2021 highlights of a wilder Orkney life
I had a wonderful time on Westray in Orkney in 2021. The Puffins returned to breed and provided constant entertainment with their antics.
Their more subtle cousins, the Black Guillemots were also hidden within the rocks raising their chicks:
I also managed to get some flight shots of Black Guillemots with Butterfish:
There were Arctic Terns and Common Terns hunting fish in the calm turquoise bays of white shell sand. I got to see them from a kayak in the mist as they appeared out of the whiteness and dropped unerringly onto Sandeels below. I spent some time practising my skills getting shots of them on their fast dives:
I also tried to improve my editing skills by creating composite images of them diving:
The encyclopaedia says there are four seasons in temperate latitudes. Billy Connolly, however, said, “There are two seasons in Scotland; June and winter”. That’s not quite true in Westray, where the main industry is beef cattle. Here, I’m reliably informed, “There are three seasons; coos in, coos out and silage.” When in silage season the farmers are all suffering from a different kind of hay fever. In silage season we watched 22 Swallows over Einar and the nests in the outbuildings were a great success.
One evening a Short-Eared Owl flew straight towards me as I stood in my garden and I had magical views:
We also had views of my spirit animal, the Hen Harrier, where I finally got to see a male in all his grey plumage clearly:
Back along the coast we admired the growing Gannet chicks:
And the Puffin Whisperer found an unhatched egg so late in the season that we were convinced it would never hatch. And yet, and yet, she went back and found it half-way out of its shell. It was an emotional experience to see how tender the parent was in helping it and building a protective nest around it.
I also enjoyed seeing the Gannets diving and catching fish off the coast. Some days, when the tides are right, there are shoals of fish near the coast and they dive close to the cliffs and beaches. I particularly like this shot including the unsuspecting Puffins:
Then, finally, we said goodbye to the Arctic Skuas, the parasitic robbers of seabirds carrying fish. I love spending days on the cliffs watching them hunt.
I can’t wait to do it all again. I look forward to your company here on the journey. Thanks for all your kind comments, messages and sales from my shop. It’s been a pleasure.
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