Saturday 27 May 2023

Gannet aeronautics off Dalkey Island

Took my first sea dip of the year with one of my New Best Friends in Dublin, Catherine Bunyan, around 'the Forty Foot' at Sandycove, as immortalised (along with the Martello Tower there) by Joyce in the first chapter of Ulysses. I say 'around' because the spot itself, though amazingly quiet, proved too savage for immersion at high tide; prior to donning the socks and gloves I've just received to make staying in cold water for longer possible, cold water swims are time-limited to a few minutes. Catherine was well attired - she's to be seen at a respecful distance here.

I chose to go round the promontory to the sandy cove opposite Dun Laoghaire, and that was good; it's coming up for a year since I first swam here on Bloomsday morning with Swedish friend Sophie and Latvians Artis and Kristaps. There's no record of my immersion this time, but Catherine snapped me betowelled and happy afterwards.

She had to get back to the centre of town after this, but I walked on round to Coliemore Harbour in Dalkey, where I saw more folk swimming and noted that this would be an excellent spot too.

This is possibly the first location going south from the city centre along Dublin bay where the views out are truly wild (North Bull Island is closer), though of course with signs of human occupation which only add to the picturesqueness.

There are colonies of terns and other rarer seabirds out there, as former nature warden Richard Nairn's Wild Shores tells me (annoyingly I've had to leave it in the Dublin flat as part of the Irish library so can't access it now). But I had a good view of a natural phenomenon: first one gannet, then two, performing a ritual repeated at least a dozen times. I'll start with the gannet in the water.

Then we have take-off,

a circling and a soaring between island and harbour, a dipping

then a soar to close above my head

another descent

and a plunge to get a fish

The second gannet did its dive at one end of the island (see top pic, and this detail).

So that was a happy afternoon. I look forward to many more when I return - this time with the gloves and socks.

Addendum (28/5) - cycling up and down the river in London is 'not too shabby', either, as the Irish like to say. It seems timely to add two shots from yesterday evening, heading back from Richmond Park after a glorious afternoon: five swans a-swimming

and then suddenly taking off, a beautiful sight.