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Nature Notebooks

Starling - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Rainbow Stormbird

Starlings need a brand refresh. I’m surprised they haven’t engaged a top London marketing firm to challenge public perceptions of them. Their …

Arctic Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Sitting pretty

A little further along the coast of Papa Westray I see an Arctic Skua sitting on a wall. It’s really not what …

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Stumbling across a Great Skua

Great Skuas are one of my favourite birds. They are a constant delight as they patrol the shoreline, flying low and surprising …

Arctic Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Scootie Allan

On our walk around Papa Westray we are excited to see Arctic Skuas. At least we are until they attack us. There’s …

Eider - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Dunters on the waves

There are Common Eider ducks on the growing waves here on Papa Westray. Their colours are very understated. As soon as they …

Black Guillemots - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

A bit of singing and dancing

Black Guillemots are the connoisseur’s auk. If you find Puffins too gaudy, or Guillemots too dowdy, then Black Guillemots are for you. …

Arctic Terns - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The gift of two summers

There are Arctic Terns fishing in uneven seas off Papa Westray. Their concentration skills are immense: Arctic Terns spend the northern summer …

Risso's Dolphin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Nasal drift

“Dolphin!” I yell. “Dolphin!!!” I yell again, pointing as if my life depends upon it. The Puffin Whisperer looks at me from …

Puffins - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

“I’m shy!”

Not everyone wants their photograph taken. Especially when you’re just getting ready to go out.

Noup Head - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

In salutem omnium

Noup Head lighthouse is a major feature of the coast of Westray. Planned in 1895, it was announced in Parliament because, “Her …

Oystercatcher - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Blood-footed Oyster-pickers

There are Oystercatchers on Papa Westray and they intend to let us know that. As soon as we arrive, and walk into …

Great Auk - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

720 Auks make a mattress

Papa Westray is one of the few places in which the amazing, and sadly extinct, Great Auk bred. People often think that …

Puffins - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

A floating circus

I’ve heard of a travelling circus. I’ve heard of a flying circus. But a floating circus? That’s a new one on me. …

Biting Stonecrop - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Biting Stonecrop

There’s a tiny patch of Biting Stonecrop on the stone wall outside my window. I wonder if it was planted there? It’s …

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The Kray Twins

There’s a young Great Skua ahead. That spells danger. There must be an adult or two around somewhere and I feel my …

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Skua Patrol

Great Skuas eat fish, carrion or other birds. I’ve seen them pluck another bird clean out of the air and head down …

Dunlin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Dull Dunlin day

It’s a dull day today. There’s a sea haar which is muting every colour to an Orkney pallet and reducing shadows to …

Water Crowfoot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Island of contrasts

Walking to the north coast of Westray I’m struck by how diverse the views are. Here are Curlews on the bay with …

Great Black Backed Gull - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Great Black Backed Gull

Great Black Backed Gulls are properly massive. And I mean massive. And their beaks? Massive too. Seeing one call overhead on Westray …

Puffin - The Hall fo Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Goodbye Puffins

Here are some of my favourite Puffin outtakes of 2019: Westray has said goodbye to its Puffins for another year. Farewell our …

Great Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Great Skuas

Great Skuas are called great, not because they are wonderful, which they are, but because they are large. They’re really Greater Skuas. …

Fulmar - The Hall fo Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Mallimack

Along the Westray coast are hundreds of Fulmars’ nests. Their fluffy chicks are a constant surprise while scrambling among the rocks. They …

Rock Pipit - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Watch the baby

There’s a Rock Pipit on the rocks. They occasionally go in the meadows here too, which is confusing, since the Meadow Pipits …

Puffin - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

All fingers and thumbs

Did you know birds have an arm-wing and a hand-wing? You can see it well on Puffins when they fold their wings …

House Sparrow - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Respiratory choreography

Air pollution because of road traffic is something which affects us all. Some people suffer particularly badly. Air pollution kills 7 million …