Saturday, 10 September 2011

Calm before the storm ?

  After having a few good birds around during the past couple of weeks, this last week has been relatively quiet. We've had my father in law staying for a week so although I've still been going out daily, we've not seen that much around. The wind has been mostly north or westerly and generally cloudy with showers. At the start of the week, we headed over to Skaw and Lamba Ness and had over 20 Sanderlings and a Bar-tailed Godwit at Skaw and a new Shetland bird for me in the shape of a Grey Plover out on the headland at Lamba Ness.................

Grey Plover

  The Pallid Harrier has still been on the island for most of the week although it eluded us - Ian (my father-in -law) particularly would have liked to have seen it. However, from N-in-S sightings it seemed to have moved down to the south of Unst around Snarravoe. This area is quite large and isn't easily accessed, only by a long walk from either the Westing road or down by Belmont.

  We did get a few other birds though, namely Rosefinch, Barred and Wood Warbler, Spot' Fly' and a Whitethroat at Skaw. It was this last bird that caused me (yes, I'm happy to admit it) a few identification problems for a while - until I was brought down to earth by a friend ! When we saw it a Skaw it looked very pale and, as is often the case when you see something out of context, I thought it must be something unusual. However, looking back, we should have really noticed that it does indeed have a - whitethroat !   ..............

  Back at home one morning, I was out by the shed when I heard the faint sound an otter calling from down towards  the sound. Going down to the noost, I could see them along the shore some way away to the east. Both cubs (which are now quite large) were playing amongst the seaweed as mum fished just off shore. In the past I'd have gone  straight back for the camera but as it would be quite difficult to get close with out disturbing them, I decided to just watch them instead - the otters welfare must always come first. After five minutes or so of play, mum came ashore with a fairly large Lumpsucker fish, it was immediately grabbed by one of the cubs, which was then chased for another five minutes the other cub who wanted a 'piece of the action' so to speak. After five more minutes I left them to it, still chasing around amongst the seaweed.

Friday 9th September

  The morning of the 9th of September was a lovely morning. It was also my birthday. I wasn't allowed to get up around 7am as I normally do, today I was to have breakfast in bed, made by my eldest daughter Sula (with help from Rona). So I waited, and waited, until around 7.45am she arrived with a freshly made pancake - and very nice it was too. This was all well and good, but it was also a beautiful still, calm, sunny morning and I could see otters out in the sound - they too must have known it was my birthday. Finally, just after eight I managed to get outside. I was on my way to check the Rosa for any possible overnight migrants, when I saw the otter family down the bottom of the field, just over the wall. The kids were still playing (the otter cubs that is) and mum was constantly scenting the air and looking around in the direction of any nearby loud noise - which on this still morning could have been half a mile away across the sound. I could have watched them for ages as they fished just off shore, however, a quick look at the time and sadly it was time to do the school run. (returning an hour later they were still in the vicinity)

  The rest of the day was spent either out and about with Ian or, later at home enjoying a nice birthday meal and then time outside with the family as the sun set over towards Valla Field at around 7.45pm. It was a lovely evening, as the sun sank down, Grey-lag Geese circled around calling, silhouetted against the orange glow and Curlews called from down by the shore. The temperature had a distinctly autumnal feel about it - any warmer and the midges would have been out - the calm before the storm maybe ? (gales are forecast)

  Returning in later, I checked my emails to discover an aurora warning from here which is one of several sites I check, the other which I've mentioned before is this one - In early September I wouldn't expect to see an aurora as if it was to be a clear night, there could still be light from the setting sun until quite late, plus on this night, there was an almost full moon. I looked out again later around 11.30pm (after several whiskeys - well it was my birthday) to see a definite glow to the north. I wasn't seeing things, there was an aurora although not particularly spectacular. On any other occasion I'd have gone up north to Lamba Ness, but due to the 'night cap', I thought it best not to. While I certainly wouldn't encourage drink driving, we are still without a policeman here after more than a month - but soon to get a new one.

  As it turned out, the aurora was actually quite a good one - but as I said I didn't see it for long. This evening while we were out for a meal, I met a couple on holiday here who I'd met last year over at Lund. The had camped (in a Landrover) over at Norwick last night and had seen the auroral curtains and all, they said it was fantastic show. (by coincidence, they now live 2 miles from where Sula and Rona went to school in the Cotswolds - small world).

8pm looking west from home



Graham said...

Great read once again Robbie - the remains of another hurricane are on their way I think. Wish I could come and storm watch with you !

Have a night cap for me won't you.....

MarkW said...

I saw an aurora once from SE Ireland, but just a colour glow, so I am envious of you seeing them so well up there.
We hope to head to Western Scotland later in the year, so maybe then, fingers X.
Look forward to some pictures of yours soon.