I enjoy watching oystercatchers – even though they are extremely noisy creatures! But never before have I seen one with a fondness for standing on one leg.
The landscape of the Islands is rugged and very varied. It includes high cliffs, caves, sandy beaches, rolling moorland, heath and peat bogs. Strong winter winds result in there being very few trees. The varied terrain is home to thousands of seabirds – whimbrel, skuas, puffins, gannets etc. Seals, otters and whales frequent the waters immediately around the Islands.
The severity of the winter winds is reflected in the structure and location of the homes of the people. The small croft or farmstead, often painted white, is a small single storey cottage, usually built from stone and located in the shelter of a hillside, as in the picture below. Small pockets of population are scattered throughout the Islands in places least exposed to the elements.
The prosperity of the Islands diminished considerably over the centuries and in the years after World War II was at a very low ebb, but the establishment of the Highlands and Islands Development Board in 1965 and the presence of North Sea oil nearby has led to a period of growth and prosperity.
Even so, the strong community spirit and the importance attached to cultural skills and traditions is still evident in the many festivals and group activities.
Recently my wife and I spent a few days holidaying in South Devon. By sheer good fortune we were delighted to discover that our hotel room looked out across the estuary of the River Teign – a location that attracts a wide range of wading birds. It was a photographer’s paradise. The down side was that most of the bird activity took place in the centre of the estuary at a distance of not less than 150 yards from my vantage point and I was equipped only with a Panasonic compact. In addition, at low tide the sea receded completely leaving a glossy morass of mud. The reflected light played havoc with the metering of the camera, often producing results resembling an ice rink or winter landscape. Despite these difficulties (resulting in poor quality images) it was clearly a ‘must take’ situation.
Because of their panoramic nature it will be helpful to click some of the pictures for greater detail.
I am always intrigued by the way birds (especially gulls) turn to face the sun as it begins to set. I can’t identify the smaller birds in the foreground – are they sandpipers, or maybe turnstones?