The wild North Sea coast of Westray in Orkney is not for the feint hearted on a blustery day. There are Fulmars sailing effortlessly past, twitching their wings to stay in perfect balance, alive to every gust in the wind. There are families of Atlantic Puffins busily ferrying Sand Eels in to their Pufflings, hidden deep in excavated and abandoned Rabbit burrows. The occasional Great Skua comes up on me by surprise, hugging the coastline and scouting for anything vulnerable or dead.
In amongst the noise and the hubbub I notice a tiny Wren clinging to the clifftops. I’ve photographed Wrens here on Westray before, as an emotional family drama worthy of any TV series played out, when a severely injured Wren fed its family:
I’ve also done a photo study of Wrens in Devon, where their screeching sound drowns out the other birdsong:
Here in Orkney I can hardly hear them against the backdrop of wind and waves. There’s a family on the cliffs, clinging on to the lichen-covered rocks and perching on the mounds of Sea Thrift. The adult has lost a tail feather or two:
I love the deep blue of the North Sea behind.
There are perhaps three fledglings. Here’s one:
They are very active birds, calling to one another to keep in contact as they work the crevices and plants of the cliffs for invertebrates:
The fledglings have much darker plumage and still have a soft yellow gape:
The adult is boisterous and confident, striking a pose and ready to catch food or to flee at a split-second’s notice:
They are a fantastic family to spend time with up here on the cliffs.
It’s a long way down.