Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Starlings on the shore

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Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, I’m tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

I hadn’t really thought about how starlings are to be found at the coast, to us here in Derbyshire they are winter visitors, with vast flocks  occasionally forming  murmurations, I’ve not yet being lucky enough to see one yet.

That said, I have a card, by one of my favourite artists, Mark Hearld, its title is ‘starlings on the shore’ its one of those gift cards I bought ‘for stock’ and I haven’t yet managed to part with, because I like it so much.  I think I’ll find it a frame, its a keeper.

'Starlings on the Shore' by Mark Hearld (A341)

We saw many starlings, on our travels, especially on Orkney,

I spent time one evening watching a  somewhat harassed mother feeding her brood, she worked feverishly, the chicks seemed larger that her, due in part I think to their  baby plumage being  less sleek than the adult.

Starlings fledgling_

It was a risky business though,  Mr uphilldowndale saw a gull swoop down and snatch a chick.

Later we saw starlings gathering on the fence, before taking flight together, they seemed to be using this a tactic to deflect the ever present hungry gulls

Starlings group


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The Auburn Enigma

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July, I’m tardy) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

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We met some stunning redheads on our travels through Scotland and Orkney: there is much debate about where  the red hair so prevalent in Scotland, has its origins 

red hair

People aside, I do like red cattle, they are my favourites.

Red Highland_ 

They bring to mind a poem from my childhood, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Red head calf

The Cow

THE FRIENDLY cow all red and white

  I love with all my heart:

She gives me cream with all her might,

  To eat with apple-tart.

She wanders lowing here and there,
        

  And yet she cannot stray,

All in the pleasant open air,

  The pleasant light of day;

And blown by all the winds that pass

  And wet with all the showers,
 

She walks among the meadow grass

  And eats the meadow flowers.

 

red heads group

But it wasn’t all bovines, a street cat in Stromness, who was perhaps trying to tell me something.

Red cat

And then there was this lovely wee man, who like us was on holiday on Orkney, he’d got some fabulous beach finds to take back to school for show and tell, I’m not sure his dad liked the idea of sharing a very long car journey, with the rather malodorous treasures. 

Red head boy beach


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Lichen

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_08

Thirty Days Wild,  thirty posts throughout June (and July!) something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

Lichen, a symbiosis between fungi and alga.   The islands of Orkney have the most sumptuous lichen I’ve ever seen 

Lichen Wall Orkney_

I’ll not pretend to try and understand of identify them, the most accessible information I could find is on The Woodland Trust website, which is ironic because if there is one thing Orkney is in short supply of its trees. 

Lichens are often an indicator air quality and pollution. The leafy and beardy species being the most fragile, in their response to the air quality.

lichen wall 3_

I can confirm the air on Orkney is palpable in its freshness, its a  striking feature of the islands; as is the quietness (apart from the  gorgeous, gorgeous,birdsong)

Lichen_

its’ a quietness that presses on the eardrum, as unfamiliar with this void of noise, it seems to scan for familiar sounds amongst the white noise of wind, sea and birdsong

lichen wall 4

Orkney has so much archaeology it makes it your head spin.  It has standing stones a plenty. The perfect host for a colonisation of lichen

lichen standing stones 3

  In close view they look like maps of different worlds, which I suppose they are.

lichen standing stones 2

There was a time when man  deemed a good idea to clean the precious stones of lichen.  The lichen fought back.

lichen standing stones

They  also takes hold of more contemporary standing stones

grave stone lichen_


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Ring leader

Thirty Days Wild, a post each day throughout June, something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

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Well as you can see I’m more than a little tardy, 21 days behind schedule. Oh dear.

Will it surprise you that it was a springer spaniel that was the ring leader of this little bit of mischief? Not our Spud the dog, you understand, but he’d have loved to join in.

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It was at Skaill House  on Orkney, which as well as being rather grand family estate, stuffed full of beautiful antiques and historic items,

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and the odd exotic thing, that you can only wish had stayed wild

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It also has a touch of the 20thC about its decor in some of the rooms,  as it was a family home until the 1950’s

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It just feels familiar, take this wallpaper, for example.

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What Skaill House has, at the bottom of its garden, is altogether more unusual, and its survival is nothing short of miraculous is a  prehistoric village was exposed in 1850, when a great storm tore away the sand dunes that had protected it. I could show you my photos, but I think you’ll be netter served by the Skara Brae website

They do say if you scratch the surface of Orkney, it bleeds archaeology. I’d not disagree.


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Red Shank

Thirty Days Wild, a post each day throughout June, something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

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On Orkney again, near the magical Ring of Brogdar; a beautiful redshank. It was raining when we arrived,

Redshank in rain 2

but as is the way, it soon brightened.  They are such elegant birds.

Redshank take 3

I think by their agitation and shrill, piping call, that they had young nearby, and that they would like to lead us away from the nests.

Redshank flight

However we were well marshalled by paths and fences so there was no danger to their young, but also no hope of seclusion for their nests, so close to such an famed archaeological site.


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What was that noise?

Thirty Days Wild, a post each day throughout June, something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

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Whilst I was revelling in the company of curlews, I was startled by a strange noise (I should have noted the curlews were unfazed by it).  I wondered for a moment if it was a badger, but then I didn’t know if the Islands of Orkney have badgers (they don’t it transpires, have a look at the beautiful blog)

If I’d tried to describe the noise I’d have said the sound was a cross between ‘some one shaking a rug and the sound of a pair of flip-flops in washing machine’.  I walked on around the corner and  in front of me was  a small lochan, here I found the answer. A swan running up for take off.

Swan take off  2 Uphilldowndale

I’m considering becoming a Foley artist… It sounds like a lot of fun.

Taken at Sand o’ Wright, South Ronaldsay, Orkney


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Curlew

Thirty Days Wild, a post each day throughout June, something that is grounded in our wild world. This year posts are from our travels around the  north coast of Scotland  on the North Coast 500 route and a visit to Orkney. Stand by, for lots of sky, sea, wildlife, history, Spud the dog and random musings.

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Curlews are one of my favourite birds, at home in Derbyshire they are seasonal visitors to our upland pastures and moors,  apparently the collective noun for a group of curlews is a herd, which I think is very boring, given their enigmatic call, I think ‘a haunting’ would be a more suitable term. 

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In Derbyshire they seem to be nervy and reclusive, always out of reach of a good view, or just beyond  the reach of a long lens.

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  In the north east of Scotland and on Orkney, they seem to have no such inhibitions.  What a joy.

Curlew