Monday, 11 April 2011

A 'big' garden tick

  Well more of the title later. As the kids are off school, it's been a bit of a juggling act keeping them entertained, driving them to and from their friends etc. Last Friday morning (8th April) I was driving Sula south to Uyeasound to her friends house when I saw one of the Rough-legs' soaring over Caldback Hill; we watched it for a short while before heading on. I later returned with the hope of getting a few shots as it was now a gloroius sunny morning - but with a strong northwesterly wind blowing  - the bird was still around, but tending to be much higher than we've usually seen it. I managed a few shots, but even better, I had cracking views in good light as soared back and forth along the hillside above us looking for rabbits (no shortage of them here)................

Rough-legged Buzzard

Sat 9th April

  Today one of Sula's  friends with her mother was due to arrive on Shetland for a short holiday so Catriona and Sula went down to Sumburgh to pick them up. I stayed at home with Rona and had a final clean around in the cottage and Rona made up the beds etc for their stay. Whilst in the cottage givving the windows a clean, I noticed a 'head' swimming along past the jetty at the bottom of the field some hundred yards or so away. It didn't look right for a Common Seal and we don't see many Grey Seals very often over this side of the bay. Grabbing the bins', I then realized that I may have a 'big tick' for the garden list. Getting the camera I quickly went down to the shore to try and get a record shot to confirm my suspicions. By the time I reached the shore however, it had moved further down the sound towards the west end and was now a least 150 yards away. Getting a few pictures, I quickly put the on the pc to confirm the identity  of the animal, this is the first 'record shot' - a big crop............................

....... it was a Bearded Seal.

  I relocated it just off of Skiboul  Stores and then phoned Rory and Brydon with my suspicions.  Sure enough it was a Bearded' and it was the same one that was around a couple of weeks ago. It spent quite some time underwater - presumably feeding - showing from time to time and then disappeared completely. Later still, I re-found it on the slipway at the marina (where it was a couple of weeks ago) where we then watched it for quite some time before it was spooked by someone going out in a boat. When it did dive in the water, it didn't swim off straight away, it came across to where we (Rory, Chloe, Rona and I ) were sitting, to give us the once over; at times, being only 10ft away in the water. Sadly however not everyone was happy to see this magnificent creature lying on the slipway. One chap (who originates from some islands a bit further south than Shetland) reckoned we should throw it some fish and put a bullet in its head ! When we said it only eats crabs, his reply was 'tell that to all the other blokes'. It was precisely this sort of misguided ideas that I put up with from my dear old dad years ago. He kept racing pigeons and believed that all birds with hooked beaks were vermin and no amount of convincing would change his mind that Kestrels or Buzzards didn't take pigeons out of the sky. Anyway, here are a few pictures of the 'Beardy'.....................

 This really was a big garden tick !
  As it turned out, the plane was delayed and then, despite it reaching Sumburgh, it had to divert back to Orkney as there was thick fog down at South Mainland and couldn't land (we were in bright sunlight). Ellie and her mum  would then have to take the overnight Northlink Ferry from Orkney to Lerwick, arriving on Sunday morning at 7.30am to be picked up by Catriona and Sula.

Sunday April 10th

  As it was such a nice morning, once our friends had unpacked we decided to take a walk to Hermaness NNR in the north west corner of the island. I love Hermaness and could spend days up there just watching the seabirds. The walk up was a very pleasant one in fairly warm sunshine. There were a few Bonxies around and also a few calling Golden Plover up on the hills. Just as we approached the cliffs, I was about to say to our friends that there probably wouldn't be any Puffins back yet, when Sula - who was a short way in front - shouted out 'Puffins !' They certainly seemed to be a little earlier than last year and there were also quite a few - thankfully.........

Taking a rest
You must be joking!
'Mug shot'

Gannets 'allo-preening' (mutual preening)

Later, on returning back towards home, I stopped off to have a chat with Rory (the Unst ranger) He was watching (and trying to photograph) several Swallows, Sand Martins and a House Martin that were hawking for insects over Haroldswick pools. Always up for a challenge, I stopped to have a go as well, and also soon to be joined by Mike (Pennington). These little birds don't hang about and even with just the 500 on the camera (I sometimes think I should have held on to my 300) it was very difficult to keep them in the frame. Below are a couple of the slightly better ones - an awful lot were binned ! ...............

Monday 11th April

  With the kids back at school (and Sula's friend Ellie going as well) I took Louisa out around the island for a bit of sightseeing. We did briefly see an otter at Buness but unfortunately it saw the car pull up just as I saw it so it didn't hang around. Another nice sighting over at Lamba Ness was the 'blue phase' Fulmar, it seems to have paired up with a 'normal' one. I do hope so as I'd love to see it there on a regular basis and I also wonder what the young will look like.......


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