Sunday, 5 September 2010

At last a few more nice days !

On average, this summer here on Unst hasn't been a fantastic one weather wise. At the beginning of last week, the wind dropped off which, for some is most welcomed. For others (including me) at this time of year it isn't, and for one reason - midges ! A couple of days last week, I was working at Norwick helping to put on a roof to a new house. The midges, they were ghastly ! At other times of the year, I welcome calm weather for several reasons one being it makes watching and photographing certain kinds of wildlife lot easier. I don't know why, but these little beasties seem to like my blood, but my blood doesn't like them and I end up looking like I've fallen in a nettle bed. Despite regularly covering myself in the Avon stuff, the little blighter's got through.

One big plus of the lack of wind, it makes sea watching for cetaceans much, much easier. After seeing a Minke on Thursday, I decided after finishing work early on Friday afternoon, to head of to Lamba Ness again. On the way over there, I met a visiting birder I know and he said that there had been a number of Minkes feeding in close to Lamba Ness that morning. This time I took the camera with me from the start and soon saw up to 3 feeding not too far from the shore ( It turned out there had been six that morning) I sat and watched them for over an hour before heading back home. The biggest problem is knowing where they are likely to surface next, so it does require quite a lot of concentration and fairly quick reactions.

 Minke Whale at Lamba Ness

Reaching home, I suggested we headed off over there again in the evening to try and see them again, unfortunately the whales didn't show but we did have a cracking sunset as a consolation. 

 Saturday 4th Sept

This morning I headed off to Skaw at around 8am to check if any birds had come in over night. There were hardly any small birds around (apart from the ever present Meadow Pipits) which was a surprise, I thought that there may at least be a Willow Warbler. Some weeks ago, I mentioned that I've seen a few birds with wool tangled around their legs. This morning I found a dead Oystercatcher which, I think, was a result of getting its legs caught in this way. One of the legs had a deep circular cut in it, the other leg had been almost completely severed by something that had been tangled around it.

Going on to Lamba Ness, I could see that the sea wasn't in ideal conditions for looking for the whales as there was now a small swell. After around 15 minutes I saw the first one and then another shortly after. In all there were three feeding for around an hour.

After this, I headed to Norwick to check for migrants at one of the hot-spots, 'Valyie'. Here I had a brief view of a Barred Warbler and then after a long wait, a Garden Warbler showed itself.

Garden Warbler
This was followed shortly after by a tantalizingly brief view of a Pied Flycatcher as it hawked for insects in the shade of the bushes. I had arranged to meet the family and relations at Lamba Ness at 1.30pm in the hope that the Minkes were still there feeding. Just after I arrived, I saw one some way off and then it went quiet for a long time. Then, just as my youngest arrived, a Minke came back past and she had good views of it. Unfortunately, the others arrived 5 minutes later and it wasn't seen again.

Sunday 5th Sept

Yet another clear fine morning - although a breeze had now got up - so I headed off over to Lamba Ness again. I wasn't really expecting to see any Minkes as there was a swell and also the tide was on the turn which creates some very turbulent water there (the North Sea and the Atlantic meet in this area). What the south east wind conditions did cause was the movements over Gannets right over the end of the head which in turn creates some challenging photo opportunities. Despite the fact they are flying into the wind, heck can they shift ! 

The problem is that, part of the time the action is over the sea and part of the action is overhead. For example, at the moment there are a lot of Bonxies around waiting for Gannets returning with food for their young at Hermaness. The Bonxies hang around the headland and take off after a Gannet to try and rob it of its food - by getting it to disgorge its fish. They will do what ever it takes to get the 'free' meal, even grabbing a wing tip or tail to force it down towards the water. 

 Diving for food

Bonxie attack

The result

The last picture is a large crop from last year, this often happens some way out from the headland.

The other photo opportunities occur when they (Gannets) pass over head often only 10ft over my head. It's at times like this I'd be better off with the 70-200 on the camera as even the 300 is too long. Suppose the answer would either have another camera body (that would be nice) or to just concentrate on one type of action.

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