Tuesday 29 April 2014

A rosy evening

What is it 'they' say about best laid plans...?

During a walk the previous day, we had noticed many Hares gathered in the fields beside the Cornquoy Road. As they boxed and chased, one particular group of five were more concerned about each other, rather than two interested bipedal observers. The setting sun lit the scene rather nicely and I reprimanded myself for not having the presence of mind to bring a camera. So a plan was hatched to return the following evening, when the weather was forecast to be dry and bright, if a little breezier, and the first item on the packing list would be the camera.

The forecast did indeed prove correct, so after Our Lass returned from work and we'd eaten a simple meal, we drove down to St Nicholas' Kirk and parked alongside the cemetery wall. A pool in the fields by the church held several Redshank and Snipe, as well as a pair of Shelduck. The tide was out in Howes Wick, so the sea ducks, divers and waders were well beyond reasonable binocular range.

Mr and Mrs Shelduck
As we walked along the single track road to Cornquoy, it was obvious that, although there was plenty of bird life around, of Hares there were precious few. This was obviously a bit of a disappointment, but that's nature watching for you, where wild equals unpredictable.

Rather than miss out on a grand evening in the fresh air, on a whim, we turned up the lane towards Upper Cornquoy. After about 500 yards, we discovered a sign for a footpath, heading towards the coast, so we pottered along that to another sign that offered clifftop walking to Stembister to the east and Rose Ness to the west.

No further invitation necessary, Our Lass was off, exploring the path overlooking the Bay of Semolie. 

Bay of Semolie
View back to Upper Cornquoy and Warthill beyond

A sentinel stands guard
Life anew beyond the wire
Then we carefully passed the Hole of the Ness, which I guess is a large blowhole at the end of an unseen sea cave. Though we didn't approach close enough to see the bottom (it was wisely fenced off), we could hear the sea as the waves hit the back of the cave. The near horizon beckoned us with two intriguing structures, but first we passed a mound, the North Cairn, which looked more like a Neolithic burial site than a 20th Century wartime fixture. There's no mention on the OS Explorer map of any other cairn, so perhaps the sea has claimed it. 

I was trying to photograph this Shag, and although the results were poor, I was happy with the Starling because the base of his bill is blue. It's a boy!
Beckoning beacons
As the path crossed some rough ground towards the beacons, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks were visiting some of the ephemeral pools that line the cliff top. Overhead, a 'drumming' Snipe laced the evening air with the unmistakeable sound of its courtship display.

The tail feathers responsible for the sound can just about be seen in the above photo.
The first beacon we came to was built in 1867 to mark the entrance to Holm Sound.

Beyond that was a more recent lighthouse, constructed in 1905 and now fully automatic, its light flashing white once every six seconds.

Light of My Life shown for scale
We continued around the Ness, dropping down to sea level at the Bay of Cornquoy. Fortunately, the tide was still well out, as it was necessary to use the top of the beach as the path to gain access to the track that leads back to Cornquoy Road.

We weren't the only visitors to the beach enjoying the evening. As we returned to the car, a few Grey Seals were lolling about in the shallows, making the most of the last rays of the sun.

Well, my Hare-aimed scheme may have come to naught, but it was a serendipitous end to a fine day.


Martin said...

Pretty, pretty, pretty. The next comment will be hair-brained...
A good wetsuit, mask and snorkel, or alternatively a kayak of some form would enable you to explore the outer edges and caves of these attractive bits of coastline, but maybe that is too active and adventurous for the present time. Unfortunately water and wrong lens are not especially compatible (and the water is cold!).

Imperfect and Tense said...

I've not joined 'Snorkel Orkney', the local diving group on Facebook:


But their photos are amazing!

Imperfect and Tense said...

I've not joined 'Snorkel Orkney', the local diving group on Facebook:


But their photos are amazing!

Unknown said...

This sounds like a perfect evening! I especially love the photo of the fenced off plants. And the sky is magnificent!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Many thanks. I struggle to 'see' potential photographs and am continually amazed by others' expertly-framed shots. The small clump of Thrift was clinging to the cliff top, just where the fencing ended. I was using a fairly large prime lens (for distant Hares), so it wasn't the ideal subject, being too close. However, the local geography and the low sun meant that I could back off along the cliff edge, without my shadow falling on the plant. There was something about the precarious position of the Thrift and the end of the man-made fencing that just said "Picture!", so maybe there's hope for me yet :o)

Katie (Nature ID) said...

This caught my attention, "after Our Lass returned from work and we'd eaten a simple meal" Who cooked dinner, Graeme? Another thing I notice is there isn't a whole lot of trees there, huh, except for that garden turned preserve/reserve? The lighting is gorgeous.

Imperfect and Tense said...

LOL, Katie! Yep, I've been the dutiful househusband for some months now. 'Simple' was a polite way of saying 'quick', as we were keen to be out enjoying the evening. So a shop-bought quiche and a tin of beans. I have had more leisurely success with bolognese sauce mixtures eked out over a three or four days (and augmented with something different each evening). Trees are a bit of a luxury in these parts, though there are a few sheltered valleys that hold small woods. Gardens with walls provide enough shelter to allow shrubs and trees to attain some height, before the wind or salt puts paid to their gravity defying plans. Oh yeah, the light IS gorgeous and ever-changing. I do not think that I had fully appreciated just how fantastic it is, despite all those holidays. I guess they were all pretty much the same time of year, so there was no thought of seasonal changes. The light has been the unexpected bonus of moving here, it's something that is taken for granted but actually allows an appreciation of the whole landscape and everything within it.