Jan 14, 2009

It was a cold and fresh afternoon yesterday when I decided to have a wee spin about. Looking at the tide times I could see that the tide was falling over Stromness way so that seemed a place to have a look. Heading in that direction I stop to have a look around the brig of Waith This is a bridge spanning the entrance to the Loch of Stenness. The Stenness loch is one of the largest saline lagoons in Britan and holds a fantastic varietie of flora and fauna adapted for life in the brackish conditions. Every day the tide flows under this narrow stone built bridge. Channelled through the narrow gap the force of water builds up to a torrent that resembles a river in spate. Within the flow are concentrated the fish that come to feed and taking advantage of it are as always a host of opportunistic seals. They move effortlessly in the raging torrent always on the look out for a meal. They are a fascinating sight to watch that is if your not fishing for sea trout ,if you are they are little more than a royal pain in the arse!! On the sea ward side the channel widens out and in one part of the shore there is one our few areas of muddy flats. This is called the dead sands. Of course they are anything but dead!. Parking up it is all to obvious the tide has a lot more to fall before the skerries and favourite feeding places are revealed. On the sea ward side things are a little better. T he falling tide is more pronounced here. Unfortunately their is little to be seen bird wise. Along the ware strewn rocky shore small numbers of curlew are picking away in the bladder wrack. Their numbers are augmented by A few Redshank and Widgeon but little else. Taking advantage of the field still being in stubble all be it very muddy stubble I cross to the place where the Hydro wires cross the channel. This gives a view across to the Dead Sands. The falling tide has revealed the small flat expanse but unfortunately there is little to be seen. Redshanks forage al over the place but there is little sign of anything else. Usually there is a host of wading birds but I suppose I should be here on the rising rather than falling tide. Mallard and Widgeon are the most prolific of the sea ducks. Out on the water there are Red breasted Mergansers, Long tailed ducks, and all the usual Scarfies. A little disappointed I head back to the bike and the brig. Looking over to the Stenness side it’s a similar story. There are Tufted duck ,Widgeon, Long tailed ducks and a few Scarfies. Very disappointing. At this time of year I would expect to see a good few Snipe along the shore and maybe a few Scaup from the large flocks that hang out here. All is not lost though and I concentrate my photographic efforts on a pair of young seals that are basking in the 2deg warmth of the day. Its pleasing that they don’t take to the water but indulge me with a bit of portraiture. The light is failing now. Its about 2.45 and if I want to visit another sight then I must be off. I head for the beach at Warbeth. This is a beach at the back of Stromness. It’s a wild and exposed beach with the ferocious currents of the Hoy sound ripping past and the majestic hills of Hoy behind it providing an impressive backdrop. Here the tide is substantially lower but little sand is showing amongst the rocks. The shore line is waist deep in the thick stalks of Tangles. Although now a days it is left for the sea to return and wash away this kelp used to be keenly collected and provided islanders with some much needed seasonal income. The tangles were collected and dried for sale to the cosmetics and fertiliser industry. They were also used in products as diverse as ice cream to the production of iodine In an industry that spanned right around the Scottish coast. By now time has moved on and as it approaches 3 o’clock the light is really taking a dive. Looking over the the exposed beach the few far off patches of sand are hosting birds. A look through the scope reveals a good flock of Ringed Plover feeding alongside some Dunlin. Making my way across the tangles and the slippy rocks underneath it takes a few minutes to get in range enough to look for a photo opportunity. Slowly approaching the flocks rise up and circle to land not far from where they alighted. Whilst I am assessing my chances of approaching closer a rush of low flying birds arrive and settle not thirty yards from me. Their whistling calls and scaly feather patterns give them away as a flock of Purple Sandpipers. They are unbothered by my presence and get stuck in to their feeding routine moving constantly and probing the rocks for tasty and nutritious morsels. After a moment they are so close that it is hard to get them in the scope for long enough to get a snap with out them wandering out of the depth of field!! Most of the shots I take suck tho. I am looking towards the light and there is a very light background of sea and spume. My P5100 might be a fine camera but It dose not like these conditions and struggles to get a decent exposure on its auto setting. Turning through a hundred degrees to look down the beach is another story there are still Ringed plovers feeding along with a few Dunlin. These fall more readily to the camera in the failing light. Fun as it is my knees are wet and my hands frozen so i decide to head off home. This can be a fantastic beach with Godwits, little, Grey Plover having been seen recently. Today it’s a quiet place, not that I mind the real joy is just being out amongst it.

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