Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Sunshine and Star Trails

It's been a quiet couple of days here as far as any wildlife picture taking goes, even so, the weather has been fantastic.  Despite having had lying snow for 12 days now, the weather has been almost perfect. When the snow has fallen, it has been mostly during the night or, if it is in the daylight hours, the shower quickly passes and the sun is out again. 

Yesterday I went back across to Yell with my youngest to take a look for a Bearded Seal that has been turning up in Mid Yell since early January. After the first visit, it didn't show again until 14th February but is now starting to be slightly more predictable - but not yesterday! Bearded Seals normally live way up in the Arctic Circle and are a regular food source of both Polar Bear and the Inuit. I'll keep trying to see it again as it's a lovely creature, but until then, here's a shot from January -

 Bearded Seal

As the kids are now both back at school, I took the opportunity to go south for the best part of a day. When you say 'south' here, most folk will mean Lerwick on Mainland, if you say 'way down south' then you're going off of Shetland. Sadly, the seal wasn't there again today either, but my friend Brydon was saying this morning that it seems to go off for a couple of days and then comes back for a rest - so maybe tomorrow ? The journey down was great, blue sky, sunshine, white snow and lovely scenery as far as the eye could see, what more could you want ? The snow to go and some green grass that's what ! Only kidding.

I like visiting Lerwick, not only to be able to stock up on things that we can't get on Unst, but because it's also good for birds - well Tysties really (Black Guillimot) . The harbour in the town centre is great because they come right in and fish just below the harbour walls - which enables you to get much closer than you can get around the coastline. Most of them are already back in their breeding plumage (dark brown with white wing bars, bright red legs and bill) which like a lot of sea birds, can make exposure a pain in sunlight. Today though I was very glad of the bright sun. as even though I've seen them swimming under water before, I'd never seen them so deep and still seen them so well. The water was at least 15ft deep and it was like looking into the side of an aquarium as the water was so clear. The spot from where I was watching the Tystie, is also where the local taxis queue and even one of the drivers came over to comment how clear the water was. Apparently a while ago, the council moved the sewage pipes further out in to the sound and so now the effluent is carried out to sea by the current which has made a big difference to the water quality.

 Black Guillimot in winter plumage

Just a short walk from the town centre is a seafood processing plant which is also a good spot for not only Tysties but Grey Seals as well. They (the seals) seem to know when the scraps of sea food are going to be dumped as they will gather very close to the pier and wait for the doors to slide back and the scraps to be tipped in to the sea. The angle from which photographs can be taken is a bit too high but it still makes very entertaining watching as the seals feed, even if you don't take photographs.

Grey Seal

Another 'project' which I'm experimenting with at the moment is night-time photography. I've not seen such clear skies since I was on holiday in Namibia 10 years ago. Despite the fact the Baltasound probably has more street lighting in proportion to the population than a large town (a throw back to the RAF days), we do get some fantastic nights skies. A drive north from here to Lamba Ness and there is only one small marker beacon on a small island and beyond that there are no artificial lights between there an who knows where.

Another spectacle that is seen from time to time is the Northern Lights or Aurora. I witnessed a minor show back in early February and at the moment it is looking good for this evening -   fingers crossed it keeps clear.


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