After the gales of last night the day dawned grey, cloudy and showery. But with some scrutinising of the weather forecast, and deciding to believe it, a trip to the Brough of Birsay was planned. Oh and a consult of the tide times forewarned is forearmed wben going to an island that is cut off by the tide every 6 hours.
I was consigned to the passenger seat on the trip up there after being somewhat distracted when I was driving by the sight of a Hen Harrier drifting across the moors!
The Brough was once home to Picts and then Vikings who even had covered drains and even a sauna (perhaps!). Now it is an outpost for wildlife on the Atlantic coast of Orkney Mainland.
We went in search of puffins.
There were a few seals hanging around, eider ducks, ravens, great skuas, oyster catchers of course, razor bills, fulmars – one with a nest to impress! The views were wonderful (and the forecast of sun was spot on). The one thing I was rather disturbed to see were feral cats on the island – can’t be good for ground nesting birds like puffins. It seemed like we weren’t to have any joy seeing these dear little birds.
So I amused myself taking pictures of razorbills which were there in abundance. We chatted to some of the other visitors some local all looking for the elusive puffin. One couple of old hands gave us a hint and said with some patience and – “getting our eye in” we’d see them. So we settled to a spot (sheltered from the Atlantic breeze) and trained our binoculars on a patch of cliffs.
Hurrah – we were rewarded, not the closest encounter ever, I know there are places where they just gather around your feet. But given the feral cats I was happy to see them on the cliffs. What this does for their breeding prospects I don’t know. These Pierrots of the bird world look so sad but are adorable.
I spent a fair while watching their comings and goings and could have stayed longed. However the tide doesn’t wait so there was a need to get back to the mainland ahead of it. We went for a bit more of a wander around the Brough. and sat in the sauna to admire the views!
We appeared to be the last ones to leave as water lapped up the edges of the causeway but on turning back for a last look at the causeway we saw two figures ambling down the hill. A group of onlookers were willing them to hurry and they did seem to put on a bit of a spurt as they suddenly realised their predicament. To all our reliefs they crossed safely though with somewhat damp feet! Just goes to show the tide waits for no man – or woman as it was in this case!