The Isle of Man has an astonishing variety of wildlife for a relatively small location. Being an island there is of course a plethora of thriving marine life from basking sharks, whales and dolphins to numerous breeds of nesting birds. Inland, there are also many other species of interest, most famously the Manx Cat and the Manx Loughtan Sheep. See below for more information.
The Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) is a medium-sized shearwater in the seabird family Procellariidae. The scientific name of this species records a name shift: Manx Shearwaters were called Manks Puffins in the 17th century. Puffin is an Anglo-Norman word (Middle English pophyn) for the cured carcasses of nestling shearwaters. The Atlantic Puffin acquired the name much later, possibly because of its similar nesting habits.
The prefix Manx, meaning from the Isle of Man, originated owing to the once large colony of Manx Shearwaters found on the Calf of Man (a small island just south of the Isle of Man). The species had declined there owing to the accidental introduction of rats from a shipwreck in the late 18th century; the rats have, however, recently been removed from the Calf of Man allowing Shearwater numbers to increase.
This species breeds in the North Atlantic, with major colonies on islands and coastal cliffs around Great Britain and Ireland. These birds have been nesting along the Atlantic coast of north-eastern North America since about 1970. They nest in burrows, laying one white egg which is only visited at night to avoid predation by large gulls. The islands are usually free of mammalian predators (but on the island of Rùm, about 4 percent of the chicks are preyed on by Red Deer and sheep that need extra calcium.) They form life-long monogamous pair-bonds.
This bird is 30-38 cm long, with a 76-89 cm wingspan. It has the typically 'shearing' flight of the genus, dipping from side to side on stiff wings with few wing-beats, the wingtips almost touching the water. This bird looks like a flying cross, with its wing held at right angles to the body, and it changes from black to white as the black upperparts and white undersides are alternately exposed as it travels low over the sea.
This is a gregarious species, which can be seen in large numbers from boats or headlands, especially on passage in autumn. It is silent at sea, but at night the breeding colonies are alive with raucous cackling calls. The Manx Shearwater feeds on small fish (particularly herring, sprat and sardines), crustaceans, cephalopods and surface offal. The bird forages individually or in small flocks, and it makes use of feeding marine mammals and schools of predatory fish, which push prey species up to the surface. It does not follow boats.
They are extraordinarily long-lived. A Manx Shearwater breeding on Copeland Island, Northern Ireland, was as of 2003/2004 the oldest known living wild bird in the world: ringed as an adult (at least 5 years old) in July 1953, it was retrapped in July 2003, at least 55 years old.
Manx Shearwaters migrate over 10,000 km to South America in winter, using waters off southern Brazil and Argentina, so this bird has covered a minimum of 1,000,000 km on migration alone (not counting day-to-day fishing trips). Another bird ringed in 1957 and still breeding on Bardsey Island off Wales in April 2002, was calculated by ornithologist Chris Mead to have flown over 8 million km (5 million miles) during its life.
In the nineteenth century Manx novel 'The Manxman' by Sir Hall Caine, a reference is made to the satanic folklore surrounding the Manx shearwater, apparently due to its unusual call and dark appearance.
'Loghtan' or 'Loaghtan' is the Manx word for the 'moorit' colour of the fleece. It may be derived from the two Manx words Lugh (mouse) and Dhoan (brown) or from Lhost dhoan (burnt brown).
The Manx Loaghtan is a breed of sheep (Ovis aries) native to the Isle of Man. It is sometimes spelled as Loaghtyn or Loghtan. It is characterised by its dark brown wool and usually having four or occasionally six horns.
It is categorised as 'at risk' by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, as there are fewer than 1500 registered breeding females in the UK.
Its appearance is small, with no wool on the face or legs. The face and the legs are a dark brown colour. Manx Loaghtan are horned with four horns being preferred but individuals are also found with two or six horns. The horns are generally small on the ewes but are larger and stronger on the males.
Loaghtan is farmed as a delicacy on the Isle of Man with only two principal farms on the island producing the meat. This gourmet meat is highly prized, often sold as hoggett or mutton from well finished animals. The wool is prized by craft weavers as it is soft and has a rich brown colour.
There is a large flock of the sheep on the Calf of Man and access to this island was closed to protect them during the 2001 UK Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic. The disease never reached the island, which continued exports of the meat to the continent of Europe.
The Manx (Manx: Kayt Manninagh or Stubbin) is a breed of cat with a naturally occurring mutation of the spine. This mutation shortens the tail, resulting in a range of tail lengths from normal to tail-less. Many Manx have a small 'stub' of a tail, but Manx cats are best known as being entirely tail-less; this is the distinguishing characteristic of the breed and a cat body type genetic mutation. The Manx are said to be skilled hunters, known to take down larger prey even when they are young. They are often sought by farmers with rodent problems.
The Manx breed originated before the 18th century on the Isle of Man (hence the name), where they are common. They are called 'stubbin' in the Manx language. Tail-less cats were common on the island as long as three hundred years ago. The tail-lessness arises from a genetic mutation that became common on the island (an example of the founder effect).
Folk beliefs claim the Manx cats came from the Spanish Armada; a ship foundered on the cliffs at Spanish Head on the coast of the Isle of Man. According to legend, the cats on the ship swam ashore and became an established breed. Legend has it that the cats originally went onboard the Spanish ship in the Far East.
According to the Cat Fanciers Association, Manx cats, especially white in colour, are extremely rare. In some cases, white Manx cats may be worth well over $4,000. They generally like warmer climates without snow.
The Manx tail-less gene is dominant and highly particular variation. Kittens from Manx parents are generally born without any tail. Having two copies of the gene is semi-lethal and kittens are usually spontaneously aborted before birth. This means that tail-less cats can carry only one copy of the gene. Because of the danger of having two copies of the tail-less gene, breeders have to be careful about breeding two tail-less 'Manxies' together. Problems can be avoided by breeding tail-less cats with tailed ones and this breeding practice is responsible for the decreasing occurrence of spinal problems in recent years.
There are various legends that seek to explain why the Manx has no tail. In one of them, Noah closed the door of the ark when it began to rain and accidentally cut off the tail of the Manx cat who'd been playing and almost got left behind. Another account claims that the Manx is the offspring of a cat and a rabbit, explaining why it has no tail and rather long hind legs. In addition, Manx cats move with more of a hop than a stride, like a rabbit. This legend was further reinforced by the Cabbit myth. Recent postcards on the Isle of Man depict a cartoon scene in which a cat's tail is being run over and removed by a motorbike, because motorbike racing is popular on the Island.
The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is the second largest living shark, after the whale shark. It is a cosmopolitan species, found in all the world's temperate oceans. It is a slow moving and generally harmless filter feeder.
This shark is called the basking shark because it is most often observed when feeding at the surface and appears to be basking in the warmer water there. It is the only member of the family Cetorhinidae, part of the mackerel shark order Lamniformes. Gunnerus was the first to describe and name the species Cetorhinus maximus from a specimen found in Norway. The genus name Cetorhinus comes from the Greek, ketos which means marine monster or whale and rhinos meaning nose, the species name maximus is from Latin and means 'greatest'.
The basking shark is a coastal-pelagic shark found worldwide in boreal to warm-temperate waters around the continental shelves. It prefers 8 to 14.5 °C (46 to 58 °F) temperatures, but recently has been confirmed to cross the much-warmer waters at the equator. It is often seen close to land, including bays with narrow openings. The shark follows plankton concentrations in the water column and is therefore often visible at the surface. They characteristically migrate with the seasons. The basking shark is found from the surface down to at least 910 metres (2,990 ft).
The largest accurately-measured specimen was trapped in a herring net in the Bay of Fundy, Canada in 1851. Its total length was 12.27 metres (40.3 ft), and it weighed an estimated 19 short tons (17 t). There are dubious reports from Norway of three basking sharks over 12 metres (39 ft), the largest at 13.7 metres (45 ft), dubious because few anywhere near that size have been caught in the area since. Normally the basking shark reaches a length of between 6 metres (20 ft) and a little over 8 metres (26 ft). Some specimens surpass 9-10 metres (30-33 ft), but after years of large-scale fishing, specimens of this size have become rare.
The basking shark is a passive filter feeder, filtering zooplankton, small fish and invertebrates from up to 2,000 short tons (1,800 t) of water per hour. They feed at or close to the surface with their mouths wide open and gill rakers erect. Unlike the megamouth shark and whale shark, the basking shark does not appear to actively seek quarry, but it does possess large olfactory bulbs that may guide it. It relies only on the water that it pushes through its gills by swimming; the megamouth shark and whale shark can suck or pump water through their gills.
They are slow-moving sharks (feeding at about 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph) and do not evade approaching boats (unlike great white sharks). They are harmless to humans if left alone and are not attracted to chum.
Even though the basking shark is large and slow, it can breach, jumping entirely out of the water. This behaviour could be an attempt to dislodge parasites.
A wallaby is any of about thirty species of macropod (Family Macropodidae). It is an informal designation generally used for any macropod that is smaller than a kangaroo or wallaroo that has not been given some other name.
Very small forest-dwelling wallabies are known as pademelons (genus Thylogale) and dorcopsises (genera Dorcopsis and Dorcopsulus). The name wallaby comes from the Eora Aboriginal tribe who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area. Young wallabies are known as 'joeys', like many other marsupials.
Wallabies are widely distributed across Australia, particularly in more remote, heavily timbered, or rugged areas, less so on the great semi-arid plains that are better suited to the larger, leaner, and more fleet-footed kangaroos. They were introduced in New Zealand, where they are seen as a pest and are often hunted. There are also a few populations of wallabies in the British Isles, the largest of which can be found on the Isle of Man where there is a breeding colony of around 100.
Wallabies are not a distinct biological group. Nevertheless they fall into several broad categories. Typical wallabies of the Macropus genus, like the Agile Wallaby (Macropus agilis), and the Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) are most closely related to the kangaroos and wallaroos and, size aside, look very similar.
There is a large feral population of over 100 in the Isle of Man in the Ballaugh Curraghs area, having bred originally from a pair that escaped from the nearby Curraghs Wildlife Park some years ago.
A kipper is a whole herring (small, oily fish), that has been split from tail to head, gutted, salted or pickled, and cold smoked.
In the United Kingdom and North America they are often eaten grilled for breakfast. In the UK, kippers, along with other preserved fish such as the bloater and buckling, were also once commonly enjoyed as a high tea or supper treat; most popularly with inland and urban working-class populations before World War II.
Kippers are extremely popular in the Isle of Man. Thousands are produced annually in the town of Peel, where two kipper houses, Moore's Kipper Yard and Devereau and Son, smoke and export herring. A kipper meal is known as 'spuds and herrin' on the Island, where kippers are usually served with potatoes and buttered bread.
The Manx word for kipper is 'skeddan jiarg' which literally translates as red herring, although particularly strong curing is required to produce a truly red kipper.
Kipper time is the season in which fishing for salmon is forbidden in Great Britain, originally the period 3 May to 6 January, in the River Thames by an Act of Parliament.
Kipper season refers (particularly among fairground workers, market workers, taxi drivers and the like) to any lean period in trade, particularly the first three or four months of the year; possibly a reference to the above usage, or to the need to live frugally during such a period, by (for instance) living off kippers.
The Queen Scallop, Aequipecten opercularis, is a medium-sized species of scallop, an edible marine bivalve mollusk in the family Pectinidae, the scallops. At about 7 cm in size, this is one of the smaller scallop species that is commercially exploited. The shell of this species is sometimes quite colourful.
The queen scallop feeds on a diet of plankton, and is commonly found up to 40 metres below mean sea level, although it has been known to exist up to 400 metres below sea level.
Isle of Man is famous for the queen scallop, or 'Manx Queenie' as it is known locally. Due to the vagaries of landings over the years, Manx fishermen have worked on technical conservation regulations, in order to ensure that stocks of the queenie have remained robust. These have included restrictions on fishing times, closed seasons, and limitations on the number of dredges permitted. The Island also has two conservation areas in Manx waters; one has been in place since 1989 and the other was created in 2008; these areas are closed to mobile fishing. These conservation areas are supported by the fishing industry; the fishermen themselves started the initiative to create the Douglas closed area. Data analysis appears to support the viability of these areas, which appear to help ensure that the Manx queenie can be fished sustainably.
'The Isle of Man Queenie Festival' is an annual, week-long celebration of the Manx Queenie with many restaurants, hotels and pubs serving Queen Scallops on the menu. The Queenie Festival includes all kinds of events including sailing, diving, barbecues, beach days, sea swims, entertainment and plenty of Queen Scallops.
Ragwort (Jacobaea vulgaris) is a very common wild flower in the family Asteraceae that is native to northern Eurasia, usually in dry, open places, and has also been widely distributed as a weed elsewhere.
Alternative names include Cushag (Isle of Man), Buachalán Buí (Ireland) or Benweed, Tansy Ragwort, St. James-wort, Ragweed, Stinking Nanny/Ninny/Willy, Staggerwort, Dog Standard, Cankerwort, Stammerwort and Mare's Fart.
The plant is biennial or perennial. The stems are erect, straight, have no or few hairs, and reach a height of 0.3-2.0 metres. The leaves are pinnately lobed and the end lobe is blunt. The many names that include the word "stinking" (and Mare's Fart) arise because of the unpleasant smell of the leaves. The hermaphrodite flower heads are 1.5-2.5 cm diameter, and are borne in dense, flat-topped clusters; the florets are bright yellow. It has a long flowering period lasting from June to November (In the northern Hemisphere).
Pollination is by a wide range of bees, flies and moths and butterflies. Over a season, one plant may produce 2,000 to 2,500 yellow flowers in 20- to 60-headed, flat-topped corymbs. This number of seeds produced may be as large as 75,000 to 120,000, although in its native range in Eurasia very few of these would grow into new plants and research has shown that most seeds do not travel a great distance from the parent plant. Ragwort can be found along road sides and waste grounds, and grows in all cool and high rainfall areas.