Our Wild    Life

Nature photography by John Langley ARPS & Tracy Langley ARPS

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Orkney Isles, Scotland - June 2015

The Orkney Islands lie just off the north of the Scottish mainland. There are around 70 islands of varying size and about 18 of them are inhabited.

In June 2015 we spent 3 weeks in the Orkneys. We stayed on a couple of the largest islands and visited several of the smaller islands on day trips.

There are many miles of wild and rugged coast on each island, so seabirds were our main targets.

The rough ferry crossing set the scene for the whole of our trip - strong winds with the odd rain shower or rainy day. The gales made photography difficult at times, holding onto long lenses for dear life on the cliff tops, but the high wind and rough seas made for some dramatic images during our stay.

Many of the islands had high seabird cliffs

Fulmars seemed to revel in the high winds - we’re sure they were just flying for the fun of it

They were experts in windy take-offs and landings

A raucous trio

Also on the high cliffs the windy weather made acrobats of the gannets

Seaweed is collected for nest material

The winds whipped the sea into dramatic roller-coaster waves

Arctic skua

A young cormorant dries off on the cliff edge

A raven calling on the cliff top

On the cliff-top moorlands ringed plovers were nesting, hunkered down in a rain shower

The prospective parents took turns in incubating the egg …

… and they posed well during the changeovers

Nearby we found the diminutive and rare Scottish primrose - only a few centimetres high

Lower down, at sea level, dunlins fed amongst the seaweed

The dunlins were in their black bellied summer plumage

Some of the beaches were sandy, others had beautiful rocks rolling into the sea

We found a colony of the rare oysterplant growing amongst sea campion on a rocky beach

In some of the more sheltered sandy bays seals basked in the occasional sunny outbreaks

The seals sheltered from the rough seas on banks of seaweed

Almost every island had lots of curlew - their evocative undulating calls were frequently heard

Black guillemot was our prime target for this trip and we found them on several of the islands

The intense red of the black guillemot’s feet is matched by the red inside its mouth and tongue

Several of the birds were pairing up for the breeding season

We watched several courtship dances, where birds would chase after each other flapping their wings

There are lots of archeological sites on many of the islands

We visited the Ring of Brodgar at sunset - very atmospheric

Razorbills were present in the seabird colonies

The locals were very helpful in pointing the way to the wildlife hotspots

- but the wildlife wasn’t so obliging, we only saw an odd puffin here occasionally

We found most of our puffins on some of the smaller islands