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For the sixth consecutive year, I spent two weeks on the beautiful 'misty isle' of Skye with my family and for the sixth consecutive year I spent less time relaxing and more time walking along the beaches and mountainous terrain in search of wildlife. After-all what more relaxation is needed than watching the gracefulness of seabirds soaring through the skies and listening to the mass of calming calls of the thousands of wading birds feeding along the beach?
I was lucky enough to see and photograph some species I have never seen before this year. One such species was the incredibly good looking and colourful Turnstone which I came across on one of the wettest days of the fortnight. I convinced myself that if I braved the rain then the wildlife would be the reward - it did not disappoint. I spotted the orange mottled plumage of a small wader that I did not recognise as I peeked over a rock and down to a small inlet beneath me. I was cut off by a rocky slope of seaweed and my only choice to get closer was to shuffle down this rock on my front. With water seeping quickly into my apparently not-so-waterproof clothes, I edged gradually towards the feeding Turnstone. I got a few shots, enough to identify the bird later, before it flew a little further out to some rocks beyond the inlet. I was chuffed with what I had as I was just happy to have seen a new species. Not thinking I would see the Turnstone again, I wandered on towards where I thought I had seen a Heron land a little earlier - however, as I came around another clump of rocks, I spotted a mottled orangey plumaged wader blending beautifully into the orange seaweed not too far away from me. It's always worth getting a little bit cold and wet to photograph wildlife.
Another species that I came across this year for the first time was the Black Guillemot which I spotted in the quaint harbourside village of Armadale. Although being a bustling tourist spot for the many people arriving and departing Skye via the Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries, once the ferry has left, the place becomes beautifully quiet and a haven for wildlife. Seals sit just off shore basking in the sunshine (when the sun makes an appearance!) and over the years I've seen otters, dolphins and even basking sharks alongside the regular population of seabirds. But the Black Guillemot was certainly a first for me so the adrenalin kicked in as soon as I saw two of them sitting and washing on the rocks by the waters edge. They were in such a place so as not to be seen from land other than via the ferry walkway that ran along and above these particular rocks, so I managed to get pretty close before they even knew I was there. By the time they spotted me, I was sat very still among the rocks, peering round at them and I didn't seem to even faze them by being there. It was an incredible moment of trust to be allowed so close and I managed to photograph them for a good 5 or 10 minutes before I felt I'd better back off and leave them in peace.
There was of course many more familiar species that I had the pleasure to photograph too - Skye will never cease to surprise me with it's abundance of wildlife and landscape beauty. If you'd like to see my landscapes from Skye this year then I have put them in a separate blog here: Isle of Skye - The Landscapes 2014.