What No Pictures?!
Sometimes life takes over and getting out into the wild to take pictures (what I adore doing) seems difficult to achieve. So the last few days I’ve had to let go of my love of snapping whatever wildlife I can find and just be happy with noting my glimpses through the window literally and figuratively.
Even so I’ve been treated in the last few days to:
– Watching a bird of prey (peregrine?) being flanked and escorted by a large group of swifts out of their patch of sky;
– seeing swifts screaming through the streets at eye level (depending on what floor of the house you’re on);
– being delighted to see a sparrow in the bird bath – first time in 6 years of living with a tiny courtyard garden in the heart of Brighton;
– noticing a goldfinch in a tree in the middle of the North Laines area of Brighton;
– marvelling at a grey wagtail taking of vertically and narrowly missing catching a fly;
– listening to the gentle cooing of doves;
– watching swallows weave in and out of farm buildings;
– seeing the mist swirling around the coombes of the South Downs making them look mysterious and other worldly;
– catching a glimpse of colourful wild flowers on a grey day;
– standing on the end of Brighton (erm Palace) Pier watching a grey/blue rolling sea under a grey sky and feeling somewhat chilly!
– Feeling cool rain on my skin and warm sunshine on my face
It seems that these days a picture is what matters but on reflection this is not a bad list so I guess being wild is not just photographing wild.
Bending in the breeze forest
Heath, heather, bracken. gorse
River bubbling from its source.
Oak, holly, birch, beech.
Creeks and rustles of woodland speech
Deer gazing, ponies grazing.
Birds singing, spirits raising.
Dappled sunlight, sudden shower
Shelter in a secret bower
Special place indeed forest
This list could go on and on!
Artic skuas, amazing archaeology
Bluebells, Brough of Birsay, bere bannocks, black guillemots
Curlews, cuckoos, Churchill Barriers, common skate egg cases
Daily seal (well not quite but almost saw one every day).
Eagles (Sea) back on Hoy (alas didn’t see them but great to know they’re there), eider ducks and chicks
Fulmars, fabulous sunsets, fossils
Great skuas, green finches, greylag geese, great northern diver
Hen harriers, hares and hills of Hoy
Iridescent rainbows, Italian Church
Jovial guide at Maes Howe
Kirkwall’s cathedral (St Magnus)
Lapwings and lovely lochs
Mute swan cygnets, Maes Howe, marsh warbler
North Ronaldsay mutton
Oystercatchers, orchids, the Old Man of Hoy and the Orcadian
Puffins. Pictish Broch at Gurness
Quiet evenings watching the light on Scapa Flow
Red breasted merganser, ring of Brodgar, ringed plovers, rippled rocks, ravens, razor bills
Secret wooded glades, Skara Brae, stones of Stenness, Scapa Flow, sand martins and swallows
Upside down sheep
Very old rocks, Viking graffiti
Wild cliff tops, wonderful vistas, white horsed waves
Xtraordinary clouds (lenticular)
Yesnaby cliffs and Castle Stack
Zoological wonders, Zephyr winds?!
A grey day to leave Stromness by but the sea was calm and the sun came out as we passed the Old Man of Hoy.
Even saw a puffin do a bouncing bomb act into the sea.
The long drive to Kendal (further from Thurso than Kendal is from Brighton) was rainy, grey and atmospheric. The delights of the East Coast of Scotland will have to wait for another trip.
Sad to say that today was the last day in Orkney. So difficult to decide where to go many beautiful places. But it was back to the Bay of Skaill for us. Such a wonderful spot not just because of Skara Brae but a lovely beach and cliff top to explore. Oyster Catchers, Eider Ducks and of course the odd seal or two kept us company.
We strolled around the bay and up on to the cliffs. Admiring the lovely flowers. Spring squill amongst other things. Still haven’t seen the primula scotica but I think we’ve missed for this time.
The Atlantic was pounding the cliffs as it does everyday. It was dramatic on a calm day a stormy one would be amazing though a little dangerous I’d have thought. It is wonderful seeing the layers of rock some so thin like paper, charting the hundreds and thousands of years that the rock of Orkney have taken to form.
Back to the bay for one last stroll along the beach admiring the views and rocks, not to mention the commons skate egg cases. Quite a rare thing these days.
Then off to Kirkwall for a final look at the use man makes of the wonderful rocks of Orkney and one last picture of the evening light over Scapa Flow.
By 1607 the dwellings on Orkney (well some of them!) had become significantly grander than the humble beginnings at Skara Brae. The Earl’s and Bishops Palaces in Kirkwall all felt very modern though by Orcadian standards!
But after a brief foray into the rock and stone world of human habitation it was back to the beach and the world of sand, sea and pebble. At last I got my feet in the sea. Rather chilly it was too but after a while you just don’t notice it. Honest!
I walked along the beach for a while and spotted what I thought was a one legged sanderling it was hanging around with some ringed plovers so I thought it was with them for solidarity. Later I learnt that waders quite often hop around on one leg for considerable amounts of time, and nobody knows why.
The pebbles on Orkney are wonderful and I can understand why the Neolithic people used the stone to build with – it is so available not to mention lovely to handle. Well and there has always been apparently an absence of trees, so stone was the obvious choice of building material.
I couldn’t resist creating a little bit of rock art myself. Not a habitable dwelling or anything like that but hey you’ve got to start somewhere!
Watching the way people visit things in the outdoors. Partly because I always seem to be one of the last to leave, even on a chilly and blustery one. So often people just pass by with a quick photo and just a glance at what they could be looking at.
Spent a while looking at the Stones of Stenness and the amazing structures of Barn House. Then I noticed a bird hide looking over loch Harray (home of Harray Potter!). A wonderful calm, quite warm oasis to watch the wind ripping over the loch and an almost outside place to have lunch.
The birds on the loch were having a toughday – black headed gulls, even the swallows were battling against the wind.
It took a while to get my eye in on such a bleak day but did manage to see a sedge warbler, reed bunting, sparrow, green finch, mute swan, artic terns, oyster catchers as well as the black headed gulls and swallows. There were curlews around and lapwings as well. But the highlight down at the side of the road near the Watch Stone were 4 fluffy cygnets and their proud and very chilled out mute swan parents.
Thing about Orkney is that the weather can change in an instant and we were treated to a lovely evening of orchids and lenticular clouds
Musing over a morning cup of tea taken outside looking at a marvellous view over Scapa Flow I started to tot up all the reasons I love being out in nature. Here’s around 10 of them
It makes me feel so alive.
It is fascinating,
It is melodious and musical
It smells good
and tastes wonderful
It provides me with shelter
fresh water to drink (not to mention juices, wine, beer…)
It lifts, restores and inspires my spirit
I am part of it.
Not quite sure why we decided to go to Yesnaby today. It was a bit of a spur of the moment decision but it was the right one. Didn’t get a site of the rare Primula scotica. If I had this blog might have been about flowers.
Nor did we take a Geiger counter, if we had this might have been about campaigns against drilling for Uranium on Orkney. Instead we were treated to an unexpectedly close encounter with puffins.
The reports aren’t in as to how successful the 2015 breeding season has been but we hope that it will be as good as 2014 (a good year apparently). What else can I say but there’s some interesting facts about puffins here
We did look at the waves coming in off the Atlanic and Yesnaby Castle a small stack similar to the Old Man of Hoy (which I thought looked like Sponge Bob on a surf board!)
The main problem with Orkney is that there is so much to see and do. There is also a temptation also to jump on a ferry and go and see more stuff on other islands. That temptation has been resisted so far but today we did go as far South as we could in the car. This involved going from Mainland across the Churchill Barriers which have provided an important link to Burray and South Ronaldsay. Strangely being more remote even though accessible by car, they have a different feel and today, it was a very windy one! Marvellous views over Scapa Flow and the Pentland Firth means Hoxa Head was a good spot for more WW2 defences. what a spot to be posted to.
I was hoping for the glimpse of a harbour porpoise or even a killer whale alas not just great skuas, black guillemots, fulmars, razor bills and a rather shy seal.
The mission today was to get to the end of the island and see the Tomb of the Eagles. Another important burial tomb as it was found undisturbed. But we were slightly distracted by the beautiful tapestries and rugs created by Leila Thompson. Her use of wool to create the light, look and feel of Orkney is just astounding.
We did make it to the Tomb of the Eagles as always the last ones there and it was worth the trip. The artefacts, beautiful tools and mace heads, jewellery and of course what can be discovered about the lives of the people buried there from their remains is amazing. By 40 you would have been old. Though life was tough the disabled were looked after. Most died in their 20s, even the children showed evidence of arthritis from the wear and tear of a hard life. People didn’t have cavities but abscesses probably killed some. We really don’t know how lucky we are!
Also on the site is a strange bronze age hut where it seems people spent time heating water. We can only speculate why – perhaps it was a spa those warm stones would have been great for a massage. But then again maybe it was something much more practical.
On the way home we stopped by the First Churchill Barrier to take in the scene with the block ship there, but I got rather distracted by this gorgeous bandit of a bird – the ringed plover.