Friday, 28 March 2014

Day 1 of our Grand Tour of the Highlands

After a good ferry crossing last night we got on our way, the scenic way, to Inverness. The A93 and A939 on our way to Inverness along with a few side roads too that took our fancy.

I've got to say it was great to be back in a land of trees, forests and rivers and the beautiful day was very nice too.

Speeding along a tree lined road with the Dee showing through the deliberate blur of trees...



We thought we'd drop in for tea with Queenie at Balmoral, but she hadn't done her hair yet so we just had a look at some lovely bridges over the nearby Dee.

I don't know the name of this suspension bridge...





But I do know that this is Clare sporting Shetland's finest...



The road bridge at Crathie, just outside Balmoral...



A smile on my face despite the agony that had returned via my back after a night on the ferry...



The Bridge of Dava...



We'd come over the Lecht pass hoping to see some snow, but other than the odd spot it was all gone leaving the ski lifts and centre looking pretty grim. Still in the distance on the high Cairngorm plateu we could see plenty of snow still. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. I want to go up Cairngorm and around the northern corries next week so no snow would be a help, but some snow would be nice for photos. Anyway it may all be academic if my back doesn't sort itself out!

Finally we arrived in Inverness. A pretty lovely spot despite the road works and flood defense works going on. We're here for 1 night before we pick up our boat from Caley Cruisers tomorrow for a week on the Caledonian Canal from Inverness to Fort William and back. I've got my fishing gear so we catch us a Nessie!

The Creig Street Bridge...


The road bridge near our hotel...


And a few photos of Ness Walk at night. It's covered in pretty coloured lights and lit up trees. Lovely...




I'm not sure when I'll be able to update next, but update I will. Watch this space...

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Not so springy...

I've been laid up this week with a bad back that came on un-expectedly. No specific accident or incident; I just got a bit achy on Saturday afternoon and when I woke up on Sunday I literally couldn't move. So, I've been off work all week and feeling sorry for myself watching no end of films and trying to release my back with various exercises and poses. I can only put it down to the result of my running and running hills tightening up my posterior chain, but who knows. Thankfully it's not stopping me sleeping now and as today wore on I could move a bit more freely, but it's along way from right and still requiring plenty of time lying on the floor with my feet up.

Anyway, even though I'm not so springy, it is looking springy out there so here are a few almost in focus snaps from the (still waterlogged) garden.

Flowering currant...



Celandine...


Snowdrop going to seed...




Droopy daffodil...


We've had some crocus too, but the hens have pecked then and the mud has splattered them. Now I just need to get this back right, particularly as we're off south in a week for a fortnight's holiday in the highlands!


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Otters!

After a morning run and some jobs in town I went up to Vidlin to see my friend and go for stroll on the coast of Lunna Ness to see if we could see any otters.

A heron kept avoiding us as we wandered up-wind along the coast and the odd oyster catcher was annoyingly piping away. We passed a couple of holts with very fresh spraint outside, but had seen no other sign of otters so we sat for a while as the drizzle blew down the voe built.

There were still no signs so we headed back towards the start, the edgy heron hopped along the coast in front of us and just when we'd given up hope we spotted two otters!



They were busy exploring the rocks and weeds and didn't seem to notice us, despite my friend having a bright red jacket on!




We sat and watched them for a while and then decided to sneak along the coast in front of them to settle ourselves for their approach. It was a bad move. We lost sight of them and they obviously changed their course in our absence not to be seen again by us.

Still it was a nice wander on a gloomy afternoon with plenty to chat about and the sighting of a couple of otters which is always a joy.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Out and about of late...

Time for a bit of a catch up! I have been out and about when the weather has been fit lately, but it's been a challenge. Having said that the last two days have been great; pity it's spoilt itself for tonight's South Mainland Up Hella Aa though.

Here's a few photographs I took last week out on The Ness of Setter which is just south of Gulberwick. It was a very windy day and I just managed to get back to the car before the rain hit.

This is the view looking back to Gulberwick from the ness...



And looking out across Gulber Wick and Trebister Ness to Bressay in the distance...


Looking south from the end of the ness over Fea Geo towards Moo Stacks, not as impressive as the Eshaness stacks of the same name, but pretty non-the-less...


On another fine day I was down at Leebitten near Sandwick where there is a problem with coastal erosion leaving the path with a big hole in it, not that these were bothered. All they wanted to do was relax on the pier in the bit of sun there was...



Up on Yell this week I unexpectedly happened across a big dog otter, but never managed to get any photos of him as his slinked off down the cliffs into the sea. However I did see this Glaucous Gull at a distance...


Fulmar's were all paired up...


And there were plenty of groups of shags too looking very bonny in the sunlight...


Last weekend I even saw my first puffin of the year, though sadly it was dead at the road side on Burra. I did see my first guillemot of the year too happily paddling on the sea.

Bringing you up to date I was down at Maywick yesterday to check out some work we're getting done on an access route there. It heads north from Maywick up the cliffs and over a couple of deep valleys (one appropriately named Deepdale) and on towards the high point of the Clift Hills at Royal Field, if you wanted to go that far.

Here's a view looking down on the lovely beach at Maywick...


And looking up the valley of Deepdale; there are some lovely waterfalls here, but the valley sides are very steep so if you go there be careful...



Other than the wonderful dry afternoon the other treat of my walk was my first close sighting in a while of mountain hares, still with some white winter coat. They really didn't need their winter best this year!












I think they might rival otters for cuteness and they're no easier to get close to than otters either!

From this stretch of coast you get some great views north of South Havra and Burra too...



I have been a few other places in the line of duty, but nowhere of note, or in good enough weather to get my beloved camera out. Sadly with gales and rain returned it's not looking too promising for this weekend though Beren has another meeting of the Shetland RSPB Wildlife Explorers on Sunday at Voxter so I hope it atleast clears up a bit for then...

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Chilling at Cul Houb

After a first sail on the 1st of March I went for a lazy overnight camp at Cul Houb, a tidal pool, off Swining Voe near Vidlin. Here's me ready for the off...


A short walk over the peaty hills found me pitched up on the driest bit of ground I could find...


I was hoping to see otters here and I did find some very fresh spraint...


And soon I did see some otters, but I had the wrong lens on my camera to take photos of them! By the time I'd changed lenses was ready to take a photo they'd moved off somewhere else.

Still it was a beautiful day, if not bitterly cold in the wind. Here's the ayre that separates the houb from Swining Voe...


And the sheltered back of the Houb...


Wonderful...


The evening was very cold with a gusty wind, but it was nice to see the stars out...


Although the glow of Sullom Voe terminal is a real pain, there was still a very faint auroral glow on the horizon...




I got pretty cold in the night and I could hear blasts of wind heading down the voe to be followed by showers of rain, but the tent stood up to it without any problems.

Here's a short video of my lazy afternoon and evening...