Our Lass was full of cold at the weekend, an 'I should've had a holiday a fortnight ago, then I may have been less stressed and not caught this flipping bug' one. It meant that we had to cry off a planned trip to Hoy to go and watch Mountain Hares whilst they were still in their white Winter coats. Not to worry... next year.
However, undaunted, Our Lass still wanted some fresh air, so I had to come up with a plan for some easily-accessible scenery which wasn't too taxing for an ailing body. I opted for the Bay of Semilie and a gentle saunter along the clifftops, which meant a short two mile car journey, although happily we managed to score a pair of Shovelers en route.
Once stood on the low clifftops, taking in the sights and sounds of an unseasonably mild February morning, it did lift our spirits. Fulmars were whizzing by at head height, Oystercatchers and Curlews were rock-pooling in the bay, and three Starlings were sat on a nearby stone wall, busily doing cover versions of just about every other bird call from the Orkney play list.
We ambled eastwards, making for a low vantage point where we could scan the higher cliffs for seabird activity. On the way, we set several Rabbits and Brown Hares running, and watched a steady stream of corvids flying to and fro along the ridge inland from the path. I hadn't quite figured out what they were, until we began to hear a regular 'chack, chack' call which identified them as Jackdaws.
When we reached the spot where we could see the larger cliffs, it was obvious that, so far, only the Fulmars had moved in for the breeding season, no auks of any description yet.
Suddenly, a cloud of Jackdaws took to the air from the next unseen inlet, all chacking like the blazes. Looking for the one shape that wasn't a Jackdaw brought a Peregrine into view, which wheeled away after an unsuccessful raid, circling higher above the cliffs and then returning in a lazy arc. It began a controlled descent with the intention of landing on a rock near the top of a cliff, but what it didn't know was that there was an unsighted Raven perched just below this spot. In the moment when the falcon was flapping its wings to a stall and with its legs fully extended, the Raven decided upon the big reveal, which brought about some embarrassment for the Peregrine and an ignominious retreat to a piece of air far away that didn't include a huge and angry corvid.
We will try to check this area more frequently this year. It isn't the biggest seabird colony in Orkney, but it is the closest to Tense Towers.
Later in the day, I was busy washing vehicles, when Our Lass announced that there was a Navy ship in Scapa Flow. This turned out to be F83, HMS St Albans, a type 23 frigate. She spent the afternoon and evening in the area, possibly whilst the crew were looking for her sails?
Monday morning brought a pleasant if short-lived surprise in the form of some lenticular clouds over West Mainland. They didn't manage to attain the pile of plates/UFO look, or catch the light in a particularly photogenic way, but it made a change from cotton wool and fluffy sheep.