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After the gales

Most of the Easter weekend was lost to gales, snow and hail showers, with little in the way of wildlife watching to show for it. However, one jigsaw was completed and another started. By mid week, things had improved a bit, in as much as the wind had eased off to "flippin' breezy" (technical meteorological term), although the wind chill still kept temperatures below freezing. One evening, whilst eating our evening meal, a Short-eared Owl made a brief visit to the rough grassland beyond our neighbour's garden, so apologies for this hastily-shot photo of a moving target taken through a filthy window. Today dawned with yet another covering of snow, but with the lightest winds for some while. The view across to the hills on island of Hoy highlighted the difference in altitude of the viewer and the view. The sunny morning encouraged the local male Stonechat into song and he even let me approach a bit closer than normal for a photo. In the afternoon, there was a trip to Yes
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Gyre Wood

This is the southern end of the Gyre Wood in Orphir, a small area of woodland with a burn running through it, surrounded by farmland pasture and sandwiched between moorland and coast. I f things turn out as planned, this post could be the first of a series from this location. In early April, new growth is sprouting wherever it can. Here's a Pink Purslane roseate which is growing in the moss on a tree bough that leans out over the burn. And there are swathes of Butterbur carpeting the woodland floor. And to my surprise, there's also Dog's Mercury, usually an indicator of ancient woodland, so I do not know whether its presence is accidental or not. Meantime, the Butterbur is attracting a few hardy, early bumblebee queens, like this White-tailed Bumblebee. Blackbirds forage in the leaf litter, in search of tasty morsels. And another species of bumblebee, the Buff-tailed Bumblebee was also helping itself to the Butterbur's bounty. Finally, just in case you haven't had e

A traditional bank holiday pastime

Throughout much of the UK, the Easter weekend of 2021 was viewed in several ways, depending upon whether one was fed up with a year of global pandemic restrictions and hell-bent on hedonism or one had a care for one's fellow citizens, especially those in the NHS and local authority waste services. With restrictions easing slightly in England and Wales, there was much blatant disregard for the rules in places such as Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff. Northern Ireland wasn't immune from this madness, with rioting in several places, and I'm sure there would also have been Covid transgressions in Scotland, but we're four weeks from an election for the Scottish Parliament, so news media is in full 'union or independence' mode. Meanwhile, I had to go to Shetland for work (travel allowed as the work is deemed essential and both archipelagos are in Tier 3), with a planned day of broadband repairs. One of these was cancelled last minute, so I found myself with a free hour

Brown out circuit

Bright and breezy, the westerly gusts possessed a cool razor's edge. Scapa Bay wasn't as sheltered as it would be from a southerly wind, but this didn't stop a huge flock of gulls from gathering far out in the middle. A few grebes and auks could be picked out from this throng, though they were difficult to identify to species at distance. Closer to or on the shore, were assorted Redshanks, Guillemots and Black-headed Gulls, the latter not actually sporting black feathers on its head, more a dull brown.  The scientific name for Black-headed Gull,  Chroicocephalus ridibundus , translates as 'coloured head laughing', so rather unhelpfully not a direct reference to which colour, and the laughing referring to its call. Oddly, and this is often the case with gull nomenclature, there is a species known as Laughing Gull, whose scientific name is Leucophaeus ( or Larus) atricilla , translating as 'white/brown blacktail', without any reference to laughing at all. It&

Budding photographer

For a Sunday morning walk, something delightfully unstrenuous was required, as a busy previous week had included a Covid jab and a day trip to Shetland (it's called a day trip because it's 24 hours door to door). Cue a circular wander from Orphir Village to Swanbister Bay and back via Gyre Road. Things got off to a grand start as we left the village, when a pair of wagtails flew over... they were Greys, my first of the year. The weather forecast had predicted cloudy but dry all day, with a generous westerly breeze gusting 25mph. Passing Swanbister House, it began to rain, so the immediate Fuschia looked bleak. Further down the track to the coast, a Sycamore tree was showing off its buds to good effect. As we reached the shore of Swanbister Bay, a pair of Gannets flew by, another first for the year... yay! There were plenty of waders on the beach: Oystercatcher, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew. Walking around the bay, the light changed a lit

Waders and a lost auk

Note: This post features more Natural Highs and Lows together in one place than previously. There are photos of dead wildlife, whose deaths were most likely caused by cold weather and stormy conditions at sea, rather than directly at the hands of humans. A sunny but blustery morning offered up an opportunity for some exercise and a game of Dodge the Showers, so a trip was taken to Deerness for a walk between Newark Bay and the Aikerskaill Road. On part of the slipway at Newark, a couple of waders were gathered, a Purple Sandpiper and a Turnstone, giving the chance to compare their relative sizes to one another.    Above the strand line was a log which had been washed ashore. It was absolutely covered in Goose Barnacles, all slowly succumbing to no longer being submerged in the ocean.   Also at Newark, are the remains of a boat hut which have been preserved as a place to sit and shelter from the weather. Its walls are decorated with some additional pieces of stone art. Walking east alon