Orkney - Westray

High breakers over rocks below cliffs. The west coast of the island of Westray lies completely open to the Atlantic Ocean The island of Westray is the most north-westerly of the Orkneys, totally exposed to the winds from the north Atlantic, so that even on calm days the high seas and breakers crash into the western seaboard. These pictures were taken within a few hours, and a personal note has been included showing the tent and bike used by the photographer for the visit. The great attraction of the island are the extensive cliffs which stretch south-wards from Noup Head, reminiscent... Gangway on ship with land in distance. A glimpse of Westray from the ferry The quays of Westray harbour. The harbour on Westray is at the entrance to the intriguingly named Bay of Pierowall. The bay forms a protected enclosing circle on the island's east side ...although on a smaller scale, of the massive five mile wall at Latrabjorg in north west Iceland. Key to the attraction are the tens of thousands of sea birds that nest on these cliffs. Passengers leaning on rail of ship looking down at quay. Passengers watch the ferry being guided into position by ropes Lighthouse on headland with sea beyond. Utterly unprotected is the Noup Head lighthouse. It stands on the headland that projects out into the Atlantic on the north west corner of Westray Vertical cliff, in foreground cliff top covered with flowers. Lighthouse on headland in the distance, sea beyond, grass before. Above, approaching Noup Head - part of the area is now owned by the RSPB (their website for this reserve merits a prize for inanity)
Left, the cliffs wrap around the headland and then march off to the south. In late June the windswept bare rock is vibrant with thrift
Cliffs with caves hollowed out below and water passing right through. Stratified worn rocks with grass and small flowers. The cliffs, constantly beaten by the Atlantic swell, are eaten into giant elaborate sculptures - with a delicate icing of thrift Orchid head, unusual petal shape suggests rare lace orchid. ...probably a northern lace orchid Cliffs tops covered in flowers sea and land beyond. While thrift abundantly carpets the cliff tops, this is a much rarer plant... Lighthouse on headland with sea beyond. And so to the birds. This flock of terns are over the lower rocks, but I hope they give a sense of the way the air is filled with their raucous calls and ceaseless movement Three terns pointing into the wind. Above, three arctic terns glide to a standstill in the wind over their nesting site.
Right, the ledges of the cliff faces provide nest sites safe from ground predators...
Cliff face with distinct worn layers offering nesting sites. Sea stack again offering layers of nesting opportunities. ...Left, a stack that has become detached from the main cliff - idilic nesting sites!
And below, the restless wheeling mass of arctic terns above the grass where they nest Many birds flying near ground.
Sea with cliff to left and land in the distance - hundreds of specks that are birds. Hopefully, if you enlarge this photo, you will see that the air above the waves
is alive with hundreds of birds
Track leading to sandy bay. But Westray is not all sea cliffs, much of the island offers fertile farming ground, and places that arctic terns can nest. And not just terns. Both they and nesting great skuas attack anyone approaching their nest sites, and while the brave but diminutive terns (weighing about 100 gr) seem noble in their attacks, great skuas by comparison can inflict real damage on the unweary human Silhouette  of great skua vertically above. This great skua (locally aptly called 'bonxies') has spotted me near its nest site - leaving no time for petty matters of focusing the camera!.... Very fuzzy outline of bird just overhead. ...Diving in to attack - hatless heads may bleed Rocks and white waters near shoreline. Westray's interest extends to human history; here is the ruin of Noltland Castle dating from the 1500s, but remaining largely... Small fishing boat in swell. ...unfinished, the need for such strong defences having passed. It looks out over the Loch of Burness Wire fence with bike leaning on it and sea beyond. Bike park with a view... Bay with small waves on sea that is completely clear. And of course there is the share of white sand beaches and translucent waters Tent pitched on grassy hillsde overlooking sea. ...just above the tent Rocks and white waters near shoreline. That said, it is the churning crashing waters of the Atlantic Ocean that continuously draws the photographer Small fishing boat in swell. Not such a delight for fishermen who have to net these waters; and not just in the calm weather pictured here Closer shot of beakers on sea rocks. Broiling seas provide an appropriate last look at Westray Trailers... Cliff hollowed out to form leg into sea. The next page of this section is to have photographs from Papa Westray. Semi-circle group of people enthusiastically holding glasses up in a toast. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Alcohol'.
Or go to the contents Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section. of the Mosaic Section.
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Saturday 19th November 2022 Murphy on duty ...guide to this site


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