairly mundane experiences can become something special though when drifting along alone in a kayak in a remote place. It might be just trailing your hands along the surface of a dense forest of kelp. It might be paddling into a vast cave with Black-legged Kittiwakes calling from the ledges above the cave entrance. It might just be a view of something that cannot be seen from land such as the lower nesting ledges of Kittiwakes and Guillemots/Murres at my local seabird colony.

You might not see anything rare or exotic but the experience can be heightened by being alone in a potentially hostile environment and witnessing things in a way few people do. The risks are far greater than when looking at the sea from the land but personally I think the rewards are far greater too.
 

Andrea Collins

Beside the Duddon, Cumbria
Supporter
England
Just a correction about the first picture in post four. The "sponges" are actually probably Dead Man's Fingers, a form of soft coral and not sponges at all.
 

YuShan

Well-known member
You might not see anything rare or exotic but the experience can be heightened by being alone in a potentially hostile environment and witnessing things in a way few people do. The risks are far greater than when looking at the sea from the land but personally I think the rewards are far greater too.

Although I have no experience with sea kayaking, I can really empathise with this! I too really enjoy these kind of holistic nature experiences. I do lots of solo long distance backpacking/camping in remote and wild places. It is not about seeing anything rare and ticking of birds, but about the enjoyment of being completely submerged into nature. Of course a kayak is extra special because it offers you a perspective that you can not experience in any other way.
 

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