Sunday, 1 September 2013

One season ends, another starts

  Well here we are on the 1st September and summer seems to have gone and the autumnal wind and rain has arrived with some vengeance. I'm sure that a few folk would disagree, but I don't think it's been a bad one at all. The main concern for us was that we wanted it dry and relatively windless for doing the roof and, as I mentioned in my last post, we did alright on that front. All in all, it took 4 weeks to do the roof and another week to finish the guttering, downspouts and some re-pointing.

  On the 31st July, we fitted the last of the old slates on the front of the house and as we were doing it, I had the added bonus of a garden tick (now at 122 species) in the form of a Common Kestrel which, by the look of it (wet and tired), had just arrived in off of the sea....

Kestrel at Ordaal

  A few nights later, I had my first evening walk of the year up to Hermaness. It didn't look like it was going to be a fantastic sunset, but never the less, it's still great to get up there in the evening. Basically, by the time I'd got to the end of the board walk, it was long before the sun was nearing the horizon and in to cloud at that. Below are five pics from the evening...

Drumming Snipe
Displaying Bonxie

'Clear to Land'

'Evening Stroll'

  The last one could be titled - 'The Sand Eel was this big, honest'

  The following morning was a cracking morning so I decided to spend the morning up at Hermaness and go 'down the banks' to one of the gannet nest sites. Despite the at times, rather precarious route down, it is well worth it just to sit just a few yards from them and to be accepted - as long as the 'circle of fear' is taken in to account (the minimum distance at which an animal etc will be at ease). I could quite easily spend all day down there with them, but unfortunately reality always kicks in and it usually ends up as just a couple of hours......


  I was back down there again a few days later hoping to get some shots of gugas (young Gannets) being fed by their parents. There was quite a size variation between the young, some still small and very reptilian like, others were quite large and covered in down, and even some where showing signs of feathers. I did get some photos, everything seamed perfect - light, angle etc; however, once home I was disappointed to see that all of the images were ruined by heat haze. I knew it was quite warm by the number of panting gannets and their young, but I hadn't noticed it over the distance of only 15 or 20 feet.

  By the middle of August, the first sign of a bit of autumnal migration was showing with a Green Sandpiper at Lamab Ness, shortly followed by a Shelduck there and also a Knot. On the 11th of the month, I saw my first Minke of the 'summer' off of Lamba Ness and on several days saw up to three feeding just off the headland. It coincided with huge numbers of Gannets fishing along that bit of coast (presumably on the same fish as the Minke) and the Gannets were also closely followed by the piratical Bonxies who constantly harried the Gannets for their catch......

 Minke Whale

'Unfair odds'

Seconds before the Gannet disgorges its fish

  On the 22nd August, I had a couple of 'spare' (?) hours (and it was a nice day) so I thought I'd go 'down the banks' again. I'm now sorted as to what I carry down in my smaller camera bag (+ a lens case on my belt) which makes the scramble down a lot easier. I'd rather not have to take a tripod down but I do find the ease of using the long lens for close-ups worth the extra weight. Unfortunately on this occasion the midges were a pain but this time I was using 'Smidge that midge' repellant which worked a treat (I've run out of 'Skin so soft'). Just a few more Gannet pics........

   On the bird migration front, a few things are now starting to come through - although a bit less than down on Mainland (Shetland). We've had quite a good passage of Black-tailed Godwits, with 34 today (1st Sept) just along from Ordaal. There was also a Med' Gull in Baltasound which Mike (Pennington) found and Brydon and I found a Greenish Warbler at Skaw (there have been 8 or 10 so far this autumn in Shetland).....

A record shot of the Med' Gull on the Houb

Greenish Warbler at Skaw

  On the 28th Aug, early on in the evening, I had an aurora alert come through to my phone. I didn't have much hope as it had been quite cloudy, it was a bit breezy and also there was a half moon. Looking out around 11pm it looked promising so I decided to head off up north to Lamba Ness. The cloud had cleared a bit, but the moon was quite bright - it didn't look too promising. However on arriving at the end, there was a nice green glow to the north and there was some shelter from the wind by the old RAF buildings. Setting the camera up and locking the remote release on, I retired to the car to watch the northern sky. Glancing around to the east I could see a fantastic light show of long green 'tentacles' reaching down towards the bright moon - what a shot that would make! It took several minutes to retrieve the camera and set it up again in a different spot by which time unfortunately it had subsided a little, hey ho.....

  The last one looks like it's been manipulated in 'Photoshop' or similar, ie taken in black and white and then selectively coloured; it hasn't, that's almost straight out of the camera.