Day 15 – Voyeur

After four hours of very poor sleep I left the lodge for the last time and headed to Kirkwall airport to catch my flight to North Ronaldsay. The peedie plane would seat eight but there were only four of us aboard, the pilot obviously knew the other three passengers as he turned to me and asked “Do you know the safety procedures or is this your first time?” “First time” I replied and he talked me through the life jackets and exits etc.

As the engine hummed into life I felt a little like I was in a small car that was about to take off but when we were in the air we got an incredible view and all apprehensions were forgotten. The islands were stretched out beneath us; the clear blue water and white sand made the beaches look almost tropical. As we touched down in North Ronaldsay airport (consisting of a small building and a large dirt runway)I was already excited about exploring the island. I was greeted by Alison and taken to the Bird Observatory where I was staying. After dumping my bag I set off to see what I could find.

Almost immediately I found some North Ronaldsay sheep, a rare breed that lives almost exclusively off the seaweed it finds on the shore. Surrounding most of the island is the sheep dyke, a thirteen mile long dry stone wall which keeps the sheep on the shoreline and away from the grass pastures and fields in the centre of the island reserved for beef cattle and crops. I found one of the gates which are placed at intervals along the length of the sheep dyke and clambered down over the rocks to the water line. As I watched the sheep pick their way across the slippery weed covered rocks I was amazed by their elegance and surefootedness. Eventually I came across some seals some basking on the flat rocks, others bobbing in the water turning their heads this way and that to get a better look at me. As I took photos, my shutter snapping away I felt like a voyeur of the sheep and seals alike.

Later I took a stroll to the beach and couldn’t resist dipping my toes in the crystal water. It was freezing so I didn’t stay long and as I retreated to the sand I noticed a few heads bobbing in the water only yards away. There were also to my great surprise two small seals playing in the shallow water, rolling and diving and surfing the waves to the beach.

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