I’ve walked the coast of Westray many times now, always with a large camera with telephoto lens. Partly, that’s out of fear that one day I might have a close encounter with a Hen Harrier and miss the opportunity of photographing it. Today is no different. I’m out at Noup Head, the RSPB reserve which dominates one of the northern parts of the Island. It’s a relatively empty place today, as the breeding Guillemots and Kittiwakes have all gone. All that remains are a few Fulmars and many large, fluffy Gannet chicks.
I’m enjoying the clear weather, the sea breeze and the wonderful views when I see a ringtail Hen Harrier across the sheep-strewn fields.
I adore them. They really would be my spirit animal. I particularly like how they fly low, so they appear without warning, and then travel so fast it’s impossible to keep up with them. Their eyes are often fixed on the ground looking for Orkney Voles to eat. This one is doing circles near the lighthouse, though, rather than flying off.
It’s flying straight towards me and I kneel before it to make myself as small as possible, with as many thistles in front of me as I can to break up my outline. It’s so close I can’t fit it all in my viewfinder.
Isn’t it magnificent?
I’m going to be ecstatic for days.