Thursday, 23 August 2012

Bird Fair, Orkney and St Kilda

Well it has been a pretty busy time since getting back to the UK! We had a pretty successful Bird Fair over the weekend, with numbers of people attending seeming to be down on usual, but some good interest, and great to make contact with some other tour operators who would like to come to New Zealand. So some exciting things to look forward to with regards to our NZ tours. As usual a lot of good food and fun times with the rest of the kiwi operators and others, and great to catch up with a bunch of good friends and make some new ones.

Then after the Bird Fair it was on the train to Edinburgh where I got onto the MS Island Sky. We are doing a trip down the west coast, ending up in Portsmouth. Yesterday we stopped at Orkney, visiting the usual sites, and as we left did a pass by the Old Man of Hoy. The light was absolutely spectacular, with my previous visits having been with dark conditions or raining. Luckily a massive rain storm had just passed, and the sun shone with a massive rainbow right along the cliffs, just gorgeous. So got some nice shots.

Then today we landed on St Kilda, my 8th visit I think, managing to land everytime to date…luckily! The weather was a little on and off, but we managed to dodge most of the rain showers. I led a walk up to 'The Gap' where we had lovely views out over the stacks, and a few interesting flowers. Arctic and great skuas were about, and we had views of the wren, meadow pipits and wheatears. But the focus for me was a snowy owl which had been on the island most of the summer. I have always dreamt of seeing this bird, but missed them at other places where I've been. So it was a real trek up and over to the other side of the island, and scanning for about five minutes I thought this was going to be another wasted trip…but then I spotted a white blob right down in the bottom of the valley on a broken down stone cleat. Running down into the valley it was obvious this was the bird as we got closer, and managed to get reasonably close with some great views and a couple of record shots. Awesome - absolutely stoked! Lifer!

Gary Melville and Lynette Buurman (Albatross Encounter) and Sav at the Bird Fair

The lightouse on Bass Rock backlit with hundreds of gannets in flight

Northern gannets flying over the Bass Rock colony

The lightouse again with gannets

Northern gannet flying over the ship towards the Bass

Cathedral against a stormy sky at Stromness, Orkney

The cliffs of Hoy, with the 'Old Man of Hoy' in the distance

The cliffs of Hoy with a stunning rainbow over them

Double rainbow…what does it mean??!!

Gold at the end of the rainbow perhaps

The rainbow coming up out of the cliffs of Hoy

The Old Man of Hoy in stunning light

The Old Man, imagine climbing that

Again' '
Again' '
The Old Man, with full frontal light

Village Bay on St Kilda with the ship anchored

Snowy owl! What a beauty!

In flight

In flight with Soay sheep in the background

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Leaving again…seems like only yesterday I got home!

So has been strangely quiet on here since I got home just over three weeks ago. Life has been its usual hectic self, with quite some time spent sorting out things for our planned house build. It's hard to believe we are getting very close to actually starting, and looking forward to the foundations being poured and the real work beginning. Pretty exciting!

Also spent a fair bit of time backing up images from the last trips to the UK and Svalbard, starting to sort those, and also setting up a new laptop…finally gone completely Mac and boy is it nice (except for a minor meltdown whereby I had to completely reinstall the operating system four days into using it!).

So now it is back to the UK where I will be heading straight up to the Bird Fair to attend that with Sav, where we will both be promoting Wrybill Birding Tours, NZ - mainly our 21-day New Zealand wide tour. Should be an excellent event as it always is, with this being the fourth year I have attended.

Then it is on to Leith, Edinburgh where I will join the MV Island Sky for a cruise down through Scotland to Portsmouth, before heading to Spain for a week or so, and then to Istanbul to join the MV Clipper Odyssey for a trip with Zegrahm Expeditions around the Black Sea. I've not been to Spain, Turkey, or the Black Sea, so this should be fun! Home end of September, but in the meantime watch this space!

A male polar bear I spent over an hour with from a zodiac whilst up in North-East Svalbard looks out towards me whilst sniffing the air.