Monday, 13 July 2009

Meanwhile, Back in the Valley



Willow Warbler

Looking down to Alwinton

Meanwhile back in Coquetdale it was time to have another tour to see what was where. I hadn’t spent much time with one of my favourites of the valley, the whinchat, so that and wheatear would be my targets for a morning, as well as checking out the willow warbler’s nest, conveniently sited by the side of a newly opened cafe at Barrow Burn, this was nothing if not civilized wildlife photography. Whinchat I know wouldn’t be a problem, for this is the best place in England for the species, a walk down any stretch of the valley road will reveal their presence, contentedly singing it seems from every frond of new fern. Wheatear had been a little more difficult this year, although there were plenty males with juveniles in tow about, unfortunately they were flitting about all over the place on their feeding rampage. Although this was great to watch it made it difficult to photograph these terrific birds, as for the lack of females, well I figured they were back on the nest with second broods.
All in all it tuned out to be not a bad mornings work with successful shots of all three birds, although I doubt I will ever emulate my image of a whinchat of a couple of years back when one regularly perched on a foxglove for me, and so close we could have been on speaking terms. But then I did get a bonus shot, that of a linnet feeding in the ferns, it was very skittish, but settled briefly giving me enough time to get my image.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Sula Bassana

Another beautiful day with wall to wall sunshine saw Margaret and I heading for Scotland once again, our destination was North Berwick in Lothian, a place we have visited many times in the past. Every time I have been there previously it had been my intention to take a boat trip out to Bass Rock, but although I have had many a blue sky days in the resort the wind had been blowing briskly from the west making the short voyage in a small open boat a hazardous undertaking. So I journeyed there in hope rather than expectation, but this time my luck was in, the sea was like a mill-pond and not enough wind to blow a feather.
The reason for visiting the Rock is that it is populated by 80,000 pairs of Gannet during the breading season. Bass Rock is the closest sea bird sanctuary to the mainland and was the first to be studied by ornithologists during the 19th century, when they gave the Gannet the scientific name Sula Bassana, incorporating the name of this rocky stack. This colony is the largest on the east coast of Britain and holds approximately 10% of the world population of North Atlantic Gannets.
After a leisurely coffee at the Seabird Centre, an outdoor cafe built on a rock outcrop leading to the North Sea I set off for the “Rock” with the services of Sula 11 Seabird Boat Trips. The one and a half hour trip was magical and passed much to quickly, look up, look down, to either side, it was all action packed as the gannets performed an aerial ballet fit for a West End theatre production. I spent most of my time mesmerised by the spectacle that surrounded me instead of photographing it, but it will remain in the memory bank, until alzheimer's takes hold.