Saturday, 16 August 2008

TW3: 9 - 16 August

Phew, what a week. Instead of attending the BB Bird Photograph of the Year awards ceremony (where I dipped on a free glass of champers) at the Rutland Bird Fair, I decided to stay home and boy, am I glad I did. The first part of the week involved me walking miles and miles for a total of 20 hours over three days trying to photograph the male Two-barred Crossbills at Sumburgh. It seems as though more people have missed the males than had actually seen them and I was resigning myself to being a member of this gang. However, a voice in my head kept telling me I would find one and after three days of stomping around in ridiculously warm, sunny and very unconventional Shetland weather, I did. And what a bird it proved to be. For two hours I enjoyed point blank views of a stunning male and two juveniles - but had to clamber half way down a cliff to do so. Awesome.

But not nearly as awesome as the events of Friday which had me running around like a headless chicken when I was woken by a call from Gulberwick to say "Killers in the Bay". Shower, coffee, kiss wife and daughter and avoid the police for 20 minutes of high speed driving to get there, only to be told they had gone south. Turn around, head to Quarff and leg it out to the rocks. Within 10 minutes I was photographing a pod of 4 Killers down to a couple of metres as they hunted seals right in front of me. A 70 - 200mm lens was almost to large! On examining the photos, one of the animals was immediately recognisable by the scarring on its left saddle and it was thus very much a case of déjà vu as this was a pod I photographed several times during the glorious summer of 2006 doing pretty much the same thing - hunting seals incredibly close to shore.

Here is the animal in question and note the labelling of the scars to get a complete 'match':

For the next three hours I followed them south along the coast and to put the icing on the cake, Tom Jamieson took myself, Michelle, our little Cerys (only two and now her third encounter with Orcas) and a few other snappers out on his boat where we scored with some great images as they animals came through Mousa Sound. Amazing stuff! I ended of the week doing a few waders, trying to capture Sanderlings feeding with my new 'ground' pod.

So all in all a great week, marred only by the news that the 9 to 5 eco-suits at SNH didn't bother to tell anybody about a nice pod of White-sided Dolphins which spent a day in the North Mainland. Maybe we should call them uncivil servants...