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Image of the Month



Puffin at sundown


July 2013


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After an overnight ferry trip from Glasgow to Sumburgh and a dreadfully sea-sick crossing on a little boat from Sumburgh to Fair Isle, I relaxed into a week photographing one of my favourite species of bird.  The weather had been declared unfavourable for flying from Tingwall to Fair Isle and we were 'lucky' enough to be able to make the crossing on the 'Good Shepherd IV'.  One look at the window-less cabin below, where passengers were fastened by seatbelt to seats, which were in turn bolted to the floor, and I headed up to the deck for the (interminable) 3hour crossing.  The boat bobbed about like a cork on the water and turned from side to side through something approaching 120degrees.  It was ghastly.... anyway, enough of that!

Fair Isle Bird Observatory is the most amazing place to stay.  It's warm, comfortable and serves amazing food and is only about a 15 minute walk from a huge puffin colony.  I'm fortunate enough to have spent several days photographing puffins before but their antics and behaviours never cease to amaze and delight me.  Here on Fair Isle, they have few predators and are quite accepting of the humans that settle down near their burrows and simply watch them going about their every day business.

My plan was to watch, enjoy and photograph not just the beautiful portraits in the pink sea thrift, but also a range of behaviours.  Some of my favourite memories include watching the local 'trouble-maker' provoke his friends and start a squabble which inevitably ended up with a beak to beak tussle watched by a group of other puffins.  It was great fun watching and I laughed endlessly because of the 'commentary' that was possible to imagine that rang round in my head.  

On the last night we were blessed with some glorious light and I took some of my most favourite ever puffin portraits when their wings almost lit up in the sunset and the pink thrift turned gold in the light.  


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Apart from puffins, Fair Isle also has a healthy population of Arctic Skula.  I came upon one on the beach one day that was guarding a dead Northern Gannet which had been washed up on the tide.  I spent some time getting closer to the Skua and marvelled at the strange beauty of the dead gannet as it rode the edge of the tide.

Sumburgh has a healthy population of Arctic terns and they guard their nest sites jealously.  I spent a little bit of time going closer to the nest area which provoked the terns into displaying a fiercesome display of aggression but I soon backed off in order to let them rest.  I had no desire to stress a bird or its offspring.  There's a fine line between getting a great image and disturbing wildlife and I hope that I know and respect the difference!  

Before heading back to London, I was privileged to spend some hours waiting for the Common dolphins to appear at Chanonry Point in Scotland.  It wasn't the greatest of days. The weather was dreadful... grey, over-cast and mostly pouring with rain but as predicted, about 2 hours before high tide, the dolphins turned up to fish in the deep channel about 2 or 3m from the shore and entertain the group of people standing there to watch what is surely one of nature's greatest spectacles.  The dolphins jumped and somersaulted, cruised and splashed.  They played 'cat and mouse' with huge salmon and provided an amazing show.  What a privilege to watch them!  Do you think they know that the humans come to watch them?

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Once again, Natures Images organised the trip to the Shetlands and I am grateful for their support and fantastic organisation.