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Westray Natural History

the natural history of Westray

Great Black Backed Gull - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The biggest gull in the world

Hunter, pirate, scavenger, the Great Black-Backed Gull is a curious opportunist. It is the apex predator unless a White-Tailed Sea Eagle appears. …

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

A Sand Plowman’s lunch

The name Sanderling is from the Old English sand-yrðling, or ‘sand-ploughman’. I’m enjoying watching them eating their ploughman’s lunch. Still photographs may give you …

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

Eider/Or

There’s a Dunter, Somateria mollissima, commonly known as the Eider Duck, on the waves. I particularly like the chick’s hairstyle. When it …

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

Wet Gannet, shaking

This Gannet was very wet after a dive. As it flew past it decided to shake itself dry. I suspect it’s the …

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

Sandy Laverock

This juvenile Ringed Plover is a wonderful bird. In Orkney the Ringed Plover is called Sandy Laverock. The UK conservation status of …

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

Whale

There’s a whale corpse in the car park at Taftend. It takes up the space a car would, or even a little …

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

Scenes from the sea

It’s all about perspective. Looking at familiar scenes from a different place always makes you think more deeply about them. Similarly, seeing …

David - The Hall of Einar

The return of the pot-boiler

There’s a spot on Westray where a buried ruin of a house is being lost to the sea. Whenever there’s a storm …

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

Harbour Seals

Amazingly, there are limbs inside the fat-suit which seals wear. You would, however, be forgiven for thinking otherwise: This one is delicately …

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

Greta Gannet

We’re watching the Gannets at Noup Head when the Puffin Whisperer gets very excited. She’s seen one with an egg. The adult …

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

Puffling in a flap

It’s rare to see a puffling, as young Puffins are called. They’re usually hidden in their rock or earth burrows, safe from …

Thistle at Noup - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Noup in the mist

Noup Head lighthouse isn’t visible until we’re almost on top of it. There’s dew on the grass and on the purple flowers …

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

Skeldro, Chaldro or Shaalder

There’s a Skeldro, Chaldro or Shaalder, as the Oystercatcher is known in Orkney, in the air. It’s giving me what can only be …

Puffin chased by Arctic Skua - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Chasing Puffins

There’s a marked difference in the size of fish which Puffins bring to their burrows. I’m sure that they were bringing smaller …

Great Black-Backed Gull - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Harsh life

We are at Noup Head watching the birds fly by. We get a close pass from a Great Black-Backed Gull. Aren’t they …

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

Goodbye to Puffins

Puffins have gone from our shores for another year. It’s been a wonderful summer with them and a pleasure to see them …

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

The first flight of the Kittiwake

Kittiwakes are one of my favourite birds. I love their delicate bills, their dipped-in-ink wings and their streamlined bodies. And their “Kittiwaaaak” …

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

Bonxies on a boat

Great Skuas, Stercorarius skua, are known as Bonxies in Orkney. Their flashing go-faster white wing-stripes are a familiar sight as they patrol …

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

Giving lobster the ‘v’ s

The Lobster creels are groaning with Lobsters, Homarus gammarus, today. Not all of them are regulation size, so Stewart measures them carefully …

Bonxie v Baakie - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

The struggle for survival

In the battle of Bonxie v Baakie there was only ever going to be one winner. It was the Bonxie. Here it …

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

Mallimacks

We’re aboard the Ailsa Jane and I’m taking advantage of the creel boat having a very low side where the creels get …

Short-Eared Owl - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

Cattieface

There’s a Short-Eared Owl on the Island; I’ve read WhatsApp reports in the Westray birds & wildlife group. We’re driving to get …

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

Tysties with Butterfish

Black Guillemots are one of my favourite birds. I’m told, “They’re the purist’s bird for those who dislike the easy familiarity of …