Jan 17, 2010

Oot west

I managed to get out for a couple of hours to day so I thought the west coast would be the place to try. Even though the wind was coming around to the south west it would be onshoreish and provide lift for today’s quarry. It may sound like a bird to far but over this last few months there have been recurring reports of Gyrfalcon being posted on orkbird. Another fresh one was all I needed to shoot out west for a look. With Yesnaby as my destination I take the Voy rd around the north end off the Stenness loch. This is usually a good area to find all manner of waders and wild fowl yet to day it is still a frozen sheet of ice. The temperature dives as I start to run parallel with the icy shore. With only a few Curlews here and there and the usual flocks of grazing geese there not much bird life to see.
Arriving at the Yesnaby camp parking there are several cars. A scan south down the coast reveals several pairs of walkers spaced well out and more just setting off. It seems to be quite a popular walk year round now. The coastal path will take you to the Black crag and eventually into Stromness. Coming from the clear air of the central mainland I am caught off guard by the misty salt laden air that’s been thrown up and over the cliff line….lovely. Setting off I crash on past the geo and the millstone quarry and make my first stop at the rock bridge. After walking through the backwards running waterfall I stop to take a couple of photos before pushing on to the castle. Blackbacks and Herring gulls are well out numbered by Fulmars today. Its great to see so many back about the cliffs. There’s a Raven sitting on top of the castle but it’s the Fulmars that have totally taken my attention in the south end of this little bay where the basalt dyke plunges through the strata of sedimentary rocks the first of the fulmar pairs are readopting their favourite roosting, breeding ledges once again. The air here is a whirling vortex of fulmars spinning endlessly in stiff winged flight….excellent.
I head up the heather hill before me to eventually gain a view down the coast. By the time I had made it to the top one of my knees was feeling a bit springy above the knee, this and the amount of walkers before me put me right off going any further in pursuit of the Gyr. Moving further down the slope I came across three Snow buntings feeding on the heather. As I approached they would move on maintaining a gap of about fifty yards. At last I had some thing to unwrap the scope for. This of course seemed to take forever, all the time you are watching the birds with one eye whilst getting set up. With the camera on and set up I find the birds with the scope. They are feeding in the dips in the heather and are only in view for seconds before diving back in to cover. I move up hill a bit. Things are on my side. I have the hill behind me ,i am quarter hidden by the ground in front and I have a good wind in my face. I chance a couple more shots before the three of them pick up and move off leaving with their trill chatter ringing in the wind.
I head down to the cliff edge before heading back. Here I find a nice wee shelter made of rocks so stop for a well earned coffee. Two flights of shitehawks come over the shelter at ground level one after another. Spinning around there is nothing visible chasing them. A few more snaps of waves and the like and its time to head back. This time I stick with the cliff path which gives good views of the waves breaking against the foot of the castle rock stack. Another rest stop at the kissing gate to admire the Ariel antics of the Fulmars and it’s a solid bash back to the parking and another coffee before off for home.

There to be no elusive Gyr for me but that’s certainly not to say its not out there and I for one hope it is. Birds have a way of dropping off the map. There were the Snowy owl(s) last year, at least one was kicking about for ages appearing now and again, not to mention the Rough legged buzzard. It gets seen regularly all over and I have yet to definitely see it either!! Still its not been a waste, I have studied up on Gyrfalcon and been out for a few miles of sea fresh air….it must have done me some good!!

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