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Friday, 29 October 2010


Stromness is covered with these winter visitors! (Thanks Jenny for the photo). They are called Waxwings (apparently their wings are not at all waxy but it's to do with the red tips looking lie ceiling wax).  They are such pretty birds and very vocal too.  There has been a sudden influx of the birds around the town of Stromness, though I haven't seen any on Graemsay. However they go for all the berries and I don't have any in my garden so that's probably why they are not visiting *me*!  But it's lovely to see such colourful birds flying around on a grey day.

Other "Nature Notes" - the BBC "Autumnwatch" programme has a team on the island of Stronsay (one of the more north easterly of the Orkney islands) and there is a live webcam of grey seals pupping running over the next two weeks (hopefully those outside the UK can get this too). So take a look at the webcame here

Saturday, 23 October 2010

On the way to the Mart.....

It's the time of year for the lamb sales and these are some of the island lambs off to the Mart in Kirkwall.  These lambs were herded down a "run" onto the deck of the boat and will then be kept in a field over the weekend until the sale on Monday at the livestock Mart.

These lambs were born about May - lambing is much later in Orkney than in the South of England due to the weather.  Some of these lambs may go as "store" lambs to another farm to be fattened on, or they may go direct for slaughter.

It's a busy time of year for the farmers with cattle also being shipped off to sales as well as sheep. So each week until Christmas livestock will be at the pier ready to be transported. The cattle have to be winched off in a box individually so everyone hopes for good weather when they are being shipped.  These sheep had a calm ride back to Stromness though as the weather had quietened down from the gales of earlier in the week. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A day in the weather on Graemsay

To say the weather has been "changeable" today is something of an understatement.  This morning I woke to a dusting of snow on top of the Hoy Hills (above) and a strong wind blowing. Then sleet and hail showers came in across the Flow (below).

And a few minutes later brilliant sunshine

The pattern was repeated throughout the day and finally we have this glorious sunset and cloudscape and yes the wind is still blowing!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Autumn rainbow at sunrise

Sunday morning was definitely the calm before the storm.  I'm not a morning person so was rather sleepily making a cup of tea at 8.30am on Sunday morning and thought the light outside looked interesting.  Fortunately I had my camera to hand and took these photos, though they don't really capture the magic of the moment.  I stood at the end of the drive watching the sun rise behind the Orphir hills and a double rainbow emerge over the Hoy Hills, stretching over to Stromness.  I should have walked further up the road to get better shots, but I was in my pyjamas at the time and as it was Button was standing in the doorway yelling "Have you no *shame* woman!".  I did get indoors before the shower of rain came though, and oooh that was one of the best cups of tea I've tasted!

The coos in the field opposite the house were clearly also somewhat bemused at seeing me in my pyjams...

Saturday, 16 October 2010


Today has been a beautiful autumnal day with sunshine and blue skies. Lots of rose-hips on the rosa-rugosa. The birds have been at the seeds already.  I've seen a family of blackbirds among the branches, and lots of twittering sparrows too.  In some parts of the UK sparrows are in decline, but my garden is full of them which is a delight to see.

Below - Button is making the most of the island picnic benches!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sea Shore

Above is  a favourite subject of mine, an old boat hauled up on the shore for the last time at Sandside pier. Bulrushes grow out threw old creels.

Further along the shore - the power of the sea, slowly eroding the shore line. This was once a workshop probably built sometime in the mid 1800s.

Below a house "teetering on the brink! Uninhabited for many years.  Each winter I expect to find the chimney on the shore!

Below gentle ripples along the coral sand at Sandside

It amazes me the variety of seaweed all in such a small area.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Feline Friends

As well as having to contend with the hens while gardening, I am also supervised by Button. Above is a photo of her "resting" after some necessary supervision.  Below is a photo of her - well - resting again!  This time with head in the Nepeta (cat nip!).  I had to put a wire basket over the nepeta as, of course, she just rolls in it! 

And below is Charlie Boy.  Charlie is also a rescue cat from Orkney Cat Protection. He was rescued from a house with about 40 other cats. However he has turned out to be rather a shy boy and has chosen to live in the barn rather than the house. (Believe me you know nothing about rejection till you've been rejected by a cat!).  However after many months of patience he does now enjoy a fuss and having his ears tickled just before breakfast.  After that I rarely see him.  At first he would come into the garden, but once he realised I wasn't going to feed him he lost interest. This is just as well as Princess Button was NOT pleased at having an interloper!  They *must* meet as both hunt in the same territory but presumably have come to some agreement.  At least the pair of them keep the mice down in the barn and henny hoose! 

Thankfully there are no rats on the island, just lots of mice..... this is fortunate not least because Button has taken to bringing in live prey on occasions and presenting them to me with great pride!  I have become quite adept at scooping them up, corralling Button and then releasing them back into the field!  As she has realised I don't share with her she doesn't bring offerings in very often - though I have been known to chase a mouse up the curtains in my pyjamas (no the mouse wasn't *in* my pyjamas - you know what I mean!).  Oh the joys of country living!!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

New hens.....

This week three new hens arrived!  That takes the total flock to 11 - one light sussex cockerel and 10 hens (one maran, two regular brown , three light sussex, one pure white (origin unknown), and these wee girls).  The new hens are cross breed but have beautiful irridescent green feathers as well as black and deep rich brown ones.  Two are very wee and are still cheeping, while the other one is beginning to make "chook-chook" noises.  Of course they are being bullied mercilessly by the others, including the ones that only arrived a couple of months ago!!  Real "pecking order" being enacted in the henny hoose right now!

As there are no foxes on Graemsay (or indeed in Orkney) chickens can live completely free range, and mine sometimes go down to the beach which is a few yards behind the hen house.  However this flock seem to prefer the garden- particularly when I'm digging.  I have to be careful that I don't impale a hen on my garden fork as they are so eager to grab the worms in the newly turned soil! 

Henny Penny is not happy that I've stopped for a break!

They are rather a nuisance in the garden as they nip all the young shoots, and dig up seeds so I have to net everything if I want a decent crop.  However I do love to have them "chook-chooking" around as I work and they are real characters.

The Big Fella is getting ready for a dust bath, but the girls are still hopeful of more worms. Um... they look slightly startled as I sneezed while taking the photo!

However a lecture is due as the girls are laying eggs where I can't find them!  Not all are laying, but I was getting two eggs a day, which was plenty for my needs. However the last couple of days I've had none so somebody is slacking or sneaking off somewhere!  Time to hunt through the barn again.......

Friday, 1 October 2010

A bit windy.....

October means the start of the gales in Orkney which will continue now through till April!)..... well we had some in September, and now, 1st October, they are back again..... Photo is of the "Graemsay" Ferry coming into the pier at lunch time today. Glad I wasn't on this boat! (Yes I know the picture is kind of blurry but it was taken inside through the window - not even for "art" will I go outdoors in this!!)

I did have some groceries coming over from Flett's the Butcher in Stromness, but neighbours kindly offered to pick the box up for me. The wind is from the South East which is not good for our pier and I'm always afraid of being blown over being a "pixie-sized" person!