Saturday, 20 August 2011

15th August - another early start

  After several days back in the Cotswolds, it was time to start our journey home. Over the last few days I managed to catch up with a number of my friends and even managed a day out in the Brecon Beacons birding with the NCOS (North Cotswold Ornithological Society - soon to have a website, watch this space). There along with Tony, Martin, Nigel and myself, we managed 6 raptor species along with Ring Ouzel and a number of other hill birds.

  I had decided that we should leave Moreton early to give us plenty of time for the long drive to Aberdeen for the 7pm ferry back to Shetland. So, getting up at 4.15am, we had breakfast and loaded the car. Saying our farewells to my sister, we were off almost on time at just after 5am. It was a clear sky, full moon and the promise of a good sunrise.

  The usual busy stretch from Birmingham to Liverpool was just that, busy with a lot of traffic. However once we'd past the turn off for the Lake District the motorway became much quieter. I have to admit to not really wanting to do the trip up in one day but practicalities made it more sensible. We made good time and arrived at Stonehaven sometime around 1pm or maybe 1.30 and to fine weather. Aberdeen was now only a few miles away so we had plenty on time to have a walk around town and to go to the supermarket.

  As is usual, the Northlink left on time at 7.30pm (no stop off at Orkney tonight) and as we left the harbour, 5 or 6 Common Dolphins showed at the entrance, although too far for any reasonably sized pictures. The journey was fine, almost flat calm and as we arrived in Lerwick the following morning, the sun shone brightly.

  What I hadn't prepared for - or expected - was a welcoming partly. As we walked across to catch the bus we were swamped by hundreds, if not thousands of MIDGES ! It was horrible, welcome back to Shetland.

  The journey back to Unst by bus (Catriona needed the car down in Lerwick) was rather pleasant - going across Yell Sound was almost like a lake crossing - but the 'wee beasties' as I've often heard them described - were still relentless in their pursuit of a meal. As we waited at Gutcher for the 'Bigga' to leave, we were treated to a number of Gannets diving not far from the stern of the boat. We were too close for any chance of shots of them diving (I was using the 500) but I did manage a few as they took off..............

  It was an almost perfect day, flat sea, blue sky and hardly a breath of wind. I suggested to the kids that after lunch, we should head up to Lamba Ness as I thought it was a good day for looking for Minke whales. Two hours later and there we were watching at least two, possibly three feeding off shore from the headland.

 Minke whale, Lamba Ness

  One of the problems with trying to photograph cetaceans is that often they are only visible for a couple of seconds at the most and then are down for several minutes and can then re-surface anywhere. I've found it much easier to have the camera mounted on the tripod when land-based but unfortunately on this occasion I didn't have it with me so had to make do with hand-holding the 500. We sat and watched them for what seemed like hours (but was probably only an hour) and was later joined by Rory.
   Returning home, I then had another bonus of a new garden tick for Ordaal in the shape of a Garden Warbler. It was good to be back.


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