2018 highlights of a wilder Orkney life

My trips to Orkney in 2018 were full of wildlife surprises. I spent some time in the summer with the Black Guillemots who breed on the rocky coast. I was lying on uncomfortable rocks in the wind and sun when this Black Guillemot arrived with a Butterfish for its chicks. I love the fabulous colours of the Island behind it:

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
A Black Guillemot with a Butterfish on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

There are many more photos and stories from my time with them on my Black Guillemot with Butterfish blog post.

One memorable evening was spent with The Puffin Whisperer on the cliffs at Noup Head where the wind was just right for Gannets to fly immediately overhead, almost too close to photograph. Their eyes are the very definition of mesmerising:

Gannets - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
A Gannet overhead at Noup Head on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

This must be the last thing many fish see. There are many more photos from our time with them on my An evening with the Gannets of Noup Head blog.

Westray had some unusual Siberian visitors; a small group of Two Barred Crossbills landed on the dunes at Grobust and were completely unafraid of people. It was a strange experience to have them hopping at my feet and going to sleep next to me in the dock plants on one of the amazing archaeological digs here.

Two-Barred Crossbill - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
A rare Two-Barred Crossbill from Siberia on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

You can see more photos and read the whole story of their visit on my Two-Barred Crossbills from Russia blog.

2018 was also the year we went back to North Ronaldsay. The colony of Arctic Terns were a thrill, although hats were a necessity to walk on the public footpaths near their colony. Their beaks are ferocious!

Arctic Tern - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
An Arctic Tern on the Orkney Island of North Ronaldsay, Summer 2018

You can read all about them in my Arctic Terns on North Ronaldsay blog.

While sitting on the cliffs admiring the scenery I was just checking my phone when a Razorbill and a Puffin met right in front of me. I managed to catch their interaction in a short film. It still makes me laugh. I’ll be posting many more videos on my YouTube channel in 2019, so please do visit and consider subscribing to make sure you don’t miss them.

We had some wonderful weather and timed our visits to the Puffin colony just right. I managed to capture a whole series of Puffin portraits showing their characters in a new light. It was fascinating to watch them interact with one another.

Puffin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
An Atlantic Puffin on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

A few of my shots are on my Posing for Puffin Portraits blog if you’d like to see them.

Out on the cliffs, with the North Sea crashing far below, and the wind howling across the beaten clifftops is the last place I would expect to see a Wren. But there it was, and not just one, but a whole family, with the adults working the cliffs for invertebrates for their chicks. I was very relieved I didn’t know the state of the cliff before I leaned over it. There were huge cracks in it and fresh landslide rubble at the bottom.

Wren - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
A Wren on the cliffs on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

The Wren portraits are on my Wren on the Coast blog.

A trip to the north end of Westray gave wonderful views of the local bully-boys, the Great Skuas. I went as close as I felt safe, without disturbing them before retreating. Looking back I saw that it had taken off, was flying hard and fast and was just a few feet away from attacking me.

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
A Great Skua moments before it attacked me on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

You can find out how I got on in my Pickieternos v Bonxies and Skewered by a Skua blogs.

Finally, the highlight of my year was a Hen Harrier in my back garden. Nothing, but nothing could beat the thrill of such an enigmatic presence so close.

Hen Harrier at Einar - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)
A Hen Harrier in my back garden on the Orkney Island of Westray, Summer 2018

The images I captured of those magical few seconds are in my A Hen Harrier in my back garden blog.

The natural world is threatened by pollution, habitat loss and climate destruction like never before. We’re now living through the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. We all need to bring experiences of wildlife and the natural world to the fore in our lives if we are going to reverse the horrendous destruction of our only home.

I’ve loved every moment of my wilder life in Orkney in 2018. What will you do in 2019 to bring a little bit of wildness into your heart?

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