Monday 13 July 2020

Head, white and blue

With the predicted further lessening of lockdown restrictions and the likely resumption of tourism, Eagle-eyed M of Wild Orkney Walks was keen to recce some walks to check for any changes which would need to be made to risk assessments. I was invited along as a socially-distanced minimal rent-a-crowd, an extra pair of eyes and cover against lone working. The weather was better than forecast, as we ambled towards Mull Head from the Gloup car park.

M quickly found some Scots Lovage, a plant I had not so far seen this year. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the little purple anthers in the close-up photo, as well as several insects which I didn't realise were there.

There were plenty of Common Blue butterflies about, but they were mostly rather flighty. I had to take my time to get into position for the below pic. Slow and low was the way to go. 

As we ventured further north and the clifftop vegetation turned from grassy slopes to heath and moor, there were some lovely views out to sea, across swathes of Bog Cotton.

At a narrow geo, our gazes were drawn towards a dark silhouette at the seaward end of the ravine. A lone sentinel at the gate in the form of a Shag.

As we neared the Head, a pair of Arctic Skuas were hunting just off shore, monitoring the returning auks bringing food back for their chicks. Although it was a tough ask for my little point and shoot, I did manage an image of the pale phased bird of the pair.

On the cliff ledges, it was difficult to spot the Guillemot chicks, as the adult birds were protecting their offspring from marauding gulls by shielding them with their bodies. In the below photo, there is a young Guillemot in the centre of the image.

M isn't just eagle-eyed, she has good hearing too, and she picked up the call of Red-throated Diver as it flew in off the sea. Again, it was asking a lot of my camera!

At a small cove, we stopped to listen to the echoing calls of Black Guillemots. The birds were hidden from our view, but their piping notes bounced around the rock walls and to our ears. In the sheltered waters of the cove, we could see some large jellyfish, possibly Lion's Mane?

As we retraced our steps, we found a female Common Blue butterfly perched on a grass head in the centre of the path. 

We both took several photos of her before moving on, and as we did so, she suddenly fell off the seed head and plummeted into the undergrowth. I assumed that this was a belated reaction to our presence, as a perceived predator threat. Down between the grass blades, the butterfly remained motionless, so the only other reason I could think of for her behaviour, laying eggs, seemed a remote possibility, especially as there didn't appear to be any Bird's-foot Trefoil present.

I took another photo then, for some reason, I offered my hand to the butterfly. She stepped straight onto it and did a pirouette to orientate her wings to where the sun would be through the clouds. Maybe the warmth of my hands was a bigger draw than the fear of human predation? It was a lovely wildlife moment. Happy sigh.

As we returned to the car park, another small cove held a few Razorbills and a single Guillemot. This one was the bridled form which looks like it is wearing spectacles. Beside it was an unhatched egg, presumably rather late in the season for it to hatch now.

Before the walk's end, there was just time for one more, ever-so-slightly gratuitous Bog Cotton photo.


Martin said...

Orange jelly - definitely Lion's Mane. There is a probable common or moon jelly in the top right corner too

Imperfect and Tense said...

There seems to be more reports of LM here this year. Maybe just an increase in observers with time on their hands due to lockdown?