Friday, 24 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse

  After having a really close encounter with an otter in the snow recently, I was really keen to get out again. The forecast was good for last Tuesday (21st Dec) so on getting a call from Brydon we arranged to meet up after I'd dropped off the girls at school.

  Before this however, we were very fortunate to have a perfectly clear sky here in Baltasound for the Lunar Eclipse.We saw it from our house from 7am until around 8.30 until the moon disappeared in to cloud on the western horizon. I set up the camera outside on the tripod and had a go at photographing the event. The exposure was going to be difficult to get right as obviously there was going to be varying amounts of brightness on the moon at one time. I hope the pictures below give an idea if you didn't see it.....

Lunar Eclipse Unst, 21st Dec 2010

  Later, meeting up with Brydon, we parked one car and set off in the other along the south of the island. Walking the cliffs along back west, we had a number of sightings of otter (5 in fact) but unfortunately none were in a good position for photography. There were plenty on signs and footprints around but alas no otters in the snow. Still, it was a great morning to be out with Brydon who is, with out doubt, one of Shetlands most knowledgeable wildlife guides. In the few hours I was out, I learnt an awful lot more about otters that will no doubt help me in the future.

Fetlar from south Unst
  The following day, I had some work to do which thankfully was in side. Despite the fact it was a lovely sunny day, it was still bitterly cold outside. Even on a journey to and from work, there is always something to see or photograph and on this day it was a curlew feeding along the shore at Buness..........

  The view from where I was working was pretty good as well .................

Looking south west towards Baltasound from Little Hamar

  Recently there was a co-ordinated nationwide goose count including up here on Unst. Unfortunately I was away at the time but the count for the island was around 600 Greylags. The numbers vary a bit and certainly have dropped off a bit since the latest lot of snow. With the all over snow cover, the remaining Greylags have now taken to feeding in every available place, including roadside verges...........

Greylag Goose

  This morning (24th) was another cracking day, so, I decided to head for the 'west-side' to look for otters. Overnight night we'd had another inch or so of fresh snow which would make looking for fresh tracks much easier.Along near to one of the holts I know, there were plenty of fresh tracks both leading in and out of the hole. Judging by the state of the tide (it was high) I presumed that they might be at home, but decided not to hang around - I may have had to wait several hours. Down amongst the snow covered boulders, a Shetland Wren lived up to its Latin name of being a 'troglodyte' (cave dweller) by hunting in and out of the rocks in search of food, often disappearing from view for minutes at a time...........

Shetland Wren

  A little further on, I came across another set of very fresh  footprints on the cliff top; following them, they dropped down on to the rocks where I lost them amongst the boulders. Unfortunately, while I was looking at the footprints, I didn't see an otter surface in the sea not far away and it saw me first and so headed off. I carried on up the coast for a couple of miles and while I saw plenty of footprints and also another holt with prints going in to it, I saw no more otters. I did have a fly over of Peregrine Falcon (a scare bird up here) which was almost certainly the same bird I'd seen down by Uyeasound earlier in the week.

The west side of Unst

  May I say a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year to all and thanks for reading the blog over the last ten months or so. The coming new year is going to be a new chapter in our time here on Unst in more ways than one. I'm really looking forward to it and not just to a number of new wildlife opportunities that may occur - I'll tell you more about this in mid January. Many, many thanks.


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