Holy Island

Posted on 15 September 2013, 19:24

It occurred to me a month or so ago – while I was scratching my head about where to go for a week away at the beginning of September – that I’d be hard-pushed to find anywhere on the mainland coast these days where I could get eye-to-eye with waders without having to deal with an unending succession of arsehole dog owners.

This being the case, I reasoned, would I not be better advised to head off to an island? A few years ago I spent some time on the Isle of Arran, and loved the place, and it suddenly struck me that I might be able to get much of the same experience, more or less on my doorstep, on Holy Island, also known as Lindisfarne...

I’d also anticipated that – being tidal – most of the tourists would bail out to avoid being caught on the island – I had visions of having the place pretty much to myself for much of each day.

Well, only one way to find out (or, as we’re wont to say up here, “shy bairns get nee sweets…“)

So I booked a week at the Lindisfarne Hotel – brilliant place to stay: the owners, Sean and Jacqueline, couldn’t do enough; the room was very nice indeed (with the most comfy bed I’ve ever slept in – I overslept every morning I was there!); and their cheesy tuna melt stottie sandwiches were epic!

And – wonder of wonders – the weather behaved itself extremely well for four of the five days on the island (Friday being utterly grotty, but to be honest, by this time I was glad of an excuse not to tromp around the island with a ton of kit around my neck – I’m getting old, I guess!)

Mind you, in one respect the weather might have been better; I’d hoped for easterlies, and some interesting continental migrants. But not a bit of it, the airstream was resolutely westerly the entire time I was there.

And despite my hope for no dickheads with dogs, I suppose I’ll need to pick an island that’s harder to get to next time.

Case in point – this bloody thing was hell-bent on getting at the cygnets in the island’s harbour, and it was only a spirited defence by the parents that stopped it. Its pillock of an owner was utterly ineffectual in getting the mutt back in check, and didn’t like it one bit when I pointed out that if the bloody thing had been on the lead in the owners hand, this wouldn’t be happening.

I mean – seriously – how fucking dense do you have to be not to get that letting your untrained turd-generator off its lead near wildlife – on a national nature reserve, FFS – is a fundamentally pig-ignorant thing to do?

It fell to one of the local fishermen to wade in and grab the dog by the the scruff of its neck, at which point he took great delight in explaining in graphic detail what would happen to the owner the next time Fido had a go at “his” swans…

Anyway. I’d hoped that I’d be able to find a quiet stretch of beach covered with Sanderling that I’d be able to get eye-to-eye with, but it never really happened – not many of them about at all. I did however, find a spot on the north of the island where I could tuck myself away in the company of a number of Dunlin, which suited me just fine:

Dunlin, Holy Island

Dunlin, Holy Island

Dunlin, Holy Island – this is full frame, uncropped. Almost too close to focus on.

Dunlin, Holy Island – in the middle of an apparent coughing fit!

Dunlin, Holy Island

Needless to say, I made a point of tracking down some Turnstones during the week:

Turnstone, Holy Island

Turnstones, Holy Island

Turnstones, Holy Island

Turnstone, Holy Island

Although I didn’t hook up with many migrants, there were umpteen Wheatears about:

Wheatear, Holy Island

Wheatear, Holy Island

And I did come across the odd Sanderling:

Sanderling, Holy Island

Everything else was “usual suspects”, I’m afraid – although even gulls and spuggies can be quite photogenic, I think:

Black headed gull, Holy Island

House sparrow, Holy Island

House sparrow, Holy Island – I’m a sucker for sparrows and pantiles

House sparrow, Holy Island

So can Cushats:

Wood pigeon, Holy Island

Wood pigeon, Holy Island

As can Collared doves:

Collared dove, Holy Island – this “rocky outcrop” is the hotel’s garden wall!

Collared dove, Holy Island

(These being with my Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 OS and Sigma 2x at 400mm).

And to round things off, a baby Goldfinch:

Goldfinch, Holy Island.

And that was that, really.

I mention up the page that by Friday I’d been glad of an excuse to take a break: to be fair, I walked for bloody miles each day, and from the second day I was having real problems with my left knee – scrambling around on the intertidal rock formations, something “popped” in my knee, and for the rest of the week, stepping up or down on the rocks – and I was doing a lot of stepping up and down – was stop-me-in-my-tracks painful, which cramped my style quite a bit.

That “having the place to myself” thing didn’t really work either. Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the most part, and I particularly appreciated being sung to sleep each night by the many Grey seals which live on and around the island – I never expected that, and it really added to the atmosphere of the place.

Freakin’ loud though – the seals I could hear very clearly from my room were well over a mile away from the hotel!

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