Tuesday, 15 March 2011

'False Summits'

  Before we moved up here to Unst, I used to do quite a bit of hill walking (even did some winter hills in the Lakes and Highlands years ago). Sometimes, when I was walking/scrambling upwards, I'd be so taken by the view etc that sometimes I would temporarily loose my bearings and look at the hill in front of me and breathe a sigh of relief as I thought I was at the top. Climbing over the 'final' brow of the hill, I'd get totally dismayed as I saw the hill going on up for hundreds of feet more, in reality that's the result of bad map reading or not keeping your 'eye on the ball' so to speak. A similar thing happened over the last couple of days, yesterday was a beautiful, still and fairly warm day (8 or 9 degrees) which really made me feel like spring had sprung. Golden Plover and Curlew were calling over the hills, Lapwing were displaying in several places and Starlings were singing all around, it felt good to be out. Today, I reached a 'false summit'. It was cold again, the wind has picked up to force 6 or 7 and it is raining. Just like not keeping an eye on the map, I should have kept an eye on the forecast !

  At the end of last week (11th) I went down to Lerwick for the day to do some shopping etc. There was still a bit of snow around so I thought I'd drive around through Nesting in a half hearted attempt to look for some Mountain Hares in their winter coats. I don't know why I bothered, I didn't have the time to leave the car and they were certainly not going to jump up and say ' here I am, taken some pictures then'. I then decided to have a look for the Snow Goose that had been around and was now around Strand near Tingwall. I found a large flock of Greylags - I suppose on the ground they should be called a 'gaggle' - but there was no Snow Goose, hey ho, must get on in to Lerwick.

  Jobs done, I headed north out of town again. I almost headed straight north but then made a quick decision to have one more look for the goose. Going on through Strand, I then took a turning up a hill away from the lock side. It was a good choice. Five minutes later I was looking at a beautiful Snow Goose feeding in a roadside field with a large group of Greylags. Driving on past and out of sight, I got the camera set up etc and turned around and went back. The geese were fairly nervous but I did manage to fire off some shots without them taking off in a panic. The light wasn't particularly good so I had to shoot at 800 ISO to get a half decent shutter speed..........

  I didn't really do much over the weekend as far as wildlife goes as I was starting to decorate the cottage which is attached to our house. The previous owners used to use it as their main living area and so used a sort of Aga type solid fuel  cooker. It created an awful lot of smoke stain on the walls and ceilings which needs to be cleaned off before any paint can be put back on. Our intention is eventually to rent it out as a two bedroom holiday cottage.

  As I said earlier, yesterday was a cracking day. I had a brief visit to Lamba Ness and just sat and watched the scores of Fulmars playing in the cliff top updrafts and had countless fly-pasts of  Gannets heading northwards to Hermaness. Anyone who says that Fulmars don't  fly for fun at times, have never watched them for long enough. Often when I've been watching them, many of them will fly past, look at me with their steely black eyes and then fly back past to take another look. Sometimes I think they are actually taunting me to try and go and join them - they are showing off (and no I'm definitely not going to try it !) As I sat there, I saw a large white gull coming around the headland to the north of me, it was a Glaucous Gull. It flew around the cliff line giving me a cracking view of it and it seemed to also watch me as it went by........

Glaucous Gull

  Today (15th March), I had an encounter with a female Merlin again just off the road by the Westing turn. I spotted the bird at the edge of some pools and noticed that it had just been having a wash. The amazing thing is, it was at this exact spot 12 months ago (almost to the day) that I photographed another female (maybe the same one?) doing just the same here . The fact that here on Unst there must be hundreds if not a thousand small patches of water in which a bird could wash and I have been lucky to see one twice in the same place is amazing - maybe I should do the lottery tomorrow ?.....................

 During the time that I'd gone to turn my car around and get the camera set up on the bean bag out of the car window  the bird had then moved and had flown closer to the roadside, only to be disturbed by a passing crofters car. The shot above is a large crop of it on the far side of the pool.


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