Monday, 15 August 2011

The gem that is Graemsay

One of the most important aspects of the Orkney Book of Wildflowers is for the flowers that are depicted to be set in an appropriate location. We have to be truthful - the illustrated flower must occur in the location that forms the backdrop to the plate. However it can be long-winded process to find the perfect site. The chosen background must be visually strong and depict an Orkney view that is recognisable. You also have to take into account the welfare of the artist - she doesn't want to fall asleep at her easel. She needs the right and stimulating combination too. So it is with those ideas in mind that I set out to the various islands and parishes to search for what at times appears as elusive as the Holy Grail.

On Tuesday it was Graemsay's turn. The island is a gem with a splendid array of wildflowers and Tuesday's visit provided me with locations for at least five of the flowers that will be included in 'the book' - Creeping Willow, Sneezewort, Shepherd's Purse, Goldenrod and Lousewort. The verges were a delight with Eyebrights everywhere and though the Twayblades were over, they would have been a tremendous sight a month ago. One of my favourite hoverflies, the 'large and silent one' (Sericomyia silentis), indulged on the sprays of Wild Anglica. I was particularly pleased with the display of Goldenrod along the eastern side of the island which has caused me to change my original location for this flower's location (Nowt Bield, Hoy) - it will now be Graemsay with Hoy High lighthouse as the backdrop.

My six hours on Graemsay were a tonic. Not only did I manage to find some target flowers,  I also bumped into an Otter. While leaning on the bridge at the Burn of Quoys ruminating over the day's successes I heard a great deal of heavy splashing sounds coming up the burn - you would have thought a Water Buffalo was on the charge such was the din - a few seconds later a dog Otter appeared and promptly launched itself into the deeper waters near the bridge. I obtained one image - body submerged, tail raised and a ribbon of bubbles streaming from its nostrils.

Creeping Willow's view of Hoy from Graemsay

Granite outcrop with Cuilags behind

Eyebrights and Sea Plantain on granite outcrop

Goldenrod view of Hoy High lighthouse



Willow curtain at the quarry

Sericomyia silentis on Wild Angelica

'Up periscope' - dog otter at Burn of Quoys


  1. Lovely to know that Graemsay will be well represented! Lovely to see the otter too.