Monday 27 June 2011

Heat wave, what heat wave!?

So whilst the rest of the UK has been bracing itself for a heat wave, apparently with London today having clear blue skies and temperatures soaring to almost 30 degrees C, we shiver in Orkney and Shetland.  Yesterday we had the morning at sea, cruising past the Old Man of Hoy.  Capt took the ship in pretty close and we had great views of this 137m tall sandstone pinnacle that stands just off the Island of Hoy.  Even a few birds flying around the place, with fulmars nesting on the Old Man and surrounding cliffs.  A few puffins, guillemots, and razorbills around as well, and the odd great skua.

We then headed into Stromness where we went alongside amongst all the fishing boats.  The passengers headed off on a bus tour of the island to see the archaeological highlights that I’d visited a few weeks ago, so I was in excess and so spent a few hours catching up on work on the ship and then going for a walk around the little town of Stromness.  It was damn windy and flippin’ cold onshore, whilst the south of England sounded like they were bathing in sunshine...sounds like someone forgot to tell the Orcadians it was summer!

We had the Captain’s welcome cocktail party onboard that night, which played havoc with the diet (yep trying to shed a few ship gained pounds!), as we sailed for Shetland.  So this morning it was a 6am cruise past Mousa and the broch, and again we got nice and close and had fantastic views of it, although again in overcast and cool conditions.  But the wind had eased!  Heat wave...ha!  We then arrived into Lerwick a bit later and spent the morning ashore seeing Jarlshof Iron Age village and the Lerwick Museum.  We had a lovely confiding twite singing away to himself on a fence at Jarlshof and I managed a few nice photos, my first of this species.  Also an Arctic skua, redshank, some young moorhens, and millions of rabbits at Jarlshof.

We then set sail for Noss, where we took the ship right in off Point of Noss where the gannet colony is.  Got in really close and got fantastic views of the birds, plus puffins on the cliff tops, guillemots and razorbills on the cliffs and caves, and fulmars and kittiwakes as well.  Awesome views and a really spectacular site.  I did a lecture on gannets and puffins pretty much straight after that, and then spent a little time on the bridge and managed to see a few real seabirds, with some Manx shearwaters and at least 5 European storm-petrels.  These are the first I’ve actually seen this contract, so nice to see a few (sorry Tony!).  We are now heading south towards Loch Ewe.

The Old Man of Hoy

Bow of the ship with the Old Man of Hoy

The Old Man and coast of Hoy

The Old Man

Shetland opposite Mousa in the early morning light

The broch on Mousa

Twite on a wire

Northern fulmar in flight

Northern gannet in flight near Noss

Gannets amongst the sandstone cliffs of Noss

Some nesting with the non-breeding 'club' birds on the platforms at Noss

Gannet honeycomb!

The cliffs at Point of Noss

Noss cliffs

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