Shetland: Taking It Easy At Esherness
After the efforts of the longest day, we weren't keen on an early start, so Paula suggested we have a look around the Esherness area, at a leisurely pace. I was keen to remind myself of how high the cliffs are here, and why the photos of the waves crashing up and over the top during the winter were so spectacular. But I also hoped to see a few fulmars floating around on the updraughts, and of course the chance of skuas, especially Arctics, which are so exciting to watch.
After parking up, and nearly being blown off of my feet by the wind up there, I chose to head away from the lighthouse area and to the back of the cliffs, where I hoped it might be a little more sheltered. It was as I strolled back along the road that I spotted a red-throated diver drifting serenely along the edge of the loch up there, and it stole my attention completely. OK, the light wasn't anything to write home about, but I was soon using a drainage channel on the opposite side of the road to creep up closer, before scrambling across the road, keeping as low as possible, much to the amusement of anyone watching, as it appeared my legs had turned to uncontrollable jelly.
As was the norm on Shetland, I had no service on my phone, so couldn't alert the others to this chance, but I managed to spot Lyndsey wandering along the road, and attracted her attention. The diver didn't seem to be in any rush on the loch, and continued to slowly cruise along the shore, mostly with its eyes closed!
Eventually it seemed to wake up, and headed back out into the middle of the loch, where with the choppier waters, it was a job to see the bird, let alone get a sharp image. Annoying, as the sun briefly appeared as it went. As I wandered back to the lighthouse, Andy and Lyndsey drove past, perhaps to seek out some more divers, or maybe to find somewhere less breezy.
With the sun now out, Paula chose to drive Kate and me through some of the single track lanes nearby, and we were very pleased to spot an Arctic skua taking a bath in a small pool not far from the road.
Engaging first gear, Paula then headed up a very steep route to the top of one of the higher hills in the area. This not only provided great views of the surrounding areas, but also took us into the habitat of upland birds, and we were soon following golden plovers as they scuttled about amongst the rocks, calling, pausing picking off insects, before scurrying off again.
Plovers in general seem to be birds that are often curious of you, and provided that you're quiet and remain fairly still, they frequently wander over to have a closer look at you.
On my trips away for wildlife, each year and each location there seems to be a bird species that I see all the time. On Mull it has been grey herons, stonechats and pied wagtails over the years, and here in Shetland, it was the ringed plover. They were everywhere!
And seeing as they're so photogenic, I took advantage of them being close by. Much like a redshank perched beside the track back to the house as we arrived back home. A bit too close, if I'm being honest, for 700mm of lens!
Then it was back home to relax before what I hoped would be a more successful return to Fetlar...
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