Monthly Report, October 2023

Mostly Italy.

I signed off the last report in Zurich.  From there it's relatively short rail trip through the Alps into Northern Italy - and time exploring Val Camonica (north of Brescia) and Val Senales (a bit further east and almost into Austria).  But first the Numbers.

By the Numbers 

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Mostly Italy

Distance Walked: 297 km

Distance Driven:  998 km

Photographs Taken: Hundreds


The jaunt around Italy in April and May was (COVID not withstanding) a delight, so when the opportunity to do it again in October was presented we didn't take much convincing.  

In April and May we did all the travelling by train, so the obvious thing to do was to use the train again.  However, tunnels.  

There are a few rail tunnels through the Alps, and since the April trip two of the tunnels have suffered major incidents.  The main route between Paris and Turin (Frejus rail tunnel) has been closed by a landslide (and still is) and the Gotthard base tunnel (the new quick route between Zurich and Milan) closed by a major derailment.  This meant that the plan to go to and from Italy via Paris and Turin was derailed. Plan B was to go out via Zurich (and to allow enough time for the slower old route down to Milan) and to come back via Nice on the French Riviera. The conclusion from this is that rail travel is still better then flying (the scenery is much better), but the stress level is lower if you don't try and spend all day travelling and allow a wee bit of leisure time and some nice overnight stops too!

Stop One this time was back in Boario - for another couple of weeks of neurotherapy, spa time, fine dining and very good coffee - and the occasional gelato.

Boario & River Olgio

Old Bridge, Boario

Madonna of the Alps, Boario

Lovere, Lake Iseo

Stop Two was in Certosa, high in the mountains north of Bolzano and Merano (in SudTirol) - where we finally got to spend time walking in the Senales Valley - a trip originally planned for Summer 2020.

Madonna di Senales

Lago di Vernago

And in the spirit of slow travel, the return journey involved overnight stops in Verona, Turin and Nice.



Back in UK

In April I commented that its felt like we'd fast forwarded from Spring to Summer - the converse this time was the shock of going from walking in shirt sleeves in the Italian Mountains or promenading along the Boulevard des Anglais in Nice to late Autumn in Oxfordshire.

C S Lewis Reserve, Oxford

Bury Knowle Park, Oxford

Heading North

Oxfordshire autumn not really being to my taste - I ended the month by promenading along the Esplanade in Aberdeen, before hunkering down for a bumpy overnight trip back up to Shetland. 

The Esplanade, Aberdeen

Next Month  

That'll be Shetland.

The Mirrie Dancers


Monthly Report, September 2023

OK, so this report is seriously late.  And rather brief.

The summary version is 'mostly Shetland'.  

The slightly longer version is 'Shetland, Oxford, London, Paris and Zurich'.

By the Numbers

Reporting Days: 30 (including one birthday)

Location: See above

Distance Walked: 366 km

Distance Driven: 1427 km

Photographs Taken: Thousands

Cameras Replaced: One


Shetland in September can pretty much be guaranteed to provide a mix of sunshine, big seas, fog, rain and the first glimpses of the Northern Lights.  The challenge is figuring when each of these will appear.

Evening calm on Quendale Beach

Wild Seas on Scat Ness

Surf and Sun on Quendale Beach

Northern Lights over Virkie


The last few days of the month were the start of the latest European train (and bus!) trip - which got off to a thoroughly leisurely start with overnight stops in Oxford, London, Paris and Zurich.

The Headington Shark, Oxford

King's Cross Station, London


Lake Zurich

Coming Soon

And next month?  That'll be mostly Italy.


Monthly Report, August 2023

Another 31 Days of Shetland

Anyone who watches the stream of photographs I share - on Instagram, Threads, X, Facebook and Flickr - could have made two observations over the last month, firstly "He seems to spend a lot of time on Quendale Beach" and secondly "There are a lot of photogenic locations at the south end of Shetland".

But second things first.  Having had a very auk-centric July (which meant a lot of time spent at Sumburgh Head), I decided that I needed to ring the changes for August, and try and take photographs at 31 different places during the 31 days of August.

And Quendale Beach? Q Beach is the closest beach to the house, about 700 metres down a farm track from doorstep to sand.  And this summer I've got into the habit of walking to (and along) the beach pretty much every morning (30/31 in August) and sometimes later in the day too. At low tide and at high tide. In fair weather and in less fair weather too.

By the Numbers

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Shetland

Distance Walked: 388 km

Distance Driven: 915 km

Distance Rowed: 30 km

Photographs Taken: Thousands

Cameras Trashed: 1

31 Locations

Brough Head, The Castle, Lerwick, Quendale Beach, Fitful Head, Scat Ness, Sumburgh Head, Broken Brough, Gulberwick, Grutness, Bight of Laward, Garths Ness, Scord Beach, Hoswick, St Ninian's, Scalloway, Boddam, Scousburgh Sands, Toab, Compass Head, Quendale Mill, Broch of Burland, Helli Ness, Beach of Mail, West Voe of Sumburgh, Jarlshof, Horse Island, 60N, Sandsayre Pier, Meal Beach & Corston.

Sumburgh Head

Lerwick Harbour

Quendale Mill

Broken Brough

Garths Ness

Helli Ness


Sandsayre Pier

Quendale Beach

Where there are usually gentle waves, blue skies and no people (but not always)

10th August

12th August

13th August

21st August

25th August

31st August

Camera Juggling

I've had a good run for my money.  I've been carrying digital cameras since 2004 (and analog ones for years before that), and this month I finally bounced one.  All I can say is, always check that your camera bag is properly done up before hoisting it onto your shoulder..

Next month

Current plan is to spend a few more weeks on the beaches and headlands of Shetland, before heading south by car, boat, bus and trains.

Monthly Report, July 2023

Totally Shetland. 

There's always an element of satisfaction when I get to the end of the month and I can report that's been an entirely Shetland month, and in this case a month spent almost entirely at the south end of Shetland watching auks!

By the Numbers

Reporting Days: 31

Location: Shetland

Distance Walked: 343 km (mostly on the beaches)

Distance Driven: 776 km (mostly shopping trips to Lerwick)

Distance Rowed: 156 km (entirely stationary)

Photographs Taken: Many thousands, mostly auks


July is peak puffin at Sumburgh Head - the breeding birds are busy feeding the pufflings, the non-breeding adults are just hanging around on the cliffs and the youngsters (the pufflings) are starting to emerge from their nests. And the photographers and other visitors spend many hours just looking over the walls watching the puffin antics.




Fab Four

Big Meeting

Looking Out



If you want a change from the showy bills (and feet) of the puffins, can I suggest that you spend a bit more time watching the razorbills (also available at Sumburgh Head). These are without question (at least I won't consider any question) the coolest auks. 


Razorbills with chick



Black Guillemots (unlike the other local auks) stay around all year but change from their distinctive breeding plumage at the end of the summer.  They don't (as far as I know) breed at Sumburgh Head, but do find lots of local nesting holes around the West Voe of Sumburgh and on Scat Ness.  And you will (if you've got decent high frequency hearing) almost certainly hear them before you see them.


Tystie Dynamics


Guillemots are probably the most numerous Shetland auk, they 'nest' huddled together in big colonies above the sea on every side of Sumburgh Head.  I find it really difficult to get good guillemot pictures, the colonies are quite a distance from the cliff top vantage points and the fact that the birds huddle together so tightly makes it challenging to pick out individuals.  Once the youngsters (the jumplings) get a bit bigger the adults give them a wee bit of space and it gets a bit easier to see individual birds. 

Guillemots with jumplings

The Last Jumpling


I very rarely go a day on Shetland without a beach walk - and this month I've walked Quendale Beach almost every day!

Quendale Beach

Last light, Quendale Beach

Low tide, Quendale Beach


July is also an excellent time for orca spotting around Shetland - and they put in several appearances around the south end of Shetland. Orca sightings can never be guaranteed and should always be treasured!

27 Pod passing Sumburgh Head

27 Pod passing Sumburgh Head


I think there is a risk that the pictures from this month give a misleading picture of the Shetland weather - the weather has been good but that doesn't mean that there haven't been a few stormy and somewhat bleak days too!

Scat Ness Waves

Scat Ness Bleak

Next month is likely to feature fewer auks, lots of beaches and almost certainly more waves.