Posts Tagged ‘kittiwakes’

Rocks at St Abbs and Wildlife Photography exhibition

April 4, 2018

Another trip to St Abbs Head (good photos) on one of the few sunny days we’ve had recently. It was still very cold on the day we went and the wind from the southwest was distinctly chilly. We left the car near the information centre, café and gallery and walked up to the top of the cliffs. There is a circular walk (good photos) of 4 miles (6.25k) which we’ve done many times over the years. You can start the walk on the east or west side and you choose the direction according to the wind. As we were only doing a short walk, we went on the path at the east side and you pass the farm buildings and the horse field, with its practice arena, before you come to the edge of the cliffs.

As you walk up the path, you are quickly above quite vertiginous cliffs but you get a superb view of the rock formations below you, as in the photo below. You can find out much more about these formations here. This source notes that the rocks have been “locally weathered to a characteristic yellow colour” which you can see below. On the rocks on the right hand side, you can see the newly arrived kittiwake nests.

IMG_0193

Cliffs and rock formations at St Abbs Head (Click on all photos to enlarge)

In the next photo, taken from the path just above the harbour, you are looking across the harbour to the clifftop walk and the steep cliffs. You can see extensive white patches on the Cliffside, but there is no bird life there at the moment. Soon this will be packed with guillemots, hundreds of which pack the narrow ledges to make their nests. When these charming birds arrive, there will be a cacophony of noise as they jostle for position on the rocks and appear to have endless disputes with their neighbours. You can listen to an example of the guillemots’ disputatious calls here. The boats on the harbour side will be in the water during the late spring and summer months, taking people out on trips around the coast and taking divers out to explore the clear waters near St Abbs Head. Over the wall from the boats, you can see the tide marks on the rocks, with the lighter shades on view indicating that the photo was taken when the tide was fairly well out.

I took some wee videos while on the walk and I’ve added a narration and uploaded the combined videos to Youtube. I’m still at the early stages of video and I have to buy a tripod, as bits of the video are still too shaky.adding narration is a step forward. You can see the video – click on full screen for best effect – here. The post has been delayed as I worked out how upload effectively.

IMG_0203

Looking over to the clifftop walk from St Abbs Head harbour

I recently went to a fabulous exhibition of wildlife photography in the National Museum of Scotland. You do have to buy a ticket for this exhibition, which is on loan from the Natural History Museum in London, but it is well worth it. If you go to the exhibition website and scroll down to Inside the Exhibition, you will see that you enter a darkened room with the photographs lit up on the walls. This is slightly disconcerting at first but you soon appreciate the effect it has in making the photographs stand out more. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year is a global competition, with over 50,000 exhibits in 2018, so what you are seeing is some of the best wildlife photography around. You need to go slowly around the exhibition as you are confronted with a succession of absolutely stunning photos, each quite different, but the precision and the clarity of the works on display is breathtaking. I contacted the Museum – by email and phone – to get permission to show the 2 examples below, with no reply. I am assuming that as I am advertising the exhibition and only showing 2 examples – both available on the exhibition website – that I am not contravening the spirit of copyright law here.

The first photo I selected is an intimate portrayal of a bear family by Marco Urso (includes many examples of his work) from Italy. You really can see the anticipation of the title in the young bears’ eyes and the delicate colours of the salmon enhance the photograph. The quality of the photo so high that you can see the drips of water coming off the bears’ skins and off the salmon.

marco-urso-wildlife-photographer-of-the-year

Anticipation by Marco Urso

The second photo was a winner in its category and shows an arctic fox which has stolen a snow goose egg on Wrangel Island (more superb photos) in Russia. The photographer Sergey Gorshkov spent many days trying to capture this exquisite portrait of the fox with its loot in its mouth. The eyes of the fox are captivating and you find yourself staring into its eyes, seeing the determination of the animal to deliver food to its family. The detail of the fox’s fur is amazingly clear and the white fur almost melting into the white snow gives an impression of how cold it might be. If you get a chance to see this exhibition anywhere in the world, do not pass it up. The exhibition also highlights the dangers faced by the environment across the world and the animals who live there. Some of the photos e.g. of hunted rhinos, are quite upsetting. Overall, the memory of this exhibition is of looking in wonder at the photos and appreciating the technical quality and artistry of the photographers.

sergey-gorshkov-wildlife-photographer-of-the-year

Arctic treasure by Sergey Gorshkov

Advertisements

Bondagers talk and book, Brockie exhibition and goldfinch

October 19, 2015

Last week, I went to a talk at our local history society on “The Bondagers – the system, their work and the dispute” given by Dinah Iredale who has conducted impressive research  and written an illustrated book on this topic. A bondager was a woman farmworker , mainly in the early to mid 19th century but also later, and this research covers Northumberland and south east Scotland. What was peculiar about bondager women was that they were hired as part of a deal between the farmer and the hind – a married ploughman. The bondage system could be onerous for the hind who had to provide a bondager to work during the harvest and for occasional labour, as he would not get the job otherwise. For some hinds, their wives or other female relatives could do the work but for young hinds with families, it meant employing someone outside the family. For the bondagers themselves, this was also an onerous system as they were at the beck and call of the farmer, via the hind, and also had to live with the hind’s family in often very cramped conditions. An interesting local dimension for me is that in and around Dunbar, the term “hind” was used more generally for someone from the countryside. There was a rather derogatory reference to a man from the country, as he was described as “A hind fae (from) the country. Come doon (down) fae the hills and canny soom (can’t swim). Dinah has kindly given me permission to download the book cover and a photograph from her excellent book.

Bondagers by Dinah Iredale - book cover

Bondagers by Dinah Iredale – book cover

Bondagers and hinds in a farm yard

Bondagers and hinds in a farm yard

The latest exhibition at Waterston House in Aberlady is by the well-known wildlife artist Keith Brockie. Keith Brockie has a local connection, being born in Haddington which is 11 miles (18K) from Dunbar. I bought his book Return to One Man’s Island (includes many examples of Keith’s work) a few years ago, so I was intrigued to see in what directions his work had progressed. We went to the exhibition expecting to see more excellent painting of birds but in this exhibition, there are several superb paintings by Keith of hares, seals and a range of birds. I emailed Keith and he generously sent me photos of some of his paintings for this blog. The first is entitled Brown Hare at Rest and you can see the amazing detail of the animal’s fur, as well as the grass which is green in colour but also looks like hair. The brown hare’s eye has a peaceful look and the body is relaxed, perhaps enjoying a sunny afternoon.

Brown Hare at Rest by Keith Brockie

Brown Hare at Rest by Keith Brockie

The second painting is also of a hare but this time, it is a white mountain hare with a background of heather and snow. As in the first photo, the detail is outstanding in its delineation of the hare’s whiskers and fur, as well as the heather. This hare looks well fed and well content in the winter sunshine.

Mountain Hare in Sunlight by Keith Brockie

Mountain Hare in Sunlight by Keith Brockie

The third painting has a very close connection for me, as it shows a kittiwake adult and chick on the walls of Dunbar Castle (good photos). The kittiwakes are very well drawn and the adult’s yellow beak stands out. For me, it is the painting of the rocks behind the birds which make this picture as it shows the effects of the weather on the rock (and of course the effect of the kittiwakes’ droppings!). As regular readers will know, I’ve tried to photograph the kittiwakes over many years, using my zoom lens. One of my photos is included below but it is certainly not meant to be anywhere near the standard of Brockie’s painting.

Kittiwakes at Dunbar by Keith Brockie

Kittiwakes at Dunbar by Keith Brockie

Kittiwakes on Dunbar Castle walls

Kittiwakes on Dunbar Castle walls

A new edition of Scottish Birds arrived in the post recently and I was very attracted to a superb photo of a goldfinch (includes short video). I contacted Harry Scott, who took the photo and he kindly sent me the photo shown below. This bird has outstanding colours and I love the variety of the colour shapes  – the eye, the beak, the bands of red/orange, white, black, yellow and blue, all of which have an abstract quality. The goldfinch recently came to prominence in literature with Donna Tart’s extraordinary book. The title comes from a famous painting by Carel Fabritius and in the story, the boy protagonist walks off with the painting after an explosion at a museum.

Goldfinch by Harry Scott

Goldfinch by Harry Scott

Kittiwakes, wild flowers and salmon en croute

July 21, 2015

I took my camera and zoom lens to Dunbar harbour for my annual attempt to get good shots of the kittiwakes which nest on the walls of the ruins of Dunbar Castle (good photos). Every April, the kittiwakes arrive and the harbour is enlivened with their calls – kitty-wake, kitty wake (click on audio). When the nesting season gets going in full, there can be a cacophony of noise at the harbour as hundreds of birds can be heard yelling out. For visitors to the harbour, there is an opportunity to get close to the birds and the chicks can be clearly seen with the naked eye from the harbourside. From time to time, a group of artists will arrive and sketch the birds. Over the years, I’ve tried to get the best shots I can of adult and chick kittiwakes and last year’s snaps can be seen here. This year’s selection follows. As ever, click to enlarge.

Kittiwake chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adult and chick at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adults and chicks at Dunbar castle

Kittiwake adults and chicks at Dunbar castle

In Dunbar this summer, there are several areas of wildflowers which have brightened up the town and the following photos were taken at Lauderdale Park. The colours provided by the poppies, cornflower and other flowers are a lively mix and a real pleasure for the viewer.

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

Wildflowers at Lauderdale Park, Dunbar

This week we have, as the Australians say, visiting rellies – so what to cook for the first evening meal? We went for a Jamie Oliver recipe Salmon en Croute as it is different from the standard salmon inside a pastry envelope. In this recipe, I bought some ready to use puff pastry, pre-rolled for convenience and laid it on a tray dusted with flour. I used 4 salmon fillets instead of one large fillet. The JO recipe uses black olive tapenade but as we’re no olive fans, I used a jar of sun-dried tomato pesto and spread a teaspoonful of pesto over each salmon. You then put 3/4 basil leaves on each fillet, followed by sliced tomato and salt and pepper. The final ingredient is mozzarella and I sliced it thinly and put 3 slices on each fillet. To make a pastry case, you fold up the sides of the pastry and pinch each corner to keep it firm. The pastry is brushed with beaten egg and put in a 200 degree oven for 35 minutes. It is very tasty and also looks attractive in the dish and on the plate. Here is my completed dish. So, easy to prepare and it looks more complicated than it is, so your guests will be impressed.

Salmon en croute

Salmon en croute

A Word a Week Photograph Challenge – Companion

November 13, 2014

Here are my photos on the is topic – for many more, see Sue’s website.

Novak Djokovic and companion at Dubai Masters Tennis

Novak Djokovic and companion at Dubai Masters Tennis

Contemplating companions

Contemplating companions

Mother and child kittiwake on Dunbar Castle

Mother and child kittiwake on Dunbar Castle

Companions of elegance

Companions of elegance

Bovine companions at St Abbs Head

Bovine companions at St Abbs Head

Robert Greenhalf and kittiwakes on Dunbar Castle

July 15, 2014

A recent visit to the Scottish Ornithologists Club at Waterstone House to see an exhibition by Robert Greenhalf and two other artists. I left a message on all 3 artists’ website and Robert Greenhalf replied and kindly sent me 2 photos of his work. Robert’s work covers woodcuts, watercolours and oils and his portrayal of seabirds particularly caught my eye. In Robert’s paintings, there is a sense of movement as well as delicate colour – see for example, his Feeding Godwits. Photo 1 – Common Terns – has a lovely mixture of blue on the birds and the waves. Photo 2 – one of my personal favourites from the exhibition – Oystercatchers – is a dynamic portrayal of the birds taking off in unison. This type of collective launch can often be seen at the west end of Belhaven Beach in Dunbar, on the other side of town from which I live.

Robert Greenhalf: Common Terns

Robert Greenhalf: Common Terns

Robert Greenhalf: Oystercatchers

Robert Greenhalf: Oystercatchers

Sticking with the sea bird theme, I made my annual 0.5 mile walk along to Dunbar Harbour with my Canon 1000D camera and my Tamron AF70 lens, which I use for close up photography at a larger distance than I can get on my “normal ” lens. Each year, I go along specifically to photograph the kittiwake chicks on the walls of Dunbar Castle. The kittiwakes are small gulls which return to the nesting site each year, although at Dunbar Castle, it is noticeable that numbers are declining, and this is attributed to the shortage of their main food, sand eels. Over the years, I’ve tried to capture the perfect Kittiwake Madonna and child(ren) photo – so I’ll keep trying. Kittiwakes are intermittently very noisy birds and one bird returning to a nest and giving a welcoming cry (supposed to sound like Kit – ti – wake) can start off a collective, high-pitched  yelling. Photos 3, 4 and 5 show the mothers (I think) and chicks in various poses. In fact, in Photo 3, the birds seemed to have posed for a family shot.

Kittiwake family

Kittiwake family

In photo 4, both parent and chick look determined to remain straight-faced, while in Photo 5, the parent attends to the chick’s needs.

Kittiwake family

Kittiwake family

Kittiwake family

Kittiwake family

Photo 6 shows how the kittiwakes live cheek by jowl in the nesting site on the castle wall. the red sandstone of the walls provides a colourful and wind-blown background to the nests.

Kittiwake nests on Dunbar Castle

Kittiwake nests on Dunbar Castle

A Word a Week Photo Challenge : Two

November 7, 2013

This week’s photo challenge is Two. I was suprprised how many appropriate photos I had. Here’s my selection – see more at Sue’s site.

Mother and chick kittiwake at Dunbar Harbour

Mother and chick kittiwake at Dunbar Harbour

 Canoeists at Paxton House, Scottish Borders

Canoeists at Paxton House, Scottish Borders

Llamas at Coldingham Bay

Llamas at Coldingham Bay

Frosted bales in the winter

Frosted bales in the winter

Swans on the coast at Dunbar

Swans on the coast at Dunbar

Ross and his reflection at Spittal Beach

Ross and his reflection at Spittal Beach

Weekly photo challenge – Castle

August 1, 2013

Here are my suggestions for this week’s challenge. See Sue’s website for much, much more.

Ruins of Dunbar Castle behind Dunbar harbour

Ruins of Dunbar Castle behind Dunbar harbour

I live in Dunbar and the harbour is about 0.5 miles from my home. The castle used to be one of the strongest in Scotland.

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle is in the north of Scotland and still an impressive sight.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is in the north east of England, not far from the Scottish border. A former stronghold, it was recently in the news as part of the Harry Potter films were shot there.

Kittiwakes nesting on the walls of Dunbar Castle

Kittiwakes nesting on the walls of Dunbar Castle

The kittiwakes arrive in early summer and hundreds nest on the walls of the castle ruins.