It is said up here that winter begins after the County Show (the 2nd Saturday in August). And it is amazing how often this is the case. There is an edge to the wind, evenings are definitely cooler, and the land is getting ready for winter.
The bird life knows winter is coming. The starlings are flocking in their hundreds, and so are the lapwings. The gulls are changing their behaviour, feeding more off the pasture, and the oyster catchers are clubbing together in groups.
I was looking out of Steve’s kitchen window the other day, and saw a bird I didn’t recognise. It was the size of a blackbird, but it appeared to have a big ruff round its neck. I didn’t have binoculars ro hand, but I did have my camera, so took a pic through the window:
The one on the left is a female blackbird (brown and spotty not black) but I still couldn’t recognise the one of the right. Zooming in on it solved the problem. It is a male blackbird in moult – the ruff was the old feathers starting to come out!
I used the same technique yesterday morning when there was a huge twittering outside my Flotta house. I could see about a hundred birds alighting on the roof of a nearby house, making a lot of racket, jostling for position. By the time I got the camera a lot of them has flown off, but some remained.
The day was very grey so the photo isn’t brilliant, but zooming in shows that these are young swallows, flocking before setting off back to Africa. You can see their chestnut bibs on their white chests. They will not get their iconic long tail feathers until they are older.
Scottie and I had a wander round West Hill on Friday, and the changes were apparent there too. Across the sound, the hills of Hoy were wearing their winter colours:
Back on Flotta itself, the cotton grass (also called bog cotton) was still out:
This plant is called after the seed heads which look like cotton.
However, for the spinners amongst you, you can NOT spin cotton grass. When you handle it, it just disintegrates. I don’t care how many books talk about things made from bog cotton, it isn’t possible!!
The colour of Scotland in autumn is purple, from the heathers. That is the colour of the Orkney hills just now. It is looking lovely (and would look even better in the sun!!)
Closer to, you can see how thick the flowers are this year. Last year a storm in the middle of August stripped the flower heads before they could bloom, but they have made up for it this year.
Meanwhile, but in my garden, my pots have bloomed very well without me!
The next step will be to plant the spring bulbs, but I am not thinking about that yet!