Thursday, 29 September 2011

Portree Wildlife


Morning at base camp and the weather has returned back to normal.  The mountain tops come and go beneath the dark clouds threatening more rain.
This was to be our last day on the Isle of Skye with the aim to leave tomorrow lunch time.  We try to save what petrol we have left in the tank so my dad dropped me off at our local harbour in Portree before venturing further down the road to Sligachan.   The wind today was coming from the south east.  For my last trip I had hoped to cross over to the Isle of Raasay and head along its west coast to it's norther tip.
All my kit unloaded my dad leaves me aiming to get back near the usual time around 5/6pm .  Above: The two headlands marking Portree harbour and the Isle of Raasay beyond.
Reaching the end of the headland the SE wind whips across the sound.  With the added swell it looked rather choppy.  I just knew the far side would be lovely and sheltered.
Looking north to my intended destination I decide to pull the plug and give it a miss.  The wind was just as strong as it was earlier in the week and this time with added height.  Squally showers and increasing winds forecast I thought it was for the best.  Now what? I'm trapped in the harbour with about 7 hours to spare.
I cross over to the other headland passing by the fisheries on the way.  Hundreds of fish leaping in the air, don't ask me what they are because I ain't got a clue.  It's about 1 nautical mile separating the heads of the harbour.
Weirdly open to the full exposure of the SE wind this side seemed quite sheltered.  I keep a keen eye to the cliffs for White Tailed Sea Eagles that are known to nest in the area.
 Looking back over I zig zag my way across.  The incoming wind and waves make for some great surfing in a following sea.
 I land on a rocky beach just after a soaking from a squally shower.  What to do??? I don't want to go back and sit in the pub for hours.  Last year I spotted a lot of eagles here on the cliffs so I decide I'm not going back until I found one.
Back on the water still in the little bay around the beach a dolphin and baby pop up.  I only manage one photo out of a load of blank water.  The experience was much better than the photo's, as they head my way popping out of the water every so often for air.  Good start, my hopes are slightly lifted. 
I scan the cliffs as two charter boats wave fish about trying to tempt an eagle off the cliffs.  I didn't want to get to close to the cliffs and disturb the viewing for the charters.  The eagle is having none of it and one of the charters heads off.  I paddle up to the other for a quick chat.  Once again the experience much better than the photos.  Last year I was able to get right up to the cliff but with this swell I have to keep my distance.  Also didn't help I had the settings on 8mega pixels instead of 14mp.
Three caves, I get rather close the swell doesn't seem to be coming in here.  That said a wall of green heads my way and manage to turn and get over the lip just before it breaks.
If you can't spot it, it's near the center of the picture on top of the rocky outcrop.  The charter is off around the corner of the head to where the pairs are nesting.  That is also where I had the best shots last year so I follow them around.
Typically the one I was just photographing takes to the air, I manage to catch a shot as he clears the tops of the cliff.
Once again sorry about the quality, it was lumpy as hell and I was at some distance from the cliffs.  This one seems a bit more interested in the waving fish.  It takes to the air, and glides in on the target.   The landing gear comes down, huge thick legs must be the size of my arms and plucks the fish from the water.  In this jaw dropping moment I grab my camera and decide to film it as I would probably miss a photo.  Very poor photography but you can make out what it is, sorry if you feel sea sick watching it.

He flies back up on cliff to devour his catch.  You can clear see where they get their name from from this shot.
Cheesy grin on my face I head back to the harbour after a few hours of eagle spotting.  If anything the winds picking up.  I some how manage 8.67 nautical miles just dawdling around the harbour entrance after 3hr 15 mins on the water.
I sit on the edge of the harbour with a book and some inquisitive gulls waiting for my dad to come off the hills.  I sit in the pub for one watching the news of some miners back home trapped in a mine near Swansea.  My dad text to say he's come off early, perfect! Otherwise I'd be pissed and scint by 5pm.
We head back into town for our last night on the Isle of Skye, homeward bound tomorrow.


Noel said...

A bit of a grey looking day but at least you managed to pull something out of the hat.

Stuart said...

Was a bit disapointed I didn't go out this day. You feel so alone and exposed out there, nothing for miles, it's a real comitment. Was glad I got to see the eagles again, beautiful birds and huge! There's always next time...