Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Last Post - of 2011

  I'll start by a follow up to the last post about the recent gales. As we hadn't really seen anyone until after Boxing Day I didn't really know what damage other folk had sustained on their property. From what I've heard, there were several old croft roofs that were blown off (fortunately abandoned ones) and quite a few slates ripped off around the place. I also heard of a sheet of roofing material that had come off and then been blown over a mile in to someones garden - very dangerous. There was another story of some folk on Mainland who had gone next door for drinks or whatever on Christmas Day, when all of a sudden their house roof went flying past the window - scary stuff.

 Down in Uyeasound,12 salmon cages broke their moorings/anchorages and ended up 20-30 miles east of Unst drifting in the North Sea. (When I say 20 or 30 miles it's because there are several versions of the story). These cages are huge and are anchored to massive weights on the sea bed and also to the shore. Apparently when they were found by a helicopter that had gone out to look for them, only four were recognizable as fish cages, the others had either been smashed up or not found. It's said (again several estimations) that there were between 350 and 400 thousand salmon lost - just a week before they were due to be harvested. Obviously there is insurance, this figure has also varied, somewhere between 2 and 8 million pounds. Apparently, depending on current market prices and also the fish size, each fish could have been worth around £15 each. The knock-on effect of this event is that when the fish had been harvested, they had more fish ready to put into the cages. It was some storm.

  The Christmas period here this year has been fairly quiet, we have had a few friends around though, so despite the lack of electricity it's been nice. One thing (or rather person) that's been missing this year has been Ian, my father-in-law. For a number of years (including when we were down south) he would visit over the Christmas/New period - even playing the part of Father Christmas at times. So, due to illness he was unable to come up this year and was greatly missed - get well soon Ian.

  I have managed to get a out few times despite the weather and on most days I watched otters fishing at one location or another. I forgot to mention a few days ago that recently when I was down at Westing watching the gulls feeding in the breaking waves, an otter caught one that had been sitting on the water. I had seen an otter enter the water and then disappear for quite some time (usually a dive lasts around 20-25 seconds). Only when I heard the gulls giving out an alarm call I knew something was up, I then saw the bird being dragged through the waves just off shore for over half a mile which must have taken at least 20 if not 25 minutes.

  Yesterday (30th) was a cracking day, still, bright sunshine and for the time of year, very mild. I had a trip up north to try and catch a sunrise over the sea, but as is often the case, there was a lot of low cloud over the horizon. The drill ship 'Stena Carron' has been anchored up for a few days a couple of miles east of Unst while it is re-supplied etc (and sheltering from the storm no doubt). It has looked quite festive at night all lit up, but due to the distance, photos haven't been possible. Back at home, I stayed at home and did a few jobs - as well as keeping an eye on Balta Sound. During late morning I saw 6 Slavonian Grebes, 1 Little Grebe and 3 Great Northern Divers along with the Red-breasted Mergansers and Goldeneyes. I also saw the mum and otter cub fishing just off from the jetty. However, just as I was going down to try and gets some pictures, Rona and her friend asked for the bike tires to be pumped up etc, so by the time that had been done, the otters had moved on. One of the GNDs seemed to have 'bitten off more than it could chew' so to speak, as the fish took quite a lot of getting down. There is a lot of seaweed covered rocks close to shore here, so most of the grebes and divers tend to fish further out..........

 Great Northern Diver (GND)

A view west along the shore with the camera phone................

  For the first time for a while, we went out for a family walk over to Skaw and around the headland to the north. There was to be a small window in the weather (according to the Met Office local forecast) which proved to be bang on target, so the whole of the walk was dry. Apart from the ever present Greylags' the only good bird was an immature Glaucous Gull looking for food, way down below us on the rocks. Shortly after getting back to the car, it tipped it down with rain - time for lunch and then home to light the fire.....................

It's a hard life being a cat !

  Well, tomorrow's another day and indeed another year, so a happy and healthy New Year to everyone. I wonder what next year will bring ? Certainly I'm going to be busy on the house, but hopefully I'll have time to get 'out and about'. Most likely I will have to get up and go out earlier before breakfast (once it's light enough) and then come home to work etc. As to New Years resolutions ? I don't normally make them as the ones I make, I soon break - eat less chocolate, get fitter etc etc. I do have some photo ideas, but then they shouldn't be resolutions, but I know I do need to improve on my digital processing - but I've been needing to do that for years.



MarkW said...

& A Happy New Year to you all....
& get well soon Ian.

Some considerable storms then of late & insurance or not, replacing cages must be a nightmare up there.

That GND; wow what a fish.


robbieb said...

Thanks Mark, and to you both also.