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


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