Sunday, 8 May 2016

Lost treasures?

 By the Broch of Gurness

I was just sitting there, finding a quiet corner out of reach of the persistent wind and being steadily dribbled on by a half-hearted rain shower (it looked great as it swept through in trailing curtains over the hills, just not so much to be in).

Listening to a spring morning. skylarks, skylarks, skylarks. Every field, it seemed, sprouted larks (not soaring as high as less windswept southern cousins). And curlews. The combination of lark-song and curlew piping could have been all the enchantment I needed.

But I sat there with the broch behind me and the fields beyond that and the swell and sigh of Eynhallow Sound in front of me. It took a few minutes for my eyes to understand those patterns of grey and silver and breaking white, and the shifting shadows that told the story of the dangerous currents of the Sound. I had some binoculars but they were hardly needed.

Lying low and barrelling their determined course through the waves, black scoters ploughed across the scene which suddenly exploded into life. There were birds everywhere. Goosanders, as low in the water as the scoters but sleek arrows to the ducks’ solidity. Eiders on the rocks, and cormorants. They always sound like they’re squabbling but maybe all those wheeling terns are just talking very fast. There is a gull. And another. No, I’m no birder. That is another gull, but a different one. And that is a fulmar. Gliding, sliding along the wind with barely a wingbeat between Midhowe Broch and this Gurness edge. A skua on patrol, dark wings and dangerous thoughts. And two martins, new come from those long migrations, blown sideways into the shelter behind the broch.

The sea, grey, racing, laughs itself into waves and breaks; but turn a corner and there is peace and the bay is still with pale turquoise clear water over graceful sea wrack meadows. And everywhere, always, watching everything; dark eyes, bobbing heads and the sudden roll and splash of a fat body as the seals invite us to play.

In 10 minutes of sitting there on a stone, I felt that i had seen more wildlife than in a day’s walk at home. Is this what we’ve lost from the southern counties? Maybe not those actual birds but that richness of life, that sense of a world bubbling with activity at every level, at every intersection of a habitat…..

Broch of Gurness, 8th May 2016

Raven at the Brough of Birsay
Pictures: no, I didn't take any when i was just enjoying the birds, so these come from before and then later in the day when it sort of stopped raining for a bit

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