2017 was a wonderful year for wildlife experiences in Orkney.
In July the seabird city at Noup Head was a whirling, wheeling mass of squawking feathers and fish as Gannets galore made their nests there. We spent days hanging over the top of the cliffs following them:
The views from the cliffs were breathtaking:
Sunsets were wonderful with the Gannets still flying along the cliffs until the light was quite dim:
Here’s the full story:
In 2017 I bought camouflage gear for the first time and obeyed the instructions to ‘make like the snake’ and do a military elbow-crawl towards a Black Guillemot with a Norwegian Topknot. This is how close I got:
The Norwegian Topknot doesn’t look too impressed.
Then there was the Black Guillemot with the beautifully patterned Butterfish:
They are beautiful birds in their full breeding plumage:
There was the day of the jellyfish, with Lion’s Mane and the amazing Bluefire Jellyfish. That colour is just so unearthly:
And I stumbled upon a breeding colony of Sand Martins and beat a hasty retreat to a safe distance:
The most affecting wildlife experience of all the ones I had in 2017 was seeing this badly injured Wren bringing up its family in the back garden of Einar. It was emotional. Here’s the full story:
I learned a lot from the experience.
July was a wonderful month for Puffins at the Castle o’ Burrian. In the golden evening light I captured their silhouettes:
We saw them cleaning out their burrows and I could see how the two surfaces of their beak meet in perfect parallel:
Then they were flying like tiny bullets to their partner and puffling:
2017 was the first time I’ve had a telephoto lens and the first time I’ve attempted photographs of Puffins in flight. It’s a technical challenge. Here are some of my results:
We even saw Puffins yawning like the comedians they are:
I learned that the more notches on a Puffin’s beak, the older it is:
And that their tongue helps them keep Sand Eels safely trapped so they can bring them home:
We also saw sleepy Puffins full of fish:
2017 was the year I finally slowed down enough to take up wildlife photography. I’ve always been up, walking and doing things, and staying still for long periods of time has been a problem. Not now; I’m finally old enough to be able to stay in one place for long enough to let the wildlife come to me rather than me going out to find it. So it was that we spent days out on the cliffs, sitting looking at the Puffins coming in to their burrows.
It was also the year that I finally believed The Puffin Whisperer and saw, with my own eyes, her call the Puffins and watched them come to her. Magical.
Here’s a lively, elegant, handsome Puffin, curious at us being there:
2017 was also the year I finally got a photograph of a flying Puffin on the Castle o’ Burrian with my house, Einar, in the background:
As the sun lowered in a July sky we saw long shadows on the Shags far below:
And then it was time to head south again:
2017. A year full of wild and wilder experiences on Westray.
The sheep on Westray are hardy beasts. Here's one with a white face doing what a sheep does best; chew:
During January I'll be exploring this 1950s Ladybird book of British Birds and their nests to see what's changed in the last 60 ... Read more