Saturday, 21 September 2013

Northumbrian panorama - Holy Island

ONE week this summer we made a tour of the north to go to a wedding, enjoy the countryside and see family.  This included a visit to Newcastle and so we took the opportunity to go to Hadrian's Wall and the outstanding Northumbrian Coast.  We were able to drive over to Holy Island, beating the tide, and also to see a number of the picturesque ruined castles (there are six along this length of coast).  Here are a few images of the trip:

Amazing coastal scenery

Male eider duck in eclipse plumage

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Wonderful Skye - landscape images (Part II)

Wonderful Skye - sharks, whales, eagles, otters and landscape (Part I)

WE'VE just come back from a wonderful week on the Isle of Skye.  There were many highlights and breath taking moments...the variety and accessibility of the charismatic wildlife is outstanding and the landscape is truly stunning.

Neist Point lighthouse at sunset

Skye from the Ferry crossing looking back to Kylerhea
Common seal

We went for a number of walks to see specific beauty spots or sometimes to chase down those special species.  One walk was a circuit of the Greshornish peninsula NW of Edinbane running into the Loch Snizort (great name!) on the SE foot of the Waternish Peninsula.  We only met one couple all day.  I was hoping to see an otter and only found a possible spraint, but whilst eating lunch we had an even better wildlife spot.  I thought that the fin out at sea belonged to a dolphin, but the animal did seem rather large.  When I returned back to our holiday cottage and looked on the web I realised that what we had watched and photographed was a Minke whale - how exciting is that.  We did hear it blowing which was a bit of a whaley thing to do but the position and shape of the fin was the give away.

Pipit sp.
Minke whale

Ferry going into Uig

The end of the peninsula was very secluded and scenic with great views of the island to the north (see above).  A delightful and trusting male wheatear (with female) was bobbing around in the sunshine.


Jelly fish - a common sight in the sea
Lungwort on the trees - a lichen indicating clean air
Dunvegan peninsula looking west

MacLeod's tables

View from Upper Edinbane looking west from our front window

Neist Point is a great place to see cetaceans.  There were reports of 40 basking sharks on the day before we went, so I was very excited at the prospect of seeing this species for the first time - I was not disappointed.  Although the conditions were not great a number of individuals came up very close to the shore - I could hardly contain myself!!!

Basking shark

The gannets were a good give away of shoals of fish, and shoals of fish often mean dolphins and whales.  Sure enough we did see another probable Minke whale.

Gannet having dived about to take off

At the capital town of Portree boats take you out to see sea-life. with the highlight being the white-tailed eagles.  These have been reintroduced following their extinction at the hand of man.  They are breeding and doing quite well. They are pretty huge with a 8 foot wing span...

Shags and Portree

During our visit I was constantly pleased to see rich moorland with heather flowering profusely, especially where grazing pressure is lower.  Also the sward is rich with meadow species such a black-knapweed and devil-bit scabious, as shown below.  There are many other interesting plants too, but to see these we will need to return earlier in the year - we definitely plan to do this; maybe next time I will see more than the very quick glimpse of an otter that this visit offered...