Tuesday 24 June 2008

Settling In . . .

Well, we seem to be settling into our new home quite nicely now. Sally and I tend to occupy the ground floor (kitchen, dining room & office plus the garden and pier) whilst the kids maraud all over the upper two floors of the house. Edie can play her drum kit at full pelt in her bedroom and we can't hear a thing – thank god! Savannah's room, on the other hand, is directly above my workstation and – how could she? - plays HipHop at decebel levels which rival my own output as a teen listening to the mighty Quo, Led Zep, UFO and Thin Lizzy. How it all comes back to haunt me!
Leaving Lyrowall was always going to be a wrench, and I thought I would really miss the birdlife. Fortunately Orkney is blessed with an abundance of birds and we have them right on the doorstep (or chimney pots and ocean-garden). Gulls are ubiquitous, but I seem to have amassed my own little posse of about 30 herring, 2 lesser black-backed and 18 black-headed gulls. Each and every time I walk out of the back door and onto the pier, they circle me like expectant vultures, waiting for Clint Eastwood's latest victim.
On several occasions though, these common birds are usurped by some special creatures. Red-breasted margansers bring their new broods to dive for fish in the clear shallow waters, eider ducks (in various degrees of moult) clamour for all manner of sea creatures. This morning I watched a female emerge from a dive with a large velvet crab. She casually mauled the crab between her mandibles, effectively chewing its legs off. When all that remained was the carapace, she swallowed it – Nice!
Of all the birds which we see regularly here though, my most favourite are the red-throated divers (loons). Nowhere are these birds common, but we have had the very good fortune to see up to 9 in front of the house. Yesterday began with a real blow from the NE and, peering out of the very upstairs window I could only see two birds – a pair of red-throated divers, barely 3 yards from the end of the pier (effectively our garden). Stunning!
The eiders are a constant source of interest and entertainment and I have just completed a painting depicting these. It's unusual for me in that it's an oil – tricky medium, but most enjoyable. Other than this, haven't really had much time to get out at all, so have the sketch-shakes. Fortunately the girls found an item of some interest on their daily beach-comb – cormorant skull! I made a few measured drawings (after boiling the residue of its brief time at sea off of it – stink was terrible!) which will be of value at a later date.