25 May 2018
Sharing my arrival and departure dates and the hostel on Rum, were a homogeneous group of about 12 people of more or less my own age. Most of my life I have mixed with a variety of people, younger and older than me, and I tend to feel uncomfortable with groups who are similar, especially those similar in age. These looked like very worthy, very middle class, academic, grey beards and sandals types – though none of the ladies had beards and nobody wore sandals! I nicknamed them “The Quakers”. It turned out they were geologists, and the one younger member of the group was their local guide. Evidently the geology of Rum is very special: it has its own green rock, confusingly called blood stone.
On my first morning I got up a little later than usual – around 6:30 and set off to walk the half mile to what they call the “Otter Hide”. On the way I met one of the Quakers returning. He had seen no otters and neither did I – nor did I on any of my subsequent visits. Both of us being early risers I got to know Simeon Brown quite well.
He had worked for the Norwegian STATOIL company as “Senior staff geophysicist, Exploration Department, Norwegian Shelf West” He and his wife Daryl now live in Edinburgh but have family in Norway. I asked if he could cope with Icelandic. Evidently the vocabulary is similar but the pronunciation very different. He gave me a taste of how exciting geology can be: how essential a knowledge of geology is to understand any ecosystem. I resolved to learn more.
A former member of the Small Nations Festival committee, Marie Jones, a nurse from Swansea, has been following a similar trajectory to me in learning wildlife photography. Although plagued by bouts of neuralgia, she has a wonderfully up-beat personality and her joy at the wonders of nature is infectious. I knew that Marie and her husband Chris, whom I had never met, were going to be in the same area of Scotland at roughly the same time, but our itineraries would not meet, so we could only compare notes on Facebook. Having got back to Mallaig on the ferry from Rum after a week on the two islands, and feeling good about retrieving the van, I was walking back to the car park from the supermarket with some provisions when I saw a familiar figure in front.
“Oh, wow, look who’s here!”
We hugged and I shook hands with Chris: a man I immediately took a liking to. We chatted for a while and exchanged photographs, agreeing to meet up at our mutual stamping ground the Burry Estuary at Llanelli.
So to the Coda
Thelma and I had several times stayed at a campsite in Silverdale on Morecambe Bay. It’s a beautiful site close to my favourite RSPB reserve at Leighton Moss.
The weather was almost hot and I was on a total high photographing Avocets and their chicks in the gorgeous evening light. They seemed to spend most of their time squabbling with their neighbours, both of their own species and the co-resident Black Headed Gulls. They dance round each other in a sort of aggressive tango.
The next morning I was out as soon as they opened the gate at 7 and off to another favourite spot- the bottom hide. Again, a scene of tranquil beauty with Great-Crested Grebes and their stripy chicks, a distant otter, peewits chasing off Greater Black-Backed Gulls, Greylag and Canada geese, Reed Warblers and Buntings, and best of all a rarity:
Garganay – the only duck to migrate to Britain in the summer. I allowed myself a bare hour and left reluctantly to get to the Peregrine nest site about 3 miles away. When I got there, I asked two obvious bird-watchers if the Peregrine I had seen in the winter was still here.
“Yes, but one of the birds is new, and they’ve moved the nest site. You can see the perching bird up there look.”
I looked and looked and followed their instructions to go down from the tallest tree on the skyline, but still couldn’t see it – until I realised we were looking at different trees.
They are Nigel and June who live in the area and come here regularly to study the birds. How lucky they are and how lucky I was to meet them, because without their help I would never have found the new nest site and got this picture: