Thursday, 30 June 2011

Difficult to get any better than this

On a beautiful summmer's day in Orkney, it is hard to surpass the floristic delights of the coast. This was at Yesnaby on Tuesday 28th June - the Primula was in its second flowering and my what a crop!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Missing links........

Tim has been busy out and about over the last few weeks and has done more than his fair share of posts.  Feeling somewhat guilty I thought I'd better pull my finger out and show a little of what has been happening with the last two 'links' plates for the book, just in case it seemed like production had stopped altogether.  Here's the fourth one - drawn and partially painted.  Usually I rough it all out in paint before going back over in more detail but this time I've opted to apply most of the detail from the word go - we'll see how this turns out.  I'm giving myself a deadline of 5th July to finish.  This includes four days away on the amazing uninhabited island of Swona doing other artwork and working full time in between. However, by writing a date here, I'm hoping to shame myself into sticking to it.

The last drawing for the links section is below.  When doing lots and lots of paintings, little details like the horses and bumble bee (which you can't see here but will be painted in later) are welcome additions.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Orkney's Sundews

I spent a very damp Thursday on Hoy. The BBC had predicted a fine day with plenty of sun but I'm afraid to say the Beeb were way off the mark - not often Auntie gets this inexact science so wrong. The trip to Hoy had a purpose: monitoring the various sedges that are found in Alkaline Fen. Alkaline fen is a very special habitat that we find in Orkney, although it's not everywhere. Typically it is found in heath so its large-scale distribution in Orkney is limited to Westray, Rousay, the Mainland and Hoy. There will no doubt be pockets elsewhere and maybe folk can let me know. 'The Orkney Book of Wildflowers' deals in broader habitats - so some of the plants that we find in Alkaline Fen will be found in the book in 'The Hill' section. One of the really typical plants that indicates Alkaline Fen is Black Bog Rush.

Black Bog Rush

Black Bog Rush and Alkaline Fen

Two of my favourite species are the Common (or Round-leaved) Sundew and the Great Sundew. These insectivorous plants are fascinating creations that obtain most of their nutrients from tiny insects that become trapped in 'Sundew glue'. The two Sundews are quite different - the Great Sundew holds its oval leaves up while the Common Sundew holds its round leaves flat in a circle. In addition, while both are found 'in the Hill' they tend to occur in different parts of the hill. You've guessed it - the Great Sundew tends to occur in Alkaline Fen areas and the Common Sundew is more likely to be found in the peaty areas amongst Sphagna.

Great Sundew

Great Sundew

Great Sundew

Great Sundew

Common Sundew

Common Sundew

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Waulkmill's flowers - quite an afternoon - 11 June 2011

Waulkmill Bay
Los Afficionados at Waulkmill

Sea Milkwort

Sea Arrowgrass

Wood Sage


Aspen jnr

Red Admiral on Thrift

Monday, 6 June 2011

Mar Wick

I took Alex and Kathrin out to Marwick a few days ago. Alex and Kathrin are bankers from Bavaria - they live a few hundred miles from a coast! Living in Orkney, it's difficult to imagine that - given that we see and feel the sea almost wherever we are in the county. I worked it out that there was nowhere in Orkney more than eight kilometres from the sea - the most marine remote locality was somewhere near Dounby.

It had been a shocking day weatherwise - sweeping rain had covered Orkney for most of the day driven on by strong westerly winds. When I arrived to pick Alex and Kathrin up from Holland House in Harray, the visibility was probably no better than 400 metres - it was as though we were in cloud. I offered to postpone our evening out but Alex and Kathrin would have none of it and were happy to go anywhere. I wasn't...but thought I'd better brave it - so on the strength of what the Met Office had predicted for the evening, we headed for Mar Wick. It was inspired..but also lucky.

We arrived at the bay just as the skies were clearing to the west and great golden orange skies appeared in contrast to the sodden greys. Alex and Kathrin wanted birds and we began in exceptional style with a Long-tailed Skua which had been resting on the calm waters of the Choin before lifting, circling the bay and flying off.  We were elated - a new bird for Alex and Kathrin and just my third sighting in Orkney of this most elegant of Skuas.

Birdwise we had excellent evening - all the Marwick Head regulars were there including Puffins. The continual procession of Kittiwakes carrying nesting material was both specatcular and heartening - at least the birds were getting down to nesting - their optimism fuelled my optimism.

There was also plenty to see in the wildflower line. On Mar Wick's shingle shore there is Sea Campion, Curled Dock and plenty of Scots Lovage. Further up as we climb the cliff path, Spring Squill, Thrift and  Lady's Fingers combine to produce a vibrant carpet of blue, pink and yellow. A closer look at the short grassland sward yields the numerous rosettes of Buck's-horn Plantains - like mini cartwheels.

Sea Campion in bud

Sea Campion
Scots Lovage
Spring Squill


Lady's Fingers or Kidney Vetch