Monday 13 January 2014

It's been a while

  As the title suggests, it's been a while since my last blog post, so firstly I must say a belated Happy New Year (too late for Merry Christmas).

  The weather here over the last month or so hasn't been particularly good (were are in winter I suppose) although there have been one or two nice days thrown in and even some snow. However, the most dominant feature has been the wind and the rain; not quite as much as down south, but still quite a lot.

Looking east to Ordaal (centre) from The Houb, Baltasound

 Looking east towards Lamba Ness, Christmas Day

Looking back towards Norwick from Lamba Ness, Christmas Day
Looking north west from Ordaal

  The period just before Christmas was pretty busy with a lot of work at home to get the dinning room finished (well almost) so I could decorate it. I also had a trip back to the Cotswolds for a week to go and look at a cottage that we have had rented out over the last few years. I have to say that I was extremely lucky with the travel plans etc as on both legs of the trip, I missed some very rough crossings and delays or cancellations to the Northlink sailings. Indeed, the night before I was due to come back, three people were taken to hospital and several cars were damaged due to the rough sea conditions.

  Also just before and during the Christmas/New Year period, we had our first guests to stay in the cottage who found us using the Air B&B website. This is a web based site where you have your own page and can list what the rental property has in the way of rooms, facilities etc. So far it seems a great way to either find holiday accommodation or if you have anything to rent out from a single room for for a few nights or a luxury mansion - almost anywhere in the world. Click on the Air B&B link above and will take you there.

  On the wildlife front, the winter (so far) has been fairly normal with only one of two scarce or rare birds around on Unst. One of the first unusual birds (for the time of year) was a Grey Phalarope found by Brydon up at Norwick on Christmas Eve. I went up but by the time I arrived, it was early afternoon and the light was pretty bad - just to get a usable shutter speed I had to up the ISO to 2500 which isn't good news.....

Grey Phalarope at Norwick 24th Dec 2013

  Another even scarcer bird was found by Mike (Pennington) on Jan 6th over at Ungirsta and that was a Glossy Ibis. The last Unst record was way back in 1920 and this was Mikes 305th species for Unst. I missed it on the 6th (the bird had flown off after being buzzed by a Peregrine) but 
caught up with it the following day. The bird was a fair distance from the road and, not wanting to disturb it, I took some 'record shots' using the 500mm + 1.4 + 2x which with the crop factor (1.6x) made the combination in 'old' 35mm terms a 2240mm lens - which is not going to produce a very good picture !.....

Glossy Ibis at Ungirsta Jan 2014

  A few days later, another bird (which was at first thought to be the Unst bird) turned up down near Spiggie on South Mainland. However, the following day the Unst bird reappeared, so there were almost certainly two on Shetland. (When the Unst bird showed up on the 6th, 5 were found on the Faroes) The Unst bird seemed to be pretty flighty but the one on South Mainland was quite approachable which allowed some really nice photos - here

  Below are a few 'birdy' type pictures which I've managed to get on some of the nicer days of the  last few weeks..........

  I think there were quite a few people recently, that would have been aware of a prediction for a really strong aurora (it had been mentioned in the media a number of times). Unfortunately, it didn't materialize but had it of done so, it would have been one of the strongest we would have seen up here since arriving in 2008.
   In preparation, I'd decided to leave my camera out over night at a location here on the island, with a view to trying to get sometime different. However, as the poem says ' the best laid plans o' mice and men' etc, things didn't go as planned. On returning to the camera in the morning, not a frame had been taken, I obviously had either forgotten or had overlooked something. As it had been a bit of  a rush to get to the location and then be back in time before it got dark, I didn't check the settings on my  Ipod app properly - which is why the time-lapse didn't start. We can all be wise after the event, so I'll just put this down to experience - or lack of it :)  - I was so glad that there hadn't been a mega aurora. 
  As I'd got my 7D tied up with something else, later on in the evening I headed up to Lamba Ness with my 40D. The 40D isn't particularly good at long, high ISO night exposures as it shows up a lot of digital noise, but as it was my only option I though I'd give it a go. Anyway, as I'd just mentioned, there were no northern lights showing, so I tried a few moonlight pictures - to justify the drive up there at around midnight.  But despite staying out until two in the morning, I didn't go home with anything I really liked.....

From Lamba Ness looking west towards Saxa Vord hill by moonlight