2018 - in numbers and pictures.

2018 ticks by - another 365 pictures of the day (and another 12 pictures of the month - see below).

A year in which I clocked up over a hundred days in Scotland, including almost 70 on Shetland.  I've taken another 25000 pictures and walked over 1900 miles.  I've also traded my 57 mile commute up the M40 for a 15 minute walk along the London Road in Headington.

For the first time in about 15 years I've not been outside the UK over the last 12 months; a consequence of wanting to progress my 'Scottish Landranger' project (still a work in progress) and wanting to spend more time on Shetland.  A good outcome of that is I've 'only' clocked up 3300 flying miles.

I've made the time to do more hands-on volunteering work with BBOWT, with Trees for Life and with the John Muir Trust. And I've finally clocked up my 25th blood donation.

This is my 28th blogpost of the year - and my most heavily read post (by a big margin) was my celebration of my many visits over the years to Sumburgh Head (and, in recent years, to its cafe).

It doesn't feel like a good time to be making predictions about what the New Year has to hold.  I keep hoping I'm going to find that the whole saga turns out to be a bad - if somewhat protracted - dream.

I suspect my personal coping strategy for the next year is going to involve getting my hands dirty doing more conservation-related volunteering and spending quite a lot of timing hanging out around the cliffs and headlands of the south end of Shetland, mostly with a camera in hand.

12 Pictures of the Month

January - snow on Fitful Head
February - St Ninian's Isle
March - Walking the Thames Path
April - Just Arrived - Puffin at Sumburgh Head
May - Ullswater Reflections
June - Fishing Season, Sumburgh Head
July - Edinburgh
August - Shetland's Crowded Beaches - St Ninian's
September - Autumn Storms - Scat Ness
October - Gannets - West Voe of Sumburgh
November - Glen Affric
December - Calm Winter Morning on Scat Ness

Early Winter on Shetland, November 2018

Storms can, and do, roll through the Shetland Islands at pretty much any time of the year.  Sometimes they get graced with Met Office names, at other times they just anonymously batter the islands for a day or two before rumbling on past. 

During the summer there can be quite long gaps between the storms, in the winter they are often rather closer together.  This makes fitting in a winter visit between the storms a wee bit challenging.

When I was packing to head up to Shetland the islands were being battered by one of these un-named storms.  The ferries to and from Shetland were being disrupted, the local inter-island ferries had stopped running and even Loganair were offering to let people re-schedule their flights.

As I travelled north just after the worst of the storm, the flights got bumpier and bumpier - it was fine around London, a bit rough around Aberdeen and positively entertaining on the approach into Sumburgh at the south end of Shetland.  Fair Isle (usually covered by clouds) was clear, but had a very pretty necklace of white surf around it.

As usual, when I’m on Shetland just after a storm I headed to Scat Ness - this low headland almost always acts as a wave magnet, waves from anywhere south will make for good photographs.

A quick glimpse at the weather forecast as I arrived suggested that there was going to be a pretty steady procession of rain clouds blowing through throughout my stay.

It didn’t really work like this. Although the first 24 hours were a bit wild, after this the weather just got calmer and calmer, until it got to almost shirt-sleeves conditions (and much less wind than one could reasonably expect even in summer).

Post storm waves on Scat Ness ...
... in the West Voe of Sumburgh ...
... and in Quendale Bay.
Sunday morning calm on Scat Ness

One bonus that you can never rely at anytime of year is the appearance of orca around the Shetland coastline.  A few years ago orca reports where real novelties - but at the moment they almost expected.  However, I was delighted to get a social media alert that orca had been spotted heading down the east side of Shetland towards the southern end.  This turned out to be some of the regular visitors - including the big bull orca (Busta) and a few of his family.  They slowly tracked their way round the south end of Shetland across Quendale Bay and eventually (just before sunset) popped up at St Ninian’s on the west side of Shetland, still checking out the voes and beaches for seals.  

I don’t think anyone is clear why orca sightings are so much more common now than they were a few years ago.  It might be that the food sources have changed either around Shetland or somewhere else.  It’s also entirely possible that the increased reports of sightings are down to better communications - over the last few years there are better social media networks where sightings can be reported and, in the Shetland context even more importantly, the mobile phone coverage has really improved recently!

Busta passing Sumburgh Head
Razor and her calf (born last winter)
All calm on Quendale Beach
Quendale Bay from the garden - calm and clear across Lady's Holm and out to Fair Isle on the horizon.

But true to form - by the time I was checking at the airport to fly south I could see warnings that a new (as yet unnamed) storm was winding up in the Atlantic ready to blow in - and both the ferry and boat companies were starting to post disruption messages.   Not quite soon enough - I wouldn’t have minded getting stuck on Shetland for a few more days.  Maybe next time.

There are more pictures from this trip on Flickr - and the sequence of daily pictures started over on Blipfoto on 30th November.