Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Arctic terns...

You know when summer's arrived when the arctic terns are back and doing their graceful thing. And summer has definitely been back the last few days it's been gorgeous out there!

I love watching the terns and luckily down where Märta is moored in Voe they are nesting on the breakwater...






But today I was lucky up on Fetlar to see a little courtship feeding going on on The Loch of Funzie...





And all together now...


Sadly I wasn't lucky enough to see the red-necked phalarope at Funzie but I did find a pony skull nearby that is currently getting cleaned up a bit for Beren's bone collection...


Another bird I love watching soaring around the cliffs is the year round fulmars, wonderful quirky birds...


Well tomorrow it's off to Fair Isle for a few days, a couple of which will be work, but it'll be a very nice place to work!

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Around and about Vementry aboard Märta II

My friend Martin and I went out for a short trip on Märta this weekend. We set off from her new birth in Voe and headed out to Vementry. 


It was a real treat to see the terns fishing and pairing up on the breakwater there. I also heard my first cuckoo since coming to Shetland.





Here's a video with some snippets of our trip. No great wildlife to be seen, but plenty of fantastic scenery...


Leaving Voe behind on our first trip from this marina...


Bridled Guillemots...


We saw quite a few puffins on the water but they have a habit of diving just before I get close enough for a photo...


We also saw plenty of the regular sea birds and seals, but no cetaceans or otters this time.

It was a stunning day with not a puff of wind as we motored along Muckle Roe...


Muckle Ayre is a lovely beach at the end of the Muckle Roe road...


Muckle Roe lighthouse in the distance...


Looking across from Muckle Roe to Vementry...


Mexican sausage butties on what would be our home for the night...


There's surely no better place to be on a day like this!


After our late lunch we went for a walk to the old WW1 gun emplacements on Swarbacks Head. They are very impressive just like the views.

Looking to Sandness Hill and Papa Stour in the distance...



Looking over to Muckle Roe and up to North Mavine...


An old observation post...


On our way back to the boat we passed these remains of a chambered cairn. There's not much left to see, but there is the remnants of the chamber clearly visible...


While we were out on our walk the wind was building and after speaking to some other boat owners who paid a brief visit to the jetty we headed back out to sea for a sail around the island.

Heading back out towards Muckle Roe, this time under sail...


The winds were very light but after a couple of tacks to get out west of the islands we were able to follow the coast south for some way before winding our way back up through Cribba Sound and the narrows at Vementry that separates Cribba from Uyea Sound. As the evening drew to a close we were back on the jetty for the night with the promise of a better wind for our sail home in the morning.

While Martin fiddled with the boat I headed up the steep hill above us to a big heel shaped chambered cairn on the top of Muckle Ward. The view down to the boat was fantastic, you wouldn't think it was 10pm!

Our boat on the jetty in Northra Voe with Papa Stour in the distance...


Wonderful...


I'd had aurora alerts all day and the sun was setting, but this close to the simmer dim I'd be unlikely to see any northern lights as it doesn't get that dark. As you can see the clouds were also in the way of the sunset, but it was still a fantastic evening to be up on top of a hill with no one else around.

Looking over the chambered cairn back towards Brae...


Looking over Swarbacks Head with Roans Hill in the distance...


And that was the weekend that was. I'm keeping everything crossed for the end of this week when I'll be spending a couple of nights on Fair Isle at the bird observatory, should be great...

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Voe Royal Observer Corps Post

After reading a crime thriller that had a Royal Observer Corps Post from the cold war in the plot I decided to do a web search to see what there was in Shetland. I've seen one's else where but they've always been totally stripped and full of all sorts of foul stuff. Any way there are or were four in Shetland; the one's in Sumburgh, Walls and Voe showed some promise, or atleast they did back in 2004 so I opted for the Voe post.


It's called Voe, but it's nearer Mossbank on the edge of Dales Voe and was opened in 1961 and closed in1991. You are supposed to need a scottish t-bar key to get in but I found that raking the lock with a large flat head screw driver popped the lock to allow entrance into the bowels of the earth...


I went down first followed close behind by Beren...


At the bottom of the 20ft ladders is a sump tank, it was dry, but on the wall is a hand pump for if it needed pumping out...


There are only two rooms, straight opposite the ladder base is the smallest room. It was a bit odd seeing two pairs of wellies there, was there still some one in here!


It can't have been much fun emptying that bucket on a regular basis, I guess that's what the hemp rope was for, hauling the bucket up for emptying.

The other room is the main room. Not very big and lined with polystyrene sheeting, presumably for insulation as it's basically a concrete box where 3 observers would live and work. Oddly there are a number of vents and links through to the outside. I thought they'd need to be sealed from the outside environment to avoid radiation and other contamination, but I guess they still need to breathe!



The observers would be in there to carry out tasks monitoring what went on in the event of a 3rd world war and levels of radiation. I don't know what this board was, but surely they didn't communicate by some top secret esoteric means!


This shelter will destruct in 10, 9, 8... I'm sure the timer is really for something much more prosaic...


 From the ground level there is a great panorama. Something that would have obviously been useful in the original observation posts pre-1961. The post is on the right with Lunna Ness on the left...


Looking over Fora Ness to Lunna Ness...


And south-west up Dales Voe along Gardaness Hill...


So sometime we'll have to get to nose in the one at Walls and Sumburgh to see if there's anything more of interest and just to say we've been there! It is interesting find odd places to explore.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A quick trip to Bressay

I've been off today to care for a pox infected Beren. Luckily it looks like they're clearing up now and he's not been too itchy. With any luck he'll be back at school before the end of the week.

It's been a mixed day so we decided to get a few jobs done and then go over to my friends' croft on Bressay with a dog cage for them and to see their new lambs and other beasts.

I'd never been to the Bressay Heritage Centre before so first stop off the ferry was there...


One of the main reasons I wanted to go was to see the rescued and re-constructed burnt mound. Burnt mounds are places with stone 'tanks' that are presumed to have been filled with water and then had hot stones added to heat the water for purposes such as cooking or curing hide and then the stones were discarded around the area creating the  mound once they were too shattered to use.


This mound was nearby and in danger of being lost to the sea until the Bressay History group re-sited it in it's present location. Unusually there were still lots of the internal structures of the mound preserved all to see...

This whale head and vertebrae are just next tot the entrance along with a kettle used to process cutch for ropes and sails.


Inside is a mock up of a room from the war days along with many artifacts of WWII and life at that time...





Including a display on weddings in that era...


And a great old stove...


Sadly it wasn't really the place to look round with a 5 year old suffering with cabin fever, so after a quick nose about it was off to our friends for a chat and a cuppa.

After our visit we headed out to Kirkabister Lighthouse. A place I usually visit when I'm on Bressay as you can get down under the arch that's below the lighthouse and take in the view.

The rocks down there show some lovely honey comb weathering in parts and this fulmar had picked fantastic place to nest in it's own sculpted gallery...


Around the other side a shag was nesting in a less glamorous location and it wasn't happy to have visitors!


We didn't stay long so as not to disturb it un-necessarily...


Back round on the seaward side of the cliffs we thought we might spy some seals. We didn't but we did spy my friend on his way back into Lerwick on his morning run of the Seabirds and Seals trip on the Dunter III


We were just about to go down to the old lighthouse harbour where there are often seals when Beren preceded to have a coughing fit and spent a few minutes alternatively coughing and vomiting.  Once that was over neither of us were wanting to do anything other than return for the next ferry. Though Beren still wanted to get fish and chips for dinner!