Birds on the Farne Islands

As promised some of the bird photographs I took on Inner Farne and on the Serenity II boat trip.
It's an amazing priviledge to be able to get so close to these wild birds and my only regret was that I didn't go earlier in the season then I could have made a few more visits.
The boat trip cost £13 and it's £6.20 to get onto the Island, free if you're a National Trust member so it's not an expensive day out.
I ended up with a short list of 49 photographs and I've selected a few for you here, the rest I'll be loading onto my Flickr page if you'd like to see more Puffins.

 Puffin, the Puffins breed in burrows and seem to stand 'on guard' at the entrance.

 Puffin in a mass of white Campion flower

 Puffin portrait

Classic fish shot of a Puffin

 Another Puffin with fish shot, they seem to land with their catch then watch a while to make sure it's safe to go down into their burrow to feed the chick.

Puffin with fish

Shag grooming on of the fluffy chicks



Bobbing around on a boat

I've been waiting ages for a spell of good weather so I could head off to the Farne Islands and try my hand at photographing the Puffins and other sea birds.
It's an hour and a half from Gilsland to Seahouses on the Northumberland coast, travelling along the A69 and then up the A, not a bad run.
It was perfect weather and I'd arranged to go with Serenity, the skipper Andrew is @thefarnes on twitter and he kept me updated with all the information I needed for the day.
Got there early and explored the coast, saw some Eider Ducklings with female Eiders.
I love these Cuddy Ducks and had hoped to photograph some males who look very splendid in their mating plumage but alas, most of the drakes I saw were moulting and looked very bedraggled.

Eider Duckling stepping out.

The boat Serenity II, a catamaran, was leaving at 12.15 and I was on board and eager to get underway, I'd taken some pills to avoid sea sickness and it wasn't particularly rough.

View to Bamburgh Castle from Seahouse Harbour

There's a tour around before you land on Inner Farne and to be honest I got on the boat thinking that was going to be a waste of time, but it was brilliant.
We sailed around the Pinnacles, great towers of rock, absolutely covered in nesting sea birds.

The Pinnacles

The smell on a hot day was eye watering, lots of guano giving the rocks a white hue and encouraging lots of flies too, but the birds don't seem to mind it, building nests in tiny cracks or shelves in the rock.

Nesting birds fill every ledge

Andrew and his first mate Keith took us in really close and pointed out the various nesting birds.
Then off past Staple Island and the Longstone Lighthouse with a bit about local heroine Grace Darling.

Longstone Lighthouse with a Grey Seal or two watching the boat.

Northumberland has a population of Grey seals on these islands and as we approached the Island they popped their heads up and posed for photographs.

Grey Seal

Inner Farne
 Then it was on to Inner Farne and time for my big lens, but more from that tomorrow, but for now here's a Puffin shot hopefully to whet your appetite.



At last, a morning worth setting the alarm for.
Out of practice as I am, it was a struggle to get up when the alarm went, but it was a lovely clear morning so I was up and  off to Hadrian's Wall.
I was initially planning to go to Sewingshields Crag but I wanted a misty morning for the photographs I have in mind, and, while it seemed conditions were right for mist, there was non about.
A change of plan then and I headed for Hotbank Crag with the idea that when the sun got to bright for east facing photographs, I might be able to move west a bit and take some shots over Crag Lough.
It takes me 20 minutes to get from the car park space up to the Wall, every step of the way I was serenaded by Sky Larks, what a grand way to welcome the day.
Sky was clear with just a wee bit of colour, as the sun came up clouds started to form, catching the light and helping to fill those blank bits of sky.
I pottered around and then started to head west just as a bank of fog descended, thinking that was it for the morning I turned around and saw the sun light coming underneath the fog bank and some lovely light on the land.
Eventually I realised that it wasn't my filter misting up (wish someone would invent some non misting filters),  I was becoming enveloped in fog, so I headed back to the car, stopping once to take a photograph towards Housesteads.
Home by 6am to a welcome cup of tea.

Sunrise from Hotbank Crag on the Hadrian's Wall Path

Light on the turf of Hadrian's Wall

 The fog bank closes in

Power of light as it reflects in Broomlee Lough

Light over Housesteads Fort.

as always the photographs in this blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission



Not many landscape photographs of late, weather hasn't been playing ball.
I've been sitting in my hide, in the rain, taking photographs of the birds that come into my garden but you, my fine followers, don't seem to be all that keen on bird shots.
However, yesterday I was meeting people for lunch at the Lion and Lamb in Horsley and, thanks to Twitter I knew I'd be passing some of the Hexhamshire Poppy Fields.
Twitter is a great place for gathering information and two fellow twits kindly sent me maps with "x marks the spot" for the best displays.
TT was driving and we meandered around Hexhamshire, the ones near the Brockbushes roundabout, (take the B6530 towards Bywell) are the easiest to access but we stopped at Chollerford and on the A68 north of Broomhaugh where the yellow Rape flowers are still out.
It looked like jelly and custard with the red and yellow stripes.
As you drive along the A69 you keep seeing great swathes of red and what a magnificent sight they are.
Here are some of the shots I took, including one that was shown on Look North Weather last night.
Oh! by the way the food at the Lion and Lamb at Horsley was excellent, we shall return.

Poppies on the road towards Bywell and Corbridge.

A sea of red

View across the Tyne Valley from the A68 north of Broomhaugh

Poppies and Oilseed Rape near Chesters Fort at Chollerford

Near Chollerford.

While I'm featuring flowers I'll include one I took today at Washington WWT of the Bee Orchid -thank goodness for these flowers, I got nothing worth having from my bird photographs so the Orchid at least saved the day being a total disaster.

Bee Orchid at Washington WWT.

As usual all photo's are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and can't be used without written permission.


Someone's out there

Wednesday morning, the alarm went off and, for a change, there was a clear sky with a bit of colour.
Twenty to four and I'm heading out to Caw Gap, one of my favourite spots for sunrise (okay I know, they're all my favourites - it just depends where I am when you ask).
On the way there I saw a Barn Owl flying over, that made getting up early worthwhile before I'd even taken a photo - big smile on my face at that sighting.
Caw Gap is one of the nice and easy to get to spots, still a bit of up and down but not one of those steam out of the ears clambers and soon I was set up and ready for action.
The sun is way over to the north of Hadrian's Wall at the moment and I just have to hope the sky has enough of a colour spread to make the bit I'm pointing at worthwhile.
I'd been there about ten minutes when over the crest of the hill came a walker, now that's something I don't often see at 4 oclock in the morning.
He told me he'd been wild camping (I'm sure that must be frowned upon by the Hadrian's Wall Heritage people)  and couldnt sleep so, he was getting an early start to the day, as rain was forecast for later he probably made the right decision.

Clouds were coming and going at great speed so the view was constantly changing, I'll upload shots in the order they were taken so you can see how much things change in a short space of time.
Once sunrise happens the camera is shooting away twenty to the dozen then it all stops so I'm normally out of the house for less than two hours.
Occasionally I'll visit more than one site but the conditions have to be exceptional after all I'm lucky enough to be able to go he next time it's promising light.
Before you ask, I do have a few hours sleep when I get back, at my age I need the rest :)

An almost clear sky as I set up to wait for sunrise at Caw Gap (4.06am)

A much better sky with clouds to catch the colour of the rising sun (04.40am)

The 'golden hour' light as the rising sun catches the peaks at Caw Gap. (04.54am)

View across to the North Pennines from Cawfield Crags, gives you an idea of
what a great defencive position this was for Hadrian's Wall

The view west towards the Thirlwall Nicks and Walltown beyond.(04.55am)

Hoping to get out one morning this weekend, the weather forecast mentioned mist and my ears pricked up, while since I've been to Sewingshields so that's next on my list, watch this space.

As always the photographs in the blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission.



Last night's sky looked promising.
I needed to find a branch of wood to use as a perch for the woodpeckers I'm hoping to photograph and the obvious place to combine a search for a branch and some photography was Walltown.
It was a beautiful night to be out, cold but bright.
I was trying to get a photograph of the quarry workings the had both ends of Hadrian's Wall on so you could see how the quarrymen had simply blasted through this ancient monument.
I didn't get it quite right, needed to be lower which would have had the Wall cresting the horizon.
One for another outing perhaps.
The sun is setting parallel to the Crags and Hadrian's Wall at the moment, perfect for simply standing and watching the spectacle, not so good for photograhic composition perhaps.
I took some photographs, found a nice bit of branch and got some fresh air and exercise, what more could you ask from an outing ?

The Quarry Face at Walltown the first tiny crest to the left of the quarried face has the remains of Hadrian's Wall, so a vast chunk of stone has been removed.
In the background you can see Mucklebank Crag and to the right Winshields Crag. William's barn still hasn't weathered.

The view west following the line of Hadrian's Wall.

Sunset over Hadrian's Wall

Still trying to work out the kinks in the Nikon D7000, it's quite different to my D300 but I shall persevere.

As always all photographs in the Blog are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and can't be used without written permission.


Misty morning

June is here and that brings those misty mornings I love.
It's unpredictable, some places it's impenetrable and everything can change in seconds.
I started out at Steel Rigg, I had some friends coming to spend the day with us so I couldn't go too far, I'm lucky that I can get up at 3.30am and be home again by 6am.
I was helped by the fact that there was no cloud so I knew it would quickly become too bright for my lens.
I was using the Nikon D7000 and I'm starting to really like this camera, it has it's quirks but it also has some really useful features.
Not much blurb just a set of photographs, in the order they were taken, starting at Steel Rigg with a quick stop at Cawfields Quarry on my way home.

 Three lambs and the view south over Bardon Mill

For a change the sheep stayed within camera range. Some dawn colour in the sky.

Mists rising from Crag Lough and the marshy land below the crags

Sun rising over Hound Hill to the north of Hadrian's Wall, the cows started bellowing to great the day.

You can see how far over the sun rises at this time of the year

Sun's up and it's time for breakfast

Let there be light

This is what they mean when they talk about 'The Golden Hour' that lovely warm light you get within an hour of sunrise. Light catching the Hadrian's Wall Path as it crosses Steel Rigg.

Cawfields Quarry, taken as I headed home.

As always the photographs are copyright of Joan Thirlaway and cannot be used without written permission.