Saturday, 23 February 2013


There's been some bonny sunsets recently.

Sunset over Bennachie.

 Aberdeen Harbour


 Back to Bennachie again. Typically some of the best sunsets over the last 2 weeks have been when I haven't had a camera handy, and the best views of the sun setting over Bennachie are from a point on the road home where there's nowhere to stop. It's been great to see such lovely sunsets though.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Blowing the cobwebs away

For a whole variety of reasons I've hardly been out and about in the countryside, and I've missed it. Last weekend I was finally feeling remotely fitter (that is, fitter as in healthier, most definitely not fit though, in fact I'm now probably the most unfit I've ever been in my life) so it was defnitely time to get out and about and blow the cobwebs away.

We decided to visit Rattray Head, although if we'd known how much worse the track there had got over the past few months since I was last there, we might have thought twice about it! It's a fantastic place - but some of the potholes are now so large they're actually the road!! And due to all the snow and rain recently, in a couple of places it was as if you were driving through a small lochan - with no idea of the depth! It's a real pity that the road has been allowed to get into such a state, as it will put people off visiting - unless they have a vehicle suitable for off roading (which we definitely don't)!

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed walking along the beach.

There was lots of kelp washed up, presumably from the recent storms. There was lots of marine litter too - more on that here.

The ever changing light was great for photography at times, though challenging at times too.

The wind blown patterns both in the dunes and on the beach itself were really interesting.

The tangled roots of marram grass are binding the dunes together, trying to hold the sand in against the strength of the recent winds.
The light was great - this is the first time I've actually found the St Fergus gas terminal photogenic!
The phrase "Middle Earth" did cross my mind though...

A lovely day out.

Dull but definitely not boring

As part of my prize weekend, we also got taken on an off-road landrover safari in the Perthshire hills. It was fantastic! The guide was excellent - really very knowledgeable about pretty much every aspect: the wildlife, landscape, local industry and local history.

It was a beautiful day, though cold, and the views of the surrounding hills were really clear. Schiehallion really stood out, but we had great, clear views in every direction.

Highland Safaris provided binoculars and had a spotting scope too, which made all the difference to being able to get great close-up views of the wildlife.

We were lucky enough to see the red deer rut. You could hear the roar of the stage from a fair distance away, and we saw several large groups of deer and 3 stags. We didn't witness any real fighting though, as one of the stags seemed to see off another by just taking a few steps towards it.

We also saw several mountain hares, just starting to get their winter coats.

Our lunch was provided as part of the prize too, and we had it up in the hills in a small sort of bothy/hut. Lunch was excellent - hot soup, sandwiches, biscuits, fruit, crisps and a wee dram to wash it down with and give us some central heating, which was much appreciated as it was cold to be standing still outside for long periods watching the wildlife, and even when we were driving we had all of the windows open to make wildlife spotting and photography easier.

When we got back to the safari centre, we would happily have spent time looking around as they had a small deer herd, wildlife garden, cafe, gift shop and more, but we had to head off as it was already almost 5pm and we still had a long drive home.

Several hours driving in the dark on narrow, potentially icy roads was well worth it though to have spent such a nice weekend in Perthshire. Roll on the next one!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Prize weekend

I was lucky enough to win a weekend in Perthshire in a magazine competition, and we had a lovely weekend in Pitlochry in the autumn.

The B&B was fantastic and we definitely plan to stay there again - great rooms, friendly hosts and a fantastic breakfast.

The conservatory and garden were beautiful too and, although it was the end of October, the weather was nice enough to sit outside for a while after breakfast.

 The view from our room was looking down towards the forest, with the trees all starting to change colour, just beautiful.
We spent a relaxing day meandering around, nice and restful and just what was needed as I'd just been given notice to quit my flat at very short notice and was worrying about becoming homeless!
Loch Faskally

 Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder

Queen's View, Loch Tummel
The autumn colours everywhere were beautiful, and we would be seeing more of them the next day too...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Pick Up Three Pieces

I've been inspired by this campaign to join in and pick up three pieces of litter when I visit a beach - even though it's technically an Orkney campaign and I no longer live in Orkney! Of course there's still a link in that I do still have a house there, but also the campaign was started by pupils at Glaitness School. I used to teach at Glaitness and did a couple of beach cleans with my P3/4 class when I was there as well, as teaching tham about the dangers posed by about marine litter. We also sponsored a dolphin.

Recently, in the school I'm in now in Aberdeenshire, my P3/4 class chose for me to sponsor a seal for them at Christmas instead of buying them small presents. They're going to be learning a lot more about the dangers of marine litter, and they are aware that some of the sponsorship money goes towards educating people about this issue. They've already asked if we can do a litter pick up - maybe the planet is in safe hands?

Anyway, I decided it would be a good idea to "pick up three" when I was at the beach yesterday. We went to Rattray Head for a walk along the beach, and although the beach looks very clean at first glance, as soon as you start looking closely you start becoming aware of just how much litter is there.

The most unusual thing we spotted was this:

We decided that, as there was a limit to how much rubbish we could carry, we would just "pick up three pieces" as the campaign suggests. In the end though, we picked up more of course. We prioritised picking up things which we reckoned could do the most damage the soonest - so we picked up a bottle which could easily get broken and cause a nasty injury, rather than the already broken pieces of glass smoothed by the action of the sea. We chose mostly plastic which had already started to harden and crack, as it was beginning to break up. Each of the rubber gloves we picked up was very rigid and cracked, and would soon become many pieces of marine litter and not just one, and could therefore, we assume, damage a lot more wildlife.

The pink rope was picked up as A decided that he couldn't pick it up because it was pink, so I took it! He then carried the traffic cone all the way along the beach and over the dunes to bin it - good work, especially as it was full of sand and rather heavy. We couldn't resist picking up the welly boot and hard hat too, just to add to our wee collection, but that was all we could manage to carry easily.

At least we've done our small bit - and will keep doing so. If only everyone else does the same, what a massive difference it could make, both to the beauty and cleanliness of our beaches and to the amount of wildlife being injured or killed by marine litter.

Rather poignantly, we were just returning to the path over the dunes and back to the car park when we came across this.

I think this a real case where a picture tells a thousand words, and it made us doubly glad that we were doing our small bit to help prevent this sort of occurrence being so common.

Hopefully everyone else will do their small bit too...

Saturday, 9 February 2013

A winter's walk

A recent walk at Forvie National Nature Reserve, on the Ythan Estuary.

The walk started off following the river down towards the sea.

There were lots of birds about, including a huge number of eider duck.

Looking across to Newburgh.

Eventually you reach the huge expanse of beach.

Looking south towards Aberdeen.

The walk leads you back across peaty moorland to the car park.

Near the end was this old dwelling, which I found rather intriguing. It looks like an old railway carriage which has been converted into a house. I wonder when it was last lived in? It looks in need of a little TLC.