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Isle Of Man

Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax ©Sean Gray www.grayimages.co.uk

The Isle of Man is situated in the northern part of the Irish Sea virtually equidistant from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The Isle of Man is a place known of by many, but visited by comparatively few - yet by plane (35mins from Liverpool) or fast Seacat (2hrs from Heysham); the island is easier to get to than many people may think.

The island is 51km long and up to 21km wide. There is a remarkable variety of habitats bringing with it a rich and diverse range of bird species. Specialities of the Isle of Man are the Chough (with a population of c250 birds); the Hen Harrier (with Western Europe's largest winter roost of up to 120 birds) and a healthy population of Peregrine Falcon. The eponymous Manx Shearwater once bred in huge numbers on the Calf of Man, before being wiped out by rats. An extensive pest control programme has now resulted in small numbers of Manx Shearwaters breeding on the Calf once more.

The Island is dominated by two ranges of hills, clad in heather or grass moorland which rise to 621m at Snaefell in the north and to 483m at South Barrule in the south. There are flat, but ornithologically valuable lowlands in the north (which include the Ayres and Ballaugh Curragh) and the south-east with the Langness peninsula. The coastline is mostly composed of slate cliffs, interrupted here and there by sandy bays and tiny shingle coves. In the north there are sand dunes which separate the lowland heath of the Ayres from the sea, while across the narrow Sound off the south-west point of the main island is a hilly islet, the Calf of Man, site of an important Bird Observatory administered by Manx National Heritage (MNH).

Well-marked long distance footpaths explore almost the entire coast, providing frequent opportunities of seeing such Manx specialities as Peregrine, Chough and Raven. Fulmar and Shag are widely distributed but there are only four Cormorant colonies.

A few of the more spectacular cliffs have Kittiwake and Guillemot colonies, while there is a good scatter of places where Black Guillemots nest. Stonechats are common on the gorse and bramble scrub which is such a typical feature of the steep coastal brooghs - a Gaelic word for the grassy slopes which lead down to the sea. Except for the height of the summer, parties of Purple Sandpiper can be found at several well-established sites on the rocky coast. Little Tern, with as many as seventy pairs in some years, are the most important breeding birds of the Ayres shore.

Getting Around

The road network enables the serious birder to get to all the main sites with ease. Cars may be hired from the airport or sea terminal, otherwise the bus service is excellent - allowing many good birding sites to be reached easily, or there are taxis. There is also a historic network of steam railway and electric tramways. There are many good places on the Island to see birds. Some of the very best are listed below:

Getting there

The Isle of Man can be reached by boat (from Liverpool and Heysham year round, and from Belfast and Dublin during the summer only). The operator is the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company - Tel: ‘08722 992 992* (UK) or 0044 8722 992 992* (ROI & Outside UK). *Calls to this number are charged at 10 pence per minute including VAT from a BT landline, calls from other networks and mobile operators may vary.’

Scheduled air services to Ronaldsway Airport, just outside Castletown in the south of the Isle of Man, are provided by a number of companies from airports around Britain and Ireland. See the current list at:

www.visitisleofman.com/travel/fly.xml

Top Sites

Ballaugh Curraghs

Satellite View

The Island's most extensive area of marshland with a rich growth of willow and birch and scattered rushy meadows. Minor sign-posted roads lead into the Curragh from A14 N of Sulby and A10 N of Ballaugh. Park at SC363951 by the Killane River or at SC359957 and follow the boardwalk SE to the Manx Wildlife Trust hide. Greylag Goose, Teal, Water Rail, Woodcock, Raven (all year). Grasshopper Warbler, Blackcap, Siskin, Redpoll (summer). Largest Hen Harrier roost in Western Europe - up to 120 birds with 20-40 quite usual. View from hide starting 90 mins before sunset October to March.

Calf of Man

Satellite View

During the holiday season (usually late May to mid September) boats from Port Erin land day visitors on the Calf. Trips also go right round the Calf. For details contact Mr Ray Buchan (01624 832339). Alternatively the boatman who makes weekly supply trips to the Observatory, Mr Juan Clague (01624 834307) may be able to take parties over from Port St Mary if arranged in advance. Access to the Calf is always subject to the vagaries of the weather - it may prevent landing and (equally important); it may prevent parties from being picked up again!

Castletown Bay, Langness and Derbyhaven

Satellite View

The Langness peninsular in the south is probably the best birding site in the Isle of Man. The area consists of sandy bays, weed-covered rocks, saltmarsh, low cliffs, golf course, rocky islet and intertidal mud. It is adjacent to Ronaldsway Airport. The entire area from Scarlett Quarry in the west to the flying club north of Derbyhaven and as far as the Langness car park at SC284660 is well served by roads. Best areas are around the isthmus to Langness and include Sandwick - the eastern extremity of sand in Castletown Bay - south past the Pool to the car park and the intertidal mud separating Derbyhaven from its breakwater. During winter this is one of the best places to see a Chough flock at close range, as the birds forage through the high-tide wrack. Just south of Derbyhaven take the right-hand fork for Langness and almost at once when the road turns left, keep straight ahead along a sandy, motorable track which follows the coast closely from Sandwick southwards for about a quarter of a mile before rejoining the lighthouse road. Watching from a car can be very rewarding, particularly at high tide. Grey Plover, Knot, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, both godwits, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Sandwich Tern (passage). Wildfowl (Brent Goose now annual); Golden Plover, Short-eared Owl, Chough and in Derbyhaven divers and grebes (winter). Rarities have included Little Egret (several years); Temminck's Stint, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher and Calandra Lark. A Peregrine may often be seen resting on the rocks between meals. The end of Langness by the lighthouse makes a fine sea-watching spot.

Maughold Head & Brooghs

Satellite View

Slate cliffs with grass and gorse above. Take A15 to Maughold village and follow single-track lane for lighthouse which skirts north side of churchyard. Rough track north to large car park and another small car park to west of lighthouse. From main car park follow path to St. Maughold's Well and then follow path along coast to west (easy) and east with great care (dangerous). Island's largest Cormorant colony (50+ nests) to west. To east Kittiwake and Guillemot colonies, Black Guillemot, Puffin (summer). Peregrine, Raven, Chough (all year). Grey Seals on rocks to west (winter).

The Ayres

Satellite View

A 9km sand and shingle beach with dunes, maritime heath, gravel pits and freshwater pools. This site extends from The Lhen (NX378016) to the Point of Ayre (the northern tip of the Isle of Man) and can be reached from several roads from A10 and by A16. Little Tern (up to 60 pairs); Arctic and Common Terns and non-breeding Sandwich Terns (summer). Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel, skuas (passage). Divers, Golden Plover, Short-eared Owl and Raven flock, Twite (winter).

The Chasms & Sugarloaf

Satellite View

Vertical slate cliffs and stack. Arguably the Island's finest cliff scenery - a lane south at Cregneash village climbs to a car park whence one can walk down to the Chasms (dangerous fissures - take care). There is also limited parking at Fistard (SC200644) - then follow the coast for about 1km. Stonechat, Chough, Raven (all year). Kittiwake, Guillemot, Black Guillemot (just S of Fistard) and Wheatear (summer). Though the seabirds can be viewed from the path at the top of the cliffs, undoubtedly the best view is from the sea. During the summer it may be possible to arrange a trip from Port St Mary. The Kittiwakes on the Sugarloaf are stunning!

To visit other bird watching sites

For details of other worthwhile birding sites in the Isle of Man, look at: http://www.visitisleofman.com/thingstoseeanddo/wildlife/

Contributor

Mark Fitzpatrick

markfitzp@cix.co.uk

County Recorder

Chris Sharpe

birdman@manx.net

Useful Reading

Birds of the Isle of Man

J P Cullen, P P Jennings Hardcover (October 1986) Bridgeen Pubns

ISBN: 0951149903

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Manx Bird Atlas

Edited by Chris Sharpe Liverpool University Press 2006 Price £60

ISBN: 1846310393

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Where to Watch Birds in North West England & the Isle of Man

by Allan Conlin, Dr J P Cullen, Pete Marsh, Tristan Reid, Chris Sharpe, Judith Smith & Stephen Williams Christopher Helm Third Edition 2008

ISBN: 9780713664218

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Useful Information

Getting around…

The road network enables the serious birder to get to all the main sites with ease. Cars may be hired from the airport or sea terminal, otherwise the bus service is excellent - allowing many good birding sites to be reached easily, or there are taxis. There is also a historic network of steam railway and electric tramways. Some car hire firms are:
Athol Car Hire (01624 822481)
Isle of Man Rent a Car (01624 825855)
Mylchreests Car Rental (Freephone 08000 190335)
For bus and rail phone Isle of Man Transport on 01624 662525.

Getting there…

The Isle of Man can be reached by boat (from Liverpool and Heysham year round, and from Belfast and Dublin during the summer only) with ferries operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.
See: http://www.steam-packet.com/ for more information or call 08722 992 992* (UK) or 0044 8722 992 992* (ROI & Outside UK).

The Isle of Man has air links with many airports situated in the UK, Channel Islands, Ireland and further afield. Most airlines operate daily flights to the Island – with some flights from the North West taking just under 30 minutes.
See http://www.visitisleofman.com/travel/fly.xml for more details.

Tourist Information

Contact the main Tourist Information Office on 01624 686766 or visit their website: http://www.visitisleofman.com

Visiting the Calf of Man

During the holiday season (usually late May to mid September) boats from Port Erin land day visitors on the Calf. Trips also go right round the Calf. For details contact Mr Ray Buchan (01624 832339). Alternatively the boatman who makes weekly supply trips to the Observatory, Mr Juan Clague (01624 834307) may be able to take parties over from Port St Mary if arranged in advance. Access to the Calf is always subject to the vagaries of the weather - it may prevent landing and (equally important); it may prevent parties from being picked up again!

Organisations

Manx Ornithological Society

Peregrine is the journal of the Manx Ornithological Society, obtainable from the Vice Chairman - Mrs Anne Kaye, Cronk-ny-Ollee, Glen Chass, Port St Mary. IM9 5PL - 01624 834015.

Manx BirdLife - formerly Manx Bird Atlas

Website

Manx BirdLife is a registered charity set up to undertake detailed population studies of bird life in the Isle of Man. Formerly known as the Manx Bird Atlas charity, from 1998 to 2003 they carried out detailed fieldwork during the breeding season and in the winter resulting in the publication in 2007 of the Manx Bird Atlas book (389 pages). They have produced high quality information on the status of Manx bird populations and the information in the published atlas is suitable for use within environmental, scientific or other research. The Recent Reports section provides all the latest observations to whet your appetite…

Manx Wildlife Trust

Website

MWT is the principal voluntary wildlife conservation organisation on the Isle of Man, representing Manx wildlife interests locally, in the British Isles and worldwide. The MWT manage 20 reserves and 3 visitor/ information centres. Their shop, located at their HQ, stocks a wide range of publications about Manx wildlife and natural history. Manx Wildlife Trust, Tynwald Mills, St Johns, Isle of Man IM4 3AE Tel: +44 (0) 1624 801985, Fax: +44 (0) 1624 801022 Email: enquiries@manxwt.org.uk

Observatories

Calf of Man Bird Observatory

Observatory

Satellite View

The Observatory is usually open from March to early December. Self-catering accommodation is available in the Observatory (the old farmhouse); for more details contact: The Group Permit Officer, Manx National Heritage, Manx Museum, Douglas, Isle of Man IM1 3LY (01624 648000). The Calf of Man Bird Observatory Annual Report is obtainable from the Manx Museum. The warden can be contacted by post: c/o Mr J Clague, Kionslieu, Plantation Hill, Port St Mary, Isle of Man or by Mobile: 07624 462858

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

Guides & Tour Operators

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Blogs

Ringers Diary

Blog

Sean Gray, a ringer who moved from Yorkshire to the Isle of Man in early 2010…

Other Links

Isle of Man Birding

Website

Most birders, when asked about the Isle of Man, only mention the Calf of Man Bird Observatory - but it is so much more than that little rock off the south-western tip of the main island! With a wide variety of habitats ranging from mountain and moor land, sea-cliffs, coastal heath land, sandy beaches, tidal pools and a variety of woods and plantations, the Isle of Man must have a bigger range of bird friendly locations than any other similar sized area in the British Isles…

Photographers & Artists

Artist - Jeremy Paul

Gallery

Born in Accrington, Lancashire, UK in 1954, Jeremy Paul had a successful career in marine biology before becoming a professional Wildlife Artist. After receiving a Doctorate for research, his work took him to live in Spain and some of the most beautiful and remote areas of the British Isles, particularly the west coast of Scotland including a period on a small island with a total population of 6…

Photographer - Peter Hadfield

Gallery

My name is Peter Hadfield I live in the Isle of Man (British Isles) and I have been birding on and off for nearly 20 years. (Mainly in the IOM but once or twice in the Uk). Within the last 2 years I have extended this into Bird Photography. I started on a Digiscoping setup then at the beginning of 2004 I moved onto a DigiSlr setup. On this website I intend to show a selection of images I have managed to take so far…

Photographer - Sean Gray - Grayimages

Gallery

My fascination with wild birds began as a boy growing up in the Norfolk Fens. This passion has stayed with me and I am intrigued with every aspect of their lives; behaviour, migration, breeding and feeding. I now live in the Isle of Man….