Wednesday, 2 March 2011

UFO over Unst ?

   Yesterday (26th Feb) there was a strange and rare sighting over Unst - it was the SUN ! After almost a month of wind, rain and cloudy days, the sun came out.

  The previous day (25th) the wind had dropped and it felt milder but would the forecasters get it right ? Rona was off school for the day, so between cleaning our previous house (before it gets handed back to the landlord) and trips back and forth to it moving boxes, Rona and I had a quick drive around north Unst. The Moorhen was still around the Houb and as usual was very nervous and tried to use every available bit of cover to hide - although some places were more successful than others !...................


  After that, we headed along the shore road past Buness. Half way along, I spotted a 'white' gull with some Black-backs' bathing in a patch of flood water. My first thought was Iceland Gull as it just didn't look big and heavy weight enough to be a Glaucous. I managed to fire off a few shots before it took flight and headed west. Whether it was just a slim one I don't know for sure, but a couple of other guys who saw the pictures later were also not quite sure. It certainly wasn't a typical Iceland nor was it a typical Glaucous...................

 
  From there, we had a quick visit to Haroldswick pools as there were a pair of Gadwall there as I'd not had a good view of one up here for a while (there was one in Uyeasound a couple years back)...............


   On Saturday (26th) it was a fantastic day, so much so that Rona our youngest came in at 7.15am and insisted that we got up and took a look at the sunrise from the landing window - it was rather nice. After two years of living in a bungalow, it is still quite strange to be living in a house with an upstairs again although I am starting to get used to it. I spent the morning along at the bungalow having a bit more of a clear out and a wipe round. We didn't move all of the stuff out when we moved as we wanted as much clear space in Ordaal for the house warming as possible, which in the end worked out a treat.

  After lunch, we had a family walk around the coast from the end of the road from the house. The sun was shining, the sky was clear (without a cloud in sight) and the wind had dropped completely ; I could almost say it felt warm, well after the last month I suppose it was ! We had a lovely walk around the coast, Curlews were calling, Oystercatchers were piping, it really did feel like it was spring. A number of times I had to remind myself that we hadn't got on a plane and gone away on holiday to a sunnier clime and that we were only a five minute drive from the house. Out in the sound sound there were at least seven GNDs (Great Northern Divers) and as they congregate in the coming weeks, I may get to hear them calling - a truly evocative sound.

 Later in the afternoon around 4pm, we were just returning home when I got a call from Rory, there was a bat flying around at Skaw. Not that unusual farther south when they come out of hibernation, but to get one up here is not that common. At first I didn't think it was worth the drive over there as the chances are that it could have moved on, however, with a little bit of persuasion from Catriona and Rona, we headed off over there. Fortunately it was still there - along with Rory and co - and was still flying around the croft. It must have hibernated there as the wind and rain of the past month wouldn't have been particularly good for a migrating bat. It was some kind of Pipistrelle bat, but without a bat detector or having it in the hand its difficult to tell......................

Bat at Skaw
 Sunday 27th Feb

  Another fine morning - although just a tad cooler. For most of the morning I was back and forth along to Voesgarth putting the finishing touches to handing over. After lunch, Catriona went out for a walk and I stayed at home doing jobs etc . Both girls had a great time in the garden building a den which also involved me as they couldn't hit the nails in to the timber. I managed to get one of the strimmers working after only a few pulls on the cord and this was after it being in storage for two years. There are around 8 acres of ground  here and most of it will carry on as before, ie one part will be cut for either hay or silage, another will be used for grazing some ponies or sheep etc. Other areas will be left in a semi wild state which should be good for nesting birds like Snipe, Redshank and Curlew and also for migrants in the autumn. Hopefully by this time I will also be able to plant some willow cuttings to encourage passage birds in the future.

The front of the house from the 'croquet lawn'........
.....Yes, believe it or not that lumpy grass area used to be a croquet lawn !

Looking east along the foreshore  (the next picture was taken from the small patch of water right of centre)  - and looking back west to where the previous picture was taken.............

Tuesday March 1st

Another fine day, but still a little cool (7-8 degrees)After going to see a guy about some work, I took a drive over to Lamba Ness. Walking around the eastern cliff top, I spotted a small black and white auk down on the sea. My first thoughts was that it was a Little Auk but something didn't seem right. Fetching the scope (and camera) I was really surprised to see that it was in fact a Puffin. Still in its non breeding plumage ie no brightly coloured (and smaller) bill, it was certainly and early bird................






Along the cliffs were also many pairs of Fulmars catching a few 'rays'


  The last few weeks have had good aurora forecasts, but due to the wet, cloudy weather, we've missed out - until tonight. I'd been checking on the website and had seen it was building up for a show. About 10pm I got a text from Rory to say that it was starting, going outside I could see a nice green glow and a few 'curtains' of white light. It took me a few minutes to set up the camera at the side of the house, put it on 30 seconds @f4, ISO800, set the shutter to continuous mode and locked the remote lease open and went inside (after I'd watched it for a while of course). I stayed up until 1.30am, went and retrieved the camera only to see the card was full and only 198 frames taken. I'd done it again, I forgotten to change the camera quality from Raw to Jpeg. This meant I only had half the amount of shots that could have been possible if I'd changed the setting. The first shot below is a stacked picture of 198 images (using Star trails) the second is the same number put together as an AVI video (which looks better at the smaller scale).........

video

  I still have a lot to learn about doing this type shot and having the right conditions is half the battle. Also getting the right location is just as important. With more forecasts over the next few days, hopefully (weather permitting) I can get some more practice in.

       Robbie

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