Office Views

I've had quite a lot of different 'offices' over the years I've been taking photographs regularly - in Milton Keynes (at The Open University), in Coventry (at University of Warwick), in Oxford and on Shetland (both home offices) - and most recently in Oxford (at Oxford Brookes University).

Lots of different views - some more distracting than others!

The Milton Keynes Years

The Warwick Years

Oxford - Home Office

Shetland - Home Office

Oxford Brookes

30 Days Wild, June 2018

Another June, another 30 Days Wild.  

This is the fourth time I've taken on the Wildlife Trust's 30 Day challenge - previous end-of-the-month blog posts are elsewhere - 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This time it's been a good month.   The weather has been excellent, and I managed to spend about half the month on Shetland and most of the rest of the time outside in and around Oxfordshire, and in total have walked 212 miles.

My favourite pictures from the month were probably some of the many puffin pictures I took at Sumburgh Head at the south end of Shetland - I was particularly pleased to see (and photograph) an arriving puffin with a beakful of sandeels and it's always good to get a decent puffin-in-flight picture too.  

This year I allowed myself the luxury of picking three pictures each day - these are all in a Flickr album

I expect to be back again for another 30 Days Wild in June 2019 - in the meantime I'll be carrying on taking pictures - and spending as much time outside as I can fit in around other commitments!

Wednesday, 13th June 2018
Sunday, 17th June 2018
30 Days - June 2018

I expect to be back again for another 30 Days Wild in June 2019.  In the meantime I'll be carrying on taking pictures - daily pictures will be on blipfoto and on twitter - and spending as much time outside as I can fit in around other commitments!

Shetland Summer - June 2018

Shetland Summer - it’s a bit like Shetland spring (see earlier post) but with everything in overdrive - and with almost 24 hours-a-day daylight!

If someone was going to ask my advice about being at the south end of Shetland in June, I’d certainly enthuse about the puffins at Sumburgh Head and probably about the fantastic (empty) beaches - and I’d then start muttering about the importance of having decent blackout curtains where ever you might be trying to sleep.   

Shetland in June moves to what the locals call “Simmer Dim” - the most useful translation is probably something like “summer dimness”, giving a sense that at this time of year it does get dim overnight but it really doesn’t get properly dark.  If you can find somewhere with a clear view to the northern horizon you’ll see that the sun slowly drags itself below the horizon just west of north and then shortly afterwards starts to drag itself up again just east of north - not quite the full midnight sun, but certainly close enough to disorient you.  And if you rely on your body clock to tell you when it’s time to do things like eat or sleep, after about three days you’ll be cheerfully eating breakfast at 04:30 and falling asleep mid-afternoon when you really should be heading to cafe at Sumburgh Head for afternoon tea or coffee.  There’s an entire blog post about the time I’ve spent at Sumburgh Head over the years.

Afternoon Coffee - Sumburgh Head
Morning Coffee - also Sumburgh Head

The close to 24-hour daylight also pushes the bird life into overdrive - puffins are coming and going at pretty much any time of day - more likely driven by the prevailing weather than by anything as conventional as a clock.  June is a great time for puffin spotting - and over the last few weeks there have been several high puffin count days - I’ve seen at least one puffin coming into the cliffs with a beak full of plump sand-eels - suggesting that there are sand-eels around to be caught and pufflings around to be fed.  It would be great if the Sumburgh puffins could have a good breeding season this year, there have been several poor seasons recently, and the presence of a decent numbers of sand eels locally would be really important.

Beak to beak
In the Pinks
Fish for breakfast
Committee Meeting

Despite appearances to the contrary I didn’t spend all my time watching puffins - an extended period of settled warm weather did give me plenty of time to explore other bits of the south mainland, including Scat Ness (another of my local patches) and Quendale Beach (another regular walk) on numerous occasions.  The only interruption to the settled weather was a couple of days when Storm Hector blew through bringing some unseasonably wild weather - not good for the birds nesting low on cliffs, but providing opportunities for some dramatic pictures.

Calm Evening at Sumburgh Head 
Looking North from Windy Stacks, Fitful Head
Quendale Beach
After the Storm, Scat Ness

And it’s not just the puffins bringing in food for youngsters, lots of other birds are just starting to move on from the incubating to feeding stages, including the local Shetland Wrens.

Shetland Wren

Finally, June really is when the tourist season gets into overdrive too - the hotels, guest houses and ferries are full, every other passing place seems to have a camper van in it - and even the slipway in Lerwick has visitors sleeping on it. Well, one at least.

Bearded Seal - usually in the High Arctic, this summer on a Lerwick slipway

Local Patch - Shetland - (III) Sumburgh Head

This is the third of three posts about my local patches at the south end of Shetland.  

Part One was all about Scat Ness, Part Two about Quendale Beach and this one is about Sumburgh Head.

I've taken a lot of photographs on Shetland. Actually that's probably an understatement, but the first one was taken on the coast near the Sumburgh Hotel on Saturday 27th January 2007 - and the main feature in that picture was Sumburgh Head.   I certainly had no idea quite how much time I would spend at Sumburgh Head over the next eleven and a half years.

Sumburgh Head - an RSPB Reserve and more recently with a fabulous Shetland Amenity Trust visitor centre - has become one of the places I visit regularly when I'm on Shetland. Very regularly.  If I look back through my photo records I do wind up visiting Sumburgh Head almost every day when I'm on Shetland - sometimes twice and occasionally more.

This is true at anytime of the year - from braving the winter storms in January and December, through the early spring reappearance of the guillemots and the excitement (usually in April) of seeing the puffins return.  In both the spring and autumn Sumburgh is a prime stopping point for passing migrants and almost anything can and does turn up.  

In the middle of summer I'll stare hopefully over the walls in the hope of glimpsing one of the passing orcas, in the middle of winter I'll cling to the walls in the hope of not being blown over the cliff edge.

Over the years Sumburgh Head has changed.  There are certainly more fulmar now than before, but sadly fewer puffins and many fewer kittiwakes.  And there's now a visitor centre - I was worried that the centre would spoil the sense of wildness.  Sumburgh Head has successfully retained it's sense of wildness but with an added sense of heritage and history, and a fabulous little cafe.  

And toilets. :-)

January 2007
February 2016
March 2011
April 2015
May 2011
June 2018
July 2017
August 2017
September 2012
October 2010
November 2017
December 2013

Keeping it Wild - Oxford Version

I didn’t really have a plan for this week….

I was planning to turn out for a BBOWT work party at the Chilswell Valley on Monday morning, but when that was cancelled I decided that I might as well head round to Chilswell Valley for an early morning walk in the sunshine - and it would at least provide some pictures to add to my picture of the day collection.  I also took the opportunity to make some short videos while I was there - not with the intention of doing anything with the videos, but just so I could rip the audio track to give a richer sense of what it was like around the valley on a sunny Monday morning in May.

Monday - Looking to the city - from the Chilswell Valley
Monday - On the Chilswell Valley boardwalk
Monday - Into the Valley

Having enjoyed Happy Valley (the traditional local name for Chilswell Valley) I thought I should revisit another of my local nature reserves, Lye Valley, for my morning walk on Tuesday.  This time I took a rather better microphone to plug in to the camera (I bought the microphone about a year ago, with the - as yet uncompleted - plan to record wave sounds around Shetland). 

Tuesday - Lye Valley boardwalk 
Tuesday - Deep in the Lye Valley

In addition to being local reserves both Chilswell and Lye Valley are also part of the Wild Oxford project (being run by BBOWT), so since the weather still looked promising I decided that my Wednesday walk needed to be another Wild Oxford site - this time Rivermead Nature Park to the south of the city.

Wednesday - Rivermead Nature Park 
Wednesday - Pond life at Rivermead

And having visited three of the four Wild Oxford sites over the first three days of the week, I really didn’t have any option but to visit the fourth site, Raleigh Park, on Thursday.  The morning weather really wasn’t encouraging, but by lunchtime the rain had passed through and I got my pictures (and an audio recording) from Raleigh Park to add to the set. 

Thursday - Spires from the top of Raleigh Park
Thursday - Yellow Flag Irises at Raleigh Park
Thursday - Lost in Raleigh Park

I do like it when the week looks like there was a master plan - but I probably shouldn't have started getting quite so wild about Oxford this close to 30 Days Wild - but I guess all four of these places can expect a return visit next month.