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Nature Notebooks

Rock Dove - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

You see a Pigeon

The weather in Orkney may be grey but it’s never dull. I’m waiting at Kirkwall harbour for the Westray ferry when I …

Arctic Tern - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Attacked by Arctic Terns

I’m off for a walk on the Westray coast. Today I’m heading from Mae Sands to the Knowe o’ Skea. It’s not …

Einar - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Einar

My house is called Einar, just like the Viking Earl of Orkney mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. That’s because of a spelling …

Black Guillemot - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Black Guillemot

I’m on a day trip to the Mainland. That’s the mainland of Orkney. In the harbour at Scapa there’s a bird paddling …

Ringed Plover - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover are meant to breed on the coast. Human destruction of the environment means they now breed in gravel pits and …

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

Feeding the family

Being a baby bird means knowing when to keep your mouth open. Many have exaggerated gapes, decorated in bright colours to encourage …

Starlings - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Star Starling

When a Starling flies by I always take notice. They are spectacular birds, either on their own or in flocks of thousands …

Grey Seal - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Why the long face?

I’d like to know why Grey Seals have a long sloping head. What’s the evolutionary advantage? What’s the adaptation for? What does …

Horsetails at Roadmire - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Horsetails at Roadmire

The Horsetails at Roadmire are beautiful. Their stalks and leaves are covered in harsh mineral silica. They’re a bit scratchy and hard …

Wren - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Something’s moving

There’s something moving in the field next to Einar. I can see flower stalks trembling. It’s moving along behind the wall. All …

Sea Rocket - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Sea Rocket

There’s Sea Rocket, Cakile maritima, on the beach at the Bay of Swartmill. It’s a member of the mustard family. This is …

Starlings - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Neighbours

Not everyone can get on. Conflict is inevitable. When we are all packed in too close to one another then tempers are …

Spray - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Splash!

The seas are magical here. There are exhilarating waves at the Knowe o’ Skea. Out on the skerries, the wary Shags gather, …

Common Gull - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Uncommon Common Gulls

There’s a young Common Gull, Larus canus, flying past. They are very elegant fliers: Just as we have done for much of …

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

Patterns

The Starlings at Einar make incredible abstract patterns on the wires.

Sanderling - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Sanderling #3

Westray has a certain palette of colours. It’s a world of muted blues, greens and purples; of greys and more greys. The …

Sanderling - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Sanderling #2

You know that feeling of panic when you realise your feet are going to be caught by a wave and you’re not …

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

Dock

Stumbling across the thick grass behind the bay I see these tall flower spikes. I’m struck by their contrasting colours. And, as …

Sanderling - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Sanderling #1

There are Sanderling on Mae Sands. They are energetic beyond imagination. They work the tideline as if their lives depend upon it, …

Turnstone - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Ruddy Turnstone

There’s a Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres on the beach at Mae Sands. It’s just turned this stone over. They are very smart in …

Ringed Plover - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Small, dumpy and short-legged

The RSPB says, “The ringed plover is a small, dumpy, short-legged wading bird.” Read more. That’s not very complimentary, is it? I …

Swallow - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

A life of contrasts

In late summer I checked the outbuildings at Einar for Swallows. Many of the nests were empty. This one wasn’t. It must …

Grey Seal - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey

Hook-nosed Seapigs

The scientific name of the Grey Seal is Halichoerus grypus. It means Hook-nosed Seapig. Everyone needs a rest after eating. I was …

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

Starlings

There’s a young Starling, with a fluffy brown head, trying to negotiate the wind on Westray. It’s heading for my chimney pot. …

Turnstone at the Peedie Sea - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Turnstone at the Peedie Sea

Turnstones have a lovely mottled plumage. They always look as if they are in transition to me. Have they decided how their …

Redshank at the Peedie Sea - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Redshanks at the Peedie Sea

It’s only a few minutes after dawn and there’s a Redshank on the Peedie Sea. I can’t quite believe it’s being quiet. …

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

Dawn over Kirkwall Bay

Arriving off the Aberdeen ferry at nearly midnight gives me a quandary. Is it worth paying a small fortune for a few …

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

Peering Puffins

If Puffins can’t find an earth burrow, or if they live in a place with predators like rats and stoats, they will …