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Hebridean Imaging

Hebridean Imaging

Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago – Arriving and Days 1 to 3

10th September 2013 – Arrived back from Gibraltar yesterday afternoon, a lot chillier here in the UK! Kat and Phil picked me up from the airport. Lovely to spend the evening with mum and dad. This morning I was up early and nipped up to Tesco for some last minute food supplies to take with me for the next few days. Re-packed my rucksack – discarded a few items, i’m trying my best to pare it down to the minimum weight possible…

In the afternoon mum and dad took me down to Wellington station. They presented me with a silver St. Christopher and told me I must wear it on my travels, I had a big lump in my throat as I said goodbye to them. Mum said she wished she was young and fit enough to come with me. I got the train to Birmingham airport where I had booked a hotel overnight.

Mum and I at the station

Mum and I at the station

11th September 2013 – Everything went OK with my flight to Paris and then getting the train from Paris to Bordeaux. Well actually I had a few trials and tribulations, mostly of my own making, but I won’t bore you with them! I was able to practice my schoolgirl French, it’s been a very long time lol! I managed to enquire about my tickets and buy coffee.

The train was amazing, slap bang on time. It was the TGV and was double decker. Comfortable and spotlessly clean. I found the hotel in Bordeaux no problem it was just a two minute walk from the station. I’d decided to stay somewhere nice as it may be a few weeks before I have a comfy bed again.

12th September 2013 – I got the train from Bordeaux early this morning to Bayonne and then another to St. Jean Pied de Port. The only slight mishap was i got on the wrong half of the train – i found out after we left Bordeaux that the train was going to split at some point before Bayonne. The young lady who was the ticket collector was very friendly and helpful and told me where we would be stopping long enough for me to leave the train and head up to the front.

St. Jean is a beautiful little town in the French Pyrenees. The train journey was beautiful. Little Egret from the train. There are many pilgrims here waiting to start their walk. I wandered around sightseeing and taking photos. Went to the pilgrims office to get my pilgrims passport (credencial) and got it stamped. Visited a bar for wine and chatted with some other pilgrims. Mooched around all the lovely shops that are full of delicious looking meats, cheeses and chocolate.

Met up with Sarah. We are ready to walk tomorrow! Birds today: Little Egret, Grey Heron, Starling, Chaffinch, Swallow, House Sparrow.

The lovely streets of SJPdP

The lovely streets of SJPdP

Saint Jean Pied de Port

Saint Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

St. Jean Pied de Port

13th September 2013 – Camino de Santiago, Day 1 –  Sarah and I were full of both excitement and trepidation as we walked out of St. Jean Pied de Port this morning! 790km stretch in front of us and we’ve vowed to walk every step of the way, carrying our gear. We must be mad 😀

A few hours later I was feeling even more like we must be mad as we headed ever upwards over the Pyrenees, but the scenery was spectacular! We only walked 8km to Orisson hostel but it was a tough first day for us. We were so glad to see the hostel appearing out of the mist! And very relieved that we hadn’t decided to walk to Roncesvalles in one go, it would have been very hard for us, we’d have been wrecked!

Our feet and legs are intact! No blisters 🙂 The hostel is lovely, 3 rooms of 6 beds each and a hot shower. Spent most of the afternoon sitting on the viewing area outside the albergue, watching the odd Griffon Vulture drift past below us.

Only 782km to go…

Leaving the town gates, our first day walking!

Leaving the town gates, our first day walking!

Beautiful view up over the Pyrenees

Beautiful view up over the Pyrenees

Sarah, heading ever uphill!

Sarah, heading ever uphill!

Must be getting high now, we're in the clouds!

Must be getting high now, we’re in the clouds!

Orisson! Our hostel for the first night, boy were we glad to see it appearing out of the mist!

Orisson! Our hostel for the first night, boy were we glad to see it appearing out of the mist!

Our hostel at Orisson.

Our hostel at Orisson.

14th september 2013 – Camino de Santiago, Day 2 – woke to a clear morning and a wonderful sunrise over the Pyrenees. Just getting light as we left the hostel to continue our climb over the Pyrenees. We knew it would be a long hard day but at least the weather was kind to us – sunshine and just enough breeze to keep me cool. The scenery as I climbed was truly spectacular and I took photos, but after a while decided that photographs just wouldn’t do the scenery justice.

Total silence apart from the sound of Meadow Pipits and the tinkling of sheep and cow bells. An early morning Griffon Vulture circled slowly above the rise in front of me.

I crossed the border into Spain! the border consisted of just a fuente (water fountain) and a cattle grid. I sat awhile drinking the cold, fresh water then re-filled my bottle and headed onwards and upwards.

The highest point is Col de Ibañeta at 3,450 feet above sea level. An amazing view and no one else around. I phoned mum to tell her I was at the top of a mountain in the Pyrenees and she was happy to hear from me. Not long afterwards as I sat relaxing on the grassy bank, waiting for Sarah I heard Ravens and four flew over cronking noisily. Ben had found me! I knew he would. A teary moment.

Sarah arrived. We’d agreed right from the start that we’d walk at our own pace. The walk down to Roncesvalles was a steep descent through lovely Beech woods. We were amazed at the hostel when we arrived, 183 beds in 3 dormitories. Not as bad as it sounds, the beds are partitioned off in groups of four and it’s new with all modern facilities. Sadly without any food that I could eat – from the 6 vending machines I found a solitary tin of pâté was OK for me to eat. I calculated 3000 calories expended, 700 eaten. I think i might lose weight 🙁

Sarah and I went to church, to the evening mass. Shock horror! Oddly enough I didn’t get struck down at the door… Afterwards we went to the communal pilgrims meal. I couldn’t partake of the soup but the fish for the main course was very good, and cooked plainly. An early night. We turned in at 9pm

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Sunrise over the Pyrenees.

Day 2 more uphill...

Day 2 more uphill…

The Spanish border!

The Spanish border!

Our highest point over the Pyrenees

Our highest point over the Pyrenees

The church at Roncesvalles

The church at Roncesvalles

The hostel at Roncesvalles

The hostel at Roncesvalles

15th September 2013 –  Camino de Santiago, Day 3 The lights in the dorm came on at 6am so we dragged ourselves up – we’d actually slept quite well – there was remarkably little snoring considering there were nearly 50 other people in our dorm. It was still dark when we set off, not really something that we’d anticipated doing. Sarah does have her head torch though and i have my own wee torch. There had been heavy rain overnight and the clouds still looked threatening.

It soon got light and we walked through some lovely picturesque villages – Burgete, Espinal and Viskarret. Added Black Redstart to the list.We stopped at Bar Juan for coffee along with many other pilgrims – it was lovely to see some of the people we’d seen on our first night at Orisson. Our plan for today was to head to Zubiri but were a bit worried that with our leisurely pace we would be too late for a bed – there were over 200 people at Roncesvalles last night, they’d had to open up the overspill dorm. However, we were determined not to become embroiled in the “race for a bed”.

We are here to enjoy the walk and that is what we’ll do. If Zubiri is full we’ll see what happens. Much of the days walk was through Beech woods and like yesterday I spent lots of time walking on my own which I really enjoyed. Time and space to relax and chill out and enjoy the moment. The scenery was fabulous. The walking was fairly challenging. By that I mean that there was more uphill than I expected but the downhill sections were harder on my feet and legs, especially as the terrain was either concreted or crazy paved (?!), or loose and stony.

After about 15km I changed into my sandals to give my feet a change. We arrived at Zubiri, the first (private) hostel was completo (full), as was the second but we were able to get a bed at the municipal for €8, if we’d arrived 10 minutes later we would have only paid €4 but it would have been a mattress on the floor. There are 7 bunk beds in the room which is mixed sex – i’m sleeping next to some American guy. Hope he doesn’t snore. I bet he will! He doesn’t seem too dodgy. Unpacked and found a bar. Wine is only 50c a glass – cheaper than water :O Wow!

Early morning start from Roncesvalles

Early morning start from Roncesvalles

Rolling Spanish countryside

Rolling Spanish countryside

Coffee stop :)

Coffee stop 🙂

Zubiri

Zubiri

The municipal albergue at Zubiri

The municipal albergue at Zubiri

Don’t speak too loud but i think summer might almost be here…

3rd June 2013 – Almost a summers evening! It was a pretty balmy evening and we had the most magnificent sunset – of course, i’d gone for a walk down the road and didn’t have my camera! The moth trap was on and the sun was setting, no midgies, what more could one ask for?!

Lovely sunset tonight!

Lovely sunset tonight!

4th June 2013 – Well there wasn’t too much in the moth trap overnight – Knot Grass, Glaucous Shears, Flame Carpet, Garden Carpet and Pebble Prominent plus this, our first hawk-moth of the year. The Poplar hawk-moth is probably the most common hawk-moth species in the UK and the larvae feed on poplar, aspen and sallow.

Poplar Hawk-moth

Poplar Hawk-moth

5th June 2013 – This wasn’t the technically best photo that I took today but it was the one I liked the best. A parent Oystercatcher finding grubs for it’s chick. I was able to watch them for an hour as they were on the plot I was surveying, i just sat quietly in my vehicle and they stayed there for the whole hour only about 20 feet away.

Oystercatcher feeding it's chick

Oystercatcher feeding it’s chick

The beach at Kilaulay

The beach at Kilaulay

6th June 2013 – This brown Silver-line (Petrophora chlorosata) was the only moth in the trap this morning!

Brown silver-line

Brown silver-line

7th June 2013 – My day for working in Berneray and it was the most fabulous day – sadly my picture comes nowhere near capturing how amazing it looked in real life. Only downside – I saw my first cleg of the year but thankfully it didn’t get me 🙂

Berneray

Berneray

Berneray

Berneray

8th June 2013 –  OK so I have to admit, I didn’t take this great photo. Ian was up and about really early as he went out to go and see if he could find any wader chicks to ring. What a great sight, these Redshanks standing on the fenceposts! He said that there was another one but the noisy Oystercatcher came along and took it’s place on the post

Redshanks and a single Oystercatcher

Redshanks and a single Oystercatcher

9th June 2013 – It was my day for a long walk today so Ian dropped me off in Eriskay at the ferry terminal (the wee ferry that goes to Barra). The weather was absolutely stonking, warm and sunny and the view was outstanding!

The walk went well, 10 miles although it is a bit daunting to think that when I go to do my long walk in September I will have to walk at least this every day, and probably more, every day for 5 to 6 weeks!

Fantastic Eriskay!

Fantastic Eriskay!

I was almost home when my mobile rang, i fished it out of my pocket. Sara, my daughter. I was rather worried as she never phones me on my mobile. I answered the call with some trepidation. Happily she was really excited – “mum, mum, a Hen Harrier just flew over the house!” (She lives in Shropshire, on the outskirts of Ironbridge).

Just me and the empty beach...

Just me and the empty beach…

More walking, working and birds…

27th May 2013 – Early yesterday morning, our neighbour received a phone call about a stranded Pilot Whale in Lochboisdale. The single animal, believed to be a male, had made its way into a particularly shallow loch with many channels and rocky outcrops. Apparently, it had been seen late Friday stranded on the rocks but was freed by the rising tide.

Since then we’ve been assisting with monitoring the animal and passing all relevant information to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) in Stornoway. The BDMLR have now arrived on site and have set up their incident centre overlooking the loch with a view to guiding the whale back to the open sea. They are currently assessing the situation and calling upon as much local knowledge of the area as is possible as the shallow water and complex channel network means that the RIBs that are normally deployed in such circumstances cannot be used. A shallow draught or inflatable boat is their priority.

It is hoped that a rescue attempt can be made as quickly as possible to take advantage of the high tides, but it may be as late as Wednesday. I really don’t know whether the outcome will be good or bad…

Pilot Whale

Pilot Whale

28th May 2013 – A calm, balmy evening. The good news of the day is that the Pilot Whale was ushered gently out of the estuary on the high tide early this morning and was last seen swimming out to the open sea!

Evening light

Evening light

29th May 2013 – Lots of Dunlin around again today, mostly resting with their heads tucked under their wings but a few were feeding. They must still be heading north and the flock of a couple of hundred or so birds also included many Ringed Plovers and a few Sanderling. Added Gadwall to the patch list in the evening.

Dunlin

Dunlin

30th May 2013 – Worked in North Uist all day today, a lovely sunny day with a gentle breeze. As i was driving back from the machair I could see the mist forming over the estuary, it looked quite ethereal and wasn’t quite sure I would be able to capture how lovely it really looked…

Mist on the estuary

Mist on the estuary

31st May 2013 – Just can’t resist photographing the Lapwings on the machair, this one had a couple of chicks in tow but the only decent chick photo I got was one standing by a large sheep turd 🙂 I just love the colours on the adult birds.

Lapwing

Lapwing

At the end of May my patch list stands at 103 species, i don’t think that’s bad at all for an area of just 3km square!

1st June 2013 – Yeuk, gruesome alert!! Good job this isn’t smellyvision, the pong coming off this poor dead creature was pretty rank – I could still smell it for at least an hour afterwards! It’s washed up on Howmore beach, and is about 9 feet long. I’m not sure how long it’s been there, since earlier in the week i think and by the state of decay it was dead for a wee while before that.

It’s a Risso’s Dolphin and we were asked to remove a section of skin/blubber and also a couple of teeth. From this the scientists hope to be able to tell how the dolphin died and how old it was.

Dead Risso's :-(

Dead Risso’s 🙁

2nd June 2013 – The Machair Way. A ten mile walk was on the cards today, further training for my long walk later in the year. I decided on an early start and Ian dropped me off at the Polachar Inn, South Uist at 5.40am. I walked north until I reached home, fabulous scenery and I didn’t see a soul! No blisters this week so that was a relief!

Machair Way

Machair Way

Mothing, birding, working, walking…

20th May 2013 – Very warm and mild overnight and it was very misty until about 11 am this morning. Just a half day outdoors working today and then I spent the afternoon planning a trip i’m doing later in the year – trying to work out the complexities of getting from one place to another with all the connections in-between, all at the minimum possible cost.

This lovely moth is a Pebble Prominent – Notodonta ziczac and is a common moth here at this time of year, the caterpillar feeds on sallow of which there is quite a bit here.

Pebble Prominent

Pebble Prominent

21st May 2013 – We don’t get too many Common Terns here, they are mostly Arctic with a few Little Terns. It was very lively and sadly didn’t manage to get a perfectly sharp shot.

Common Tern

Common Tern

22nd May 2013 – Another busy day out in the field. This photo is the South Ford, if you know South Uist it’s looking from Hebridean Jewellery across the sand, it is the same location that i photographed the Grey Plover the other week but today was a much better day weatherwise!

South Ford

South Ford

23rd May 2013 – Well, the only photo I took today was of the Ruff again. I had gone looking for a Little Gull that Ian had found earlier in the day – on our local patch – but by the time I got home from work at 5pm, grabbed my camera and went to look, it had gone 🙁

However, the Ruff was still hanging around on the machair and as I had my big lens I thought I would take some shots from the car. I was happy with the shots, they were much better than the ones the other day.

So, so cold today, that wind was biting if you were out in it for more than a few minutes – I heard on the radio that they had snow on the mainland in the north of Scotland – at least it wasn’t that bad here!

That stonking Ruff again

That stonking Ruff again

24th May 2013 – Working in Berneray all day today, I couldn’t resist taking some shots of this Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula as it came really close to my vehicle. It was feeding happily and found a big fat earth worm which it proceeded to eat – luckily while I was snapping away! I couldn’t resist putting the shots together.

Ringed Plover feeding

Ringed Plover feeding

26th May 2013 – You know after you’ve had a few cocktails in the company of friends you get these ideas that seem great at the time. Well when I was in Churchill last year my friends, Lizzie and Sarah and I decided that we would have a reunion after 12 months. But we would meet up somewhere else, on a different continent and not be cooped up inside. We decided that we would walk the Camino de Santiago. Hey, it’s only 500 miles. Hmm, perhaps i should get started on a bit of training…

Well, 10 miles should be a good start. Better pack a rucksack, to be “proper” training.  It weighed in at 8 pounds. Not bad for starters. I can increase that  over the next few weeks.

I walked from Askernish to Howmore, where Ian then came to pick me up. I felt fine physically apart from a small blister on the sole of my right foot 🙁

This beautiful piece of wood was my resting place on Bornish machair during the walk, however long it has been there i don’t know, it has all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies.

Interesting washed up log

Interesting washed up log