Thursday, 16 September 2010

A bit of a blow !

  For the last few days, the forecast for today was to be a bit grim and they got it right again. After a fairly good day yesterday of showers (and occasional sunshine), the wind picked up from the north west and by this morning was blowing quite strong and the rain had now become very heavy at times and travelling almost horizontally. I was due to work on a roof, but due to several reasons - not just the weather - I put it off until next week. I love wild weather however and fortunately for me, I don't have to put to sea to earn a living - or I might have a different opinion about it ! As I've mentioned before, the weather plays a part in where and when I go looking for wildlife, or even if I go out at all. Wind direction especially (and not necessarily because I may be looking for otters) is often a key factor if I'm trying for a particular type of shot. I always go to a particular website called Magicseaweed to get the information and I have found that it's usually pretty accurate. For today for instance, it has forecast Force 8-9  (Force 10 up near the Faroes) and a sea swell of 20-25ft of swell rising to 25 -30ft overnight just north of Unst, this has obviously now caused either serve delays or cancellations to the ferries to and from Shetland for today and tomorrow.

  With these weather conditions in mind, I headed off over to Lamba Ness as I knew the sea would look quite impressive. On the way down, around 20 Lapland Buntings were feeding on the roadside, using every little bit of cover to feed out of the strong wind. At the head, the wind was quite strong, but at least I could still stand up !

  The cliffs here are not enormous, but even so, it's quite dramatic (and impressive) to see the results caused by the sea and sea spray crashing on cliff tops that are just under 30 meters high.

This was taken under calmer conditions !

  The next 3 pictures are just to try and convey a feeling of the conditions. Despite what it may look like, I was perfectly safe and some way from the cliff edge...................

............. getting very wet !

  Moving on over to Skaw, I decided to walk along the coast to the headland at the Wick of Skaw. Fortunately the wind was coming from over the hill to the north which gave me a little shelter and the occasional ruined concrete structure gave me shelter between the rain storms. At the end, a group of Shags hunkered down on the cliff side out of the wind but kept an eye on me - not that I'd intended to go any closer anyway. The island at the end - which is called the Holm of Skaw - was taking the full brunt of the wind and waves and I could only guess at the height of the waves breaking on the exposed lump of rock. 

.............and looking back to Lamba Ness ........................

  The spot I was previously standing at, was by the building on the extreme right and looking to the left. In all of this turmoil, gannets were still fishing in the bay at Skaw, how they still manage to spot fish is just amazing.

  Remembering a gannet has a wingspan of over 5ft, it still looks tiny against the backdrop of breakers (and if you can't see it, its the black and white dot in the middle). The sort of shots that I like to try are below from last year and are quite difficult to get right and I often take scores of shots just to get one picture. I really wished I'd lugged the long lens and tripod with me on this occasion as today there was a lot of potential out there. These are from last year.......

Not the best of quality, but you can get the idea.

  Returning back home for a while, early afternoon I thought I'd take a look at Westing on the way to do the school run. If Skaw looked wild, Westing was even more dramatic as there are a few more small islands for the waves to crash over. The problem I had there was that the wind was now very strong and on having the window down on my side, the rain was driven through the car and onto the inside of the passengers windows ! Taking any pictures was not going to be very easy. Down in the surf, six or seven seals bobbed around like shiny barrels and a recently fledged gannet dropped down in the water not far from the shore.

  It is a sad fact, that storms at this time of year cause the deaths of lots of young gannets. Last week when I was over at Hermaness, there were still many, many young birds on the cliffs. The warden recently showed me of one part of the colony that was very close to the water and he did say then that if a storm came, the lot would get washed off - nature is harsh sometimes.

Looking south from Westing

Despite all of this, an otter came past me in the water below looking totally at home.


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