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Showing posts from March, 2021

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

Dances with non-wolves

It is, perhaps, one of the less trickier questions to consider in life... should one ever go outside in one's slippers? I recently had occasion to ponder upon this when I needed to step just outside the front door to fetch stuff indoors from the car... where's the harm? A short stretch of concrete path was all I had to negotiate, what could possibly go wrong? After mulling the matter for several microseconds, the mission was given the green light. As I exited the door, my attention was instantly drawn to an Openreach engineer to my immediate right, who was busy lifting the access cover to a cable joint at the boundary of the property. But no sooner had I fleetingly registered this fact and wondered whether there were implications for my uninterrupted use of broadband, when a sound heralded an even more momentous scene to my left. I turned to stare in amazement as a flock of several dozen sheep advanced up the road, making a break from who knows where. Several things occurred to

Houton and Midland

Sunday promised to be unremittingly dreich, so a Saturday leg stretch was undertaken in (mostly) drier conditions. Leaving Houton, the dykes were pinpricked with little bursts of colour as Lesser Celandines lit up the road verges.   Past Houton Head, the coastline is dotted with the ruins of old military defences. I wondered whether these rusting steel cables were similarly naval in origin... But later recourse to an 1882 map suggested that they were connected to the junction of the Land and Submarine Telegraph. Lunch was taken out of the wind in a ruined building by the shore. Along Petertown Road, a small wood revealed the catkins of some Alder trees. I think the long thin ones are this year's male catkins, whilst the round brown ones are last year's female catkins. After an ascent to the trig point on Midland Hill, the downhill route went by the ruined croft of Quarryhouse. Here, my attention was drawn to a shallow pool (which only looked like it was there due to recent rain

A chilly ferry voyage

Here's a few images from a trip to the island of Stronsay. The round trip is just over three hours long, and on a March day which considered itself to be still in Winter, it probably required at least another two layers of clothing. Leaving Kirkwall at early o'clock Balfour Castle, Shapinsay Ships that pass in the early morning Helliar Holm Lighthouse Auskerry Lighthouse One of the Holms of Spurness, off Sanday The European Marine Energy Centre's tidal test site off Eday Seals on Little Green Holm, off Eday There's something ever so unnerving about a Cormorant with fascist leanings A less alarming view, once it had ceased drying its wings