Here in Orkney, there has been one gale after another of late, such that many folk were feeling the onset of cabin fever, or at least in need of some respite from the horizontal weather. This morning was much calmer, with plenty of blue sky and a generous helping of golden sunlight.
As we ate breakfast and gazed out of the lounge window, we spotted a solitary sparrow-sized bird perched on a wire fence. As it was on its own, we surmised it probably wasn't one of the local House Sparrow flock, and so it proved. Recourse to binoculars revealed a male Chaffinch (can't remember the last time we had one of those in the garden), who was very interested in the habitat created by the local community allotment.
It was chilly, certainly cold enough for a bit of frost, so we wrapped up well and, by heck, it was great to be outside, simply for the sheer joy of it. We wandered down to the shore, passing a field that contained a big flock of Golden Plover and a few Lapwing. After all the recent rain and hail, there was still quite a lot of standing water, especially in the pastures near the old kirk.
Around one of the temporary pools we counted thirteen Moorhen, all intent on searching for their own tasty morsels, but keeping an eye on each other in case someone else struck gold.
As it was nearing high tide, the birds on the shoreline were quite close to us, giving good views of Snipe, Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. A flyover by a large helicopter heading out to the North Sea put up into the air all manner of birds: geese, waders and ducks, the latter including a small flock of Red-breasted Merganser.
Turning down a track, we followed this for a while, in the company of a pair of Stonechat, who flitted in front of us, between fence and ground, for a good few hundred yards.
On the return journey, the sun was at our backs, so the views were much improved.
Above is a photo of Castle Howe (left), the site of a possible Iron Age broch, with the old kirk further around the bay (on the right). The hills of Hoy, across Scapa Flow, can be seen in the distance.
And here's a closer view of the bay and kirk. Did I mention that it was great to be out in the fresh air?
The rest of the day was filled with gardening (Our Lass), washing the van (Me) and sorting out the recycling (also me), before the lowering sun brought a chill to the air once more and we retreated back indoors for a welcome mug of hot chocolate.