Above: The start of the green lane behind Smiddybanks Farm, St Margaret's Hope.

All of these pictures on these pages have the Latin names included where possible. Some images are sent to the appropriate Facebook Group for identification, these include Orkney Wild Flowers and their habitat, Orkney Fungi & Lichen, Orkney Insect open Forum, UK Hoverfly Group, plus a few more. Date & Location, including 6 figure UK Grid reference where practical is given for most posts.

Some locations just say The Hope; this is St Margaret's Hope, on South Ronaldsay, My Home.

Where there are Comments; these are from experts, from the various groups.

All Pictures were taken by me unless otherwise stated.

Saturday 5 December 2020,

The weather so far this month has been a washout as far as picture taking is concerned; we’ve had wind and rain, bitterly cold days with a scattering of hail, we finished off the 1st week with a heavy frost. I have been trying my best to get a few images, but must admit it is difficult.

Below are some pictures of frozen puddles, the weather dictates the colour of the picture, blue sky, blue puddle, grey sky, grey puddle and to a degree the direction of the light.

The first two were photographed on a gravel track and have air pockets underneath, the second two on a tarmac road and are solid in most places.

Ice patterns

Sunday 6 December 2020.

Break in the weather, managed a few pictures of patterns in the frozen rain puddles and some Acorn barnacles on a steel girder, these are old barnacles lacking the hard shell top covers pieces.  

Acorn barnacle Semibalanus balanoides.


Sunday 13 December 2020.

There has been no change in the weather over the last week still wet and windy with the occasional dry spell, nothing much to photograph. I did miss out on one photo opportunity, A pod of five or more orca at Hoxa Head on Saturday 12 around mid-day, they were heading south but moved in close to the cliff's giving great photo opportunities for those lucky enough to be there, Probably my one regret about not owning a car, well as the wise man said " There are no such things as mistakes only the path you choose" whichever you choose you still learn.

Pictures by, Robert Foubister.

Photo by Robert Foubister.

Robert Foubister. Local Photographer.

Waterfall on the burn running down across The Hope the Golf Corse .

Orkney a few facts,

Over the last ten years of talking to visitors to the Islands, I think the vast majority of people who have never visited Orkney before probably have the misconception that Orkney is much like the Highlands of Scotland or the Western Isles, rugged, desolate and forever raining this couldn't be farther from the truth. 

Orkney has about 70 islands, of which 20 are inhabited, The largest island, Mainland, is often referred to as "the Mainland", and has an area of 523 square kilometres (202 sq mi), In addition to the Mainland, most of the remaining islands are in two groups, the North and South Isles. The climate is relatively mild, very little snow and the soils are extremely fertile, most of the land is being farmed, mainly in the production of Beef cattle and Sheep. The islands are mainly low-lying except for some sharply rising old red sandstone hills on Mainland, Rousay and Hoy and rugged cliffs on some western coasts but also plenty of sandy beaches around Orkney. Nearly all of the islands have lochs, but the watercourses are merely burns, streams draining the high land. The coastlines are indented, and the islands themselves are divided from each other by straits generally called "sounds" or "firths The tidal currents, off many of the isles are swift, with frequent whirlpools. The islands are notable for their Shellfish, the Creel boats bringing in Crab, Lobster and Hand-dived Scallop to name a few. the absence of trees, which is partly accounted for by the strong winds. We have an abundance of marine and avian wildlife.

Monday 14 December 2020.

Better day today, overcast with sunny spells, it was nice to see ten Common Seals on the slipway at the end of the road this morning but they never stayed as the council workman came to put up the barriers, so I take it they are expecting a high tide with strong winds.

Pictured below A small slide show of five fungi found in one of the small copses on St Margaret's Golf Course the other day, no identification on these, some are more difficult than others.

Wednesday 16 December 2020.

Spotlight on The Redshank.

The Redshank, Tringa totanus is a large sandpiper with long, bright red legs. It is a typical wader, feeding in shallow water around Locks marshes, and coastal wetlands around Orkney. It breeds on open marshes, mires and saltmarshes, particularly in Scotland and northern England. Look for it typically posed on top of a post, fence or rock in wet grassland or farmland areas. How to identify Brownish all over, with a paler belly, the Redshank is one of only two waders that has bright red legs; the Spotted Redshank also has red legs, but is larger, with longer legs and a longer bill. The Redshank has a straight bill, which is red at the base and black at the end. When it flies, it shows a white triangular wedge up its back and a wide, white triangle on its rear. Distribution Widespread, but breeding birds are especially prevalent in Scotland and Northern England. Wintering birds can be seen around Orkney on the Coast and coastal wetlands.

Saturday 19 December 2020.

The weather has not changed, overcast and damp or raining, sometimes the sun manages to come just long enough to take a short stroll and grab a few pictures, still it will be the shortest day on the 21st, so nights will start to get shorter, roll on the spring. 

The green crab (Carcinus maenas)

The green crab (Carcinus maenas) is a small shore crab. The adult crabs are usually no more than 3inches across and are known in the UK by the common name of green crab. The shell, however, can vary from dark, mottled green to orange or red, with yellow patches. You can see many of these shore crabs on the Orkney Isles. This crab has powerful claws and rear legs pointed for gripping on to rocks. The adult Green Crab has a body that is usually a dark yellowy green colour, This crab has ten walking legs with two large pincers on the first pair and its right-handed pincer is bigger than the left. It also has two pairs of antennae of which one pair is quite long. The shell is wide at the front with a series of bony serrations along the forward edge. The shell tapers inwards in a straight line towards the rear of the crab. They have three points between the eyes and five points on each side of the eyes. Green Crabs can be found in rock pools under large stones and amongst bunches of seaweed. They are also well-adapted to living in diluted seawater. They are found under algae and rocks when the tide is out but live right down the shore into quite deep water. The green crab buries itself for protection in clean sand around individual rocks, lives happily in the holes and weed growth along harbour walls and pier and jetty supports. The green crab is a hungry little beast. Their foods are, worms, small gastropods, small crabs, algae, carrion and almost anything they can catch.

Monday 28 December 2020 Yesterday was one of those ‘big sky’ days in Orkney. Cold air and not a breath of wind. Beautiful blue sky with big white clouds and on the Atlantic coast a few black ones. We left early in the morning heading for The Ring of Brodgar and Harray Loch. As we drove across the Churchill barriers separating our island from mainland Orkney we were given spectacular views of the hills of Hoy topped with a dusting of snow, made even better by the cold crystal clear air and just the slightest hint of a breeze. As we proceeded through Kirkwall and Finstown it became clear that there was frost, the roadside verges were showing quite a bit of white, we passed the ancient Mound of Maeshowe and turned off the main road and passed the Steness stones and over the causeway that separates the loch's of Steness & Harray, it became clear that it was a very heavy frost, the temperature was just below freezing and the edges of the lochs were fringed with ice, we parked at the Ring of Brodgar car park and headed for the edge of Harray Loch. The sun was still very low and was just peeping over the top of Hoy, giving a golden glow to the landscape, while I took photo's Damien set up his scope and started scanning the loch for wildfowl, a few moments later he called out "Otters", we spent the next forty minutes watching four then five Otters, Two adults & Three cubs playing around some small islands, unfortunayly too far away for me to photograph, but great watching them through the scope.

Frosty morning at Harray Loch.

Ice on the shore of Harray Loch.

Golden Sunlight over The Ring of Brodgar.

Clearly on a high after watching the Otters, it was back to the car. A quick cup of coffee and off on the second leg of our trip, heading towards The Bay of Skaill, where hopefully there would be a big surf, the aftermath of Storm Bella, Well the Bay had a good surf alright but unfortunately for us, the beach had a large number of young people on surfboards enjoying themselves, so we watched them for a while before heading on to Marwick, the bay there is rocky but ended up being far better than Skaill with the sunlight highlighting the Atlantic breakers, really big surf and some fantastic pictures.

Atlantic breakers at Marwick bay.

Big Atlantic breakers, aftermath of Storm Bella.

Marwick head

Now back in the car we headed towards Birsay but then decided that owing to the increasing numbers of cars on the road the car park would probably be full, so we headed for Dounby and the turning to the picnic area on the side of Harray loch opposite the Ring of Brodgar, this is a pretty little area on the raised ground overlooking the loch with a few little islands and reedbeds, a great place for wildfowl and other birds including hunting Hen Harriers and in the summer Short-eared Owls. With a good number of pictures in the bag, it was time to head back to the Hope, and start planning the next trip in this beautiful place we call home.

Little ice rimmed islands.

View from the picnic site with the Hill's of Hoy in the background.

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