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Westray Natural History

the natural history of Westray

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

Vanessa through the ages

This summer I saw a Red Admiral butterfly in high winds feeding on Westray in Orkney: The scientific name of the Red …

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

The last call of the wilderness

Curlews are a familiar site on Westray. Their distinctive ‘Whaup whaup’ can seem very eerie when it echoes around the Island. The …

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

Sniff my fingers

Grey seals are very distinctive. This one was hauled out at Broughton in Pierowall. They have that famous Roman nose: I first …

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

Domestic

Puffins live so close together that there are frequent small territorial acknowledgements and disputes. They also pair for life so there are …

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

House proud

This Puffin was sitting outside its burrow in the soil at the top of the cliff last summer. Its mate was inside …

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

Puffin portraits

Puffins have a wide variety of poses which humans find appealing. We can easily imagine them as having human characteristics, or anthropomorphise …

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

When language is lacking

I’m on the deck of the Northlink ferry from mainland Scotland to Mainland Orkney when I see a black fin in the …

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

Mr Punch

It’s Mr Punch on the rocks on Westray.

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

The magic of a Merlin

At the very north of Westray the coast is exposed. In the far distance I can see a falcon. It’s so far …

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

Twite

There are small brown birds on the lichen-covered rocks on the coast of Westray. It takes me a while to identify them. …

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

Redshanks

Redshanks must be one of the most annoying birds for British birdwatchers. They are beautiful, active, entertaining to watch and have great …

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

Puffins on the rocks

It’s good to enjoy the Puffins while we can. They are critically endangered. They are ‘red listed’ which means they are at …

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

Compass Jellyfish

I’ve been very lucky with jellyfish this summer on Westray. The jellyfish haven’t been quite so lucky. This looks like a Compass …

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

The Fulmar Triathlon

Fulmars are one of my favourite birds. All animals have some sort of compromise in their bodies because of the range of …

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

Sea Rocket

Sea Rocket covers the top of many beaches on Westray. Cakile maritima has either white or a pinky-lilac shade of flowers. Here’s …

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

Sand Martins

The Sand Martins are teetering on the edge of leaving Westray now. Their chicks must be fully grown and there are only …

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

Gertrude Tanglewing

It’s been a very blustery day, it’s nearly dark and I’m just settling down for the evening when there’s an urgent message …

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

Tangled roots

Grass looks so unremarkable and is so ever-present in Orkney that it takes something special to shock me into considering it from …

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

Greylag Geese

Greylag Geese are all over Westray at the moment because the farmers have created the perfect habitat for them: acres and acres of fresh green grass. It must be like waking up and seeing delicious breakfast as far as your eyes can see.

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

I’m Shy!

The critically endangered Atlantic Puffin, Fratercula arctica. Climate change leading to lack of Sand Eels and marine pollution are the likely causes …

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

Sanderling in the mud

Sanderling. It sounds like it could be a verb as well as a noun. If it’s a verb, then these Sanderlings are …

Blackening Waxcap on the A9 - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

As rare as Witches’ Hats

On the endless A9 as I travel north from Devon to Orkney the lay-by numbers help denote the passing of a day …

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

Puffin love

Puffins mate for life and meet up again every year to have their one egg and baby puffling. Can you tell?

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

Out on the cliffs

Out on the cliffs, in the windiest and most exposed spot, where the Puffins are, is a Wren.

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

Ringed Plover

There’s a bird on the rocks in Rapness Bay. In fact, there are two now: It’s a Ringed Plover. In Orkney it’s …

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

Stanger Head

Walking along the sea cliffs towards Stanger Head and the edges are covered in Sea Campion Silene uniflora: It’s got very distinctive …