Jan 7, 2010

The big freeze go on and on across the whole of the UK. In Orkney we have been getting things reasonably easy. The snows fell well before and have remained as the base covering ever since. From time to time there has been a minor fall to top up the surface but little of note has fallen since. Last night there was maybe an inch or more of powdery stuff to stick to walls and shrubs and top up the foot prints and dimples to leave soft pleasing pillowy look to the ground. Surprisingly there was a strong fog when I first awoke. This was soon dissipated by the bright sun rising in the clear blue skies of the morning.
With cabin fever in the air I thought I might chance a bit of a wander down to the loch to see what there was to be seen. With a poor choice of under layers it was best foot forwards. The vista form the bottom of the drive is an expanse white that is totally lacking in shades of green. The fields roll away to the frozen loch and the loch its self is swathed in a blanket of mist. Around the few houses here the small birds are noisy and vociferous as they move between feeding stations. The story is a little different looking out across the fields tho. The wet marshy ground and muddy pools are frozen solid, even the ubiquitous greylag geese are not to be seen and its not often that’s the case. It’s a fair bet if you went down there to any of the wee places that fresh water springs from you would find an untold amount of snipe. Its desperate times for snipe and they have been seen feeding on the salt thawed patches of the main road verges. A situation that often leads to collisions and death…yet another hazard of the season.
The road is a ribbon of sugar soft whiteness that gives slightly as the Brashers dig in for sure grip. I am only going a mile up the road and most of that downhill but it looks like most of that is to be walked in silence. Little is to be seen as I move along but finally movement close by catches the eye. It’s a brown hare, it bounds along stopping in a nice pose for long enough to get the scope off the shoulder set up and the camera switched on before it casually lopes off downhill and out of sight. This is the sort of frustration that hounds digiscopers. The setup no matter how practiced is so often not quick enough. Thinking about this as I write I think I should reduce the experience to initials and use it as an internet expression!!
This has taken me to the brow of the hill and standing beside the standing stone looking across the west mainland towards Stromness and Hoy the view in the bottom of the bowl is shrouded by a hazy mist. The islands of Lochside are a bit shrouded but scoping produces an area of open water with birds so its off down I go. The calls of a raven are echoing around and it soon appears from around a corner. As I walk into view the cries stop and I am regarded with suspicion, maybe because of the gun like protuberance I am carrying (it certainly makes a difference with the geese) I manage three quick photos before its away calling once more. The walk down to Lochside is almost totally bereft of birds, one Wren crossed my path and little more than twa Hoodies, gulls and geese were in the air.
The final approach to the area of Lochside heralds a complete change of ambiance. I have descended in to the misty air and its freezing. Visibility becomes suddenly grey and I have forgotten I am wearing sunshades(div) Moving in to an adjacent field I manage a view of the open water. There is a flock of Tufted duck along with Widgeon and a couple of Potchard. Around the edges there are a couple of Teal and some mallards. The vegetation holds masses of birds that I cant see but there are a good few geese heads being held up wondering what this newly appeared threat is. The light being no good for photos and not wanting to spook any thing I withdraw. Moving along the road I go to the picnic spot putting a Snipe up on the way. I pick my way through the heather to the waters edge. From here the open water is viewable and nicely held in one place is the elusive black swan of Harray loch. I know folks think its not a real wild bird but I reckon that it is debatable as this one has been here since year dot and is well settled with life partners. Even as I am setting up the scope the view was disappearing in the mist. I think I will start to call this mist fog as the thickening seemed to be growing at an expediential rate. I had a look about with the bins and took a couple of quick snaps. Looking up after a minute or so and the islands were disappearing. Time to go but first I must go for a walk out on the ice. Moving back down the shore I step out a few yards and have a good stamp, seems ok, a couple of good jumps and there is little to worry about its all frozen solid. It crosses my mind that I might be to if I didn’t get going so it was back retracing my steps. After gaining some little altitude and a bit of a view I could see the bank of fog stretching from Lochside over the land and Stenness loch towards Stromness. Next time I looked back further up the hill the islands where I stood were totally lost. It’s a strange phenomenon for us fog as its not something we get a lot of and I certainly wouldn’t have expected it in these conditions. The uphill rush had done me tho and I was sweating and it wasn’t being wicked away, I opened my coat only to start a wicked chill. Pressing on it was once more a fairly bird less return. But hell at least I had been out and it was all down hill to home.

No comments:

Post a Comment