Tuesday, 22 March 2016

    Here we are in the last week of March and with a feeling that Spring could be just a few weeks away - although as has happened in the past, there is still time for more storms, gales or even snow !

  2016 started with a fine night and a brief aurora during New Years Eve and into the early hours of New Years Day - a nice way to start the year :)

Auroral glow with a celebratory firework 

  It was not going to last however, as a couple of days later, it was back to strong winds and big seas from the general direction of the east......

From Norwick looking towards Lamba Ness

  Over the next few days, I had several visits down to Easting beach in the south east corner of the island. On the 1st Jan, Brydon found a drake Surf Scoter, (almost certainly the same bird from last year - first found by Mike Pennington at Skaw). The bird spent an awful lot of time a long way out feeding, occasionally coming back in slightly closer, but still too far to photograph. It would often swim almost the entire width of the bay and then go all the way back again. Or it would take off, fly around, look as if it was coming close to the shore and then go back out often over a mile away. (It wasn't because I was visible, as I was well concealed). Finally, after 4 visits of putting up with wind, rain and snow showers and a total of over 6hrs sitting and waiting, it did come in closer - briefly.......

 Easting beach looking north

Drake Surf Scoter

Pair of Red-breasted Mergansers

  On the 16th, we had a light fall of snow; so, when there's a likelihood of more showers during the daytime, I head for Hermaness. On this occasion, the snow showers didn't increase, but it was nice while it lasted.

  A few days later, we had a little bit more snow, combined with several clear(ish) nights and a bit of an aurora. Despite the very bright moon, the glow showed through which enabled me to get out a get a few pictures......

3 shots from Burrafirth

  ... four more pictures from around Unst at the end of January.........

 Uyeasound looking east

 Uyeasound looking south west




  The month started off nicely with a some quality time watching our 'local' family of a mum and two otter cubs which I've been seeing regularly since late August. On this occasion, while mum was offshore fishing, one of the cubs had what looked like a lumpsucker fish - and wasn't going to share it with its brother or sister !.....


  In the middle of the month, we had a few days of intermittent snowfall so it was back up to Hermaness at the first opportunity to try and get some Gannets in the snow. There can  be a couple of problems when trying to do this and they are, 1) if the wind is too strong from a particular direction then it can cause a problem with getting the front element wet which ruins the images or 2) if the snow is too heavy, then it will make the images look 'soft' or un-sharp - a bit like a soft focus effect...... a few from north Unst during the cold snap...........

 Looking south from Valla Field

 Looking south from Hermaness

Viking Longhouse and the 'Skidbladner' at Haroldswick 

Looking southeast towards Hagdale and the Keen of Hamar

  When I was on Hermaness on the 25th Feb, I was walking back around from Saito at the south end of Hermaness, when I glanced down to the cliffs of the Neap and saw something I've been wanting to see for a long, long time - a Brocken Spectre - for a full description you'll have to read this here :)

... a Brocken Spectre - with me in the middle :)

  A few other images from around Unst......

 The cliffs of Clibberswick with a strong updraft.

 The perils of liking seaweed

 Grey Heron down at the shore

 Glaucous Gull at Westing

 Common Seal on our stone jetty


 Hooded Crow

  One very pleasant surprise for me during February, was to hear that an image of a drumming Snipe I took on Fetlar last summer, was commended in the 'Birdguides photo of the year competition' ....


   Finally,  I'll finish off with a few pictures from this years Uyeasound Up Helly Ah.....

The 2016 Uyeasound Guizer Jarl, Christopher Ritch and his daughter Merran