In 2020 I managed two trips to Orkney. I did it by self-isolating for two weeks before travelling and then taking all the safety precautions possible while there.
It was great to see the Puffins in July and August. Here’s one of my favourite portraits of a very distinguished-looking individual:
That catch-light in its eye gets me every time.
2020 was the year I had very little work, as most of what I do was cancelled due to the pandemic. That meant there was time for me to try out photographic labs for quality of printing and set up my own Shop with the very best prints achievable for sale. Here’s I Dream of Puffins, available as an UltraHD photo print:
And yes, I do dream of Puffins.
One of the ultimate highlights of my time on Westray was spending several afternoons with Arctic Skuas.
They are kleptoparasites and I loved watching them hunt and caught several sequences of them chasing Guillemots in an attempt to steal their fish:
Perhaps my favourite photograph of the year is Out of the Maelstrom.
It looks fabulous framed.
My Orkney experiences weren’t all about birds and waves, though. At the top of Skea hill was Amanita nivalis, the Snow Ringless Amanita or the Mountain Grisette, featured in A rare fungus up the hill where mushrooms are taller than trees:
It’s rare, so rare that it isn’t in the thousand-page-plus Fungus book I bought recently. Fabulous.
We had a day trip on the ferry to Papa Westray and saw Arctic Skuas close up. Thankfully their chicks were fully grown and so we didn’t get violently attacked by the adults, which was a relief. Here’s a close-up of one of the juveniles.
One of the best photographs I’ve ever taken was this summer; The Gift. It features a fleeting moment when two Puffins interacted over a white feather.
Romantic, isn’t it? My friend very kindly bought one to give as a wedding present, which is apt because Puffins pair-up for life.
One of my favourite places on the Island is the Bay of Tafts. Here’s the spectacular sunset from the beach, Sunset Over Tafts. Breathtaking, isn’t it?
In 2020 I got as close as I’ve ever been to a Swift and spent an evening perfecting my birds-in-flight photography with A lone Swift at Noup Head:
We had a few trips out to the exposed west coast of Westray. There’s a point where the waves break with wonderful colour at certain times of the day, when wind and waves and tides and sunshine meet and magic happens. Here’s The Tunnel:
There was also the drama as a Great Skua hunted a juvenile Kittiwake.
It didn’t always end well for the Kittiwake.
On the mainland of Orkney I had a few hours before the ferry to Aberdeen when I managed to see a Hen Harrier, an Otter and a Short-Eared Owl in the space of an hour as well as capturing this veiled view of the Ring of Brodgar
2020 was a terrible year for many reasons but the natural world was as spectacular as ever and the islands of Orkney just kept on giving wonderful experiences.
What were your nature highlights of 2020?
Oh, and here’s a Bridled Guillemot. Lovely aren’t they?