Sunday 4 December 2016

To be shore, to be shore, to be shore

Over the course of this weekend, I have visited the coast near home on three separate occasions. The first two were walks with Our Lass, as part of her ongoing convalescence from knee surgery, the circular trip featuring a good mix of ascent and descent in its two and a bit miles. The final visit was me on my own, with just a camera for company.

Have a guess when I saw all the good stuff?

Saturday saw us postpone lunchtime until we'd walked down to St Nicholas' Kirk, by the shore of Holm Sound. It was a better day than forecast, with much more sunshine than expected. Not particularly warm, mind, but with only the gentlest of breezes. As we neared the kirk, flocks of birds were taking to the skies from the shoreline, a sure sign that something had spooked them. Sorting through the gulls, waders and ducks, we eventually spotted the culprit, a Peregrine falcon, which made several passes along the beach in an attempt to grab a meal.

As we began the climb back towards home, some pools in an adjacent field contained a couple of dozen Teal, the males looking especially resplendent in the low Winter sunlight. Turning our gaze back to the road, we just had time to see... something... disappear into the grass verge. It was probably a Moorhen, but in the brief view available, my instinct said Water Rail. I've not heard the call of one of these elusive birds in Orkney, never mind seen one, but this occasion would have to be chalked up to 'Unknown'.

Hardly had we recovered from that when, in the field on the opposite side of the road, we spotted a stoat running hell for leather towards cover. It disappeared into the verge for a while, before reappearing on the road and then scampered up the hill in front of us. This was the closest sighting to date to Tense Towers. When we eventually lost sight of it, it was headed for the wet pasture where, in a few months time, waders will be breeding. Not a happy thought. Further up the hill, a small flock of Golden Plover were sat in a meadow. As with the Teal, the light made their plumage positively glow. Absolutely gorgeous!

Today (Sunday), we repeated the walk, though a little earlier in the morning. Again, as we approached the kirk, we were rewarded with the sight of a cracking bird, a male Pintail, preening on the rocks just offshore. A little further along the road, I stopped to listen to a pleasantly calming sound, the rhythmic clacking of stones and pebbles, as a flock of waders prospected for tasty morsels on the beach below. They don't call them Turnstones for nothing!

By the time we returned home, the skies had clouded over, but after lunch things brightened up once more. Needing no further inducement, I grabbed my camera and headed back kirkwards. The tide was in, the light was better than ever, but there was no sign of the roll call of birds from the previous two visits. Gah!

Not to worry, there were still signs of life to be enjoyed...

Bath time for the Starlings

A pair of Stonechats

A wee Wren


Spadger said...

I was enjoying your lovely walks until the the 'S' word! Phaa! Jeez I hope this gets sorted out soon. very worrying.

ps: I couldn't think of an alternative grammatical equivalent to photobombed! Blogbombed?

Spadger said...

Oh and another thing! It had never occurred to me what wrens might be doing when they have their tail cocked in the air?!