'Warnings of gales in all areas.'
BBC Shipping report, Sunday 11/11/2008. 6pm.
For several days now, we have been unable to get out to sea. The Shipping forecast today speaks of gales and even severe gales in some Scottish areas. So, it is not getting any better!
Frustratingly, we need reasonably flat seas to have a chance of spotting the animals and also making sure that we keep our methodology consistent. Once the conditions gets over sea state two, we cannot effectively survey. The white tops that form on the waves at sea state three and over hide the cetaceans; the spray that a cetacean surfacing or diving makes could easily be confused with a wind-tousled wave. (This doesn’t mean that you cannot see them sometimes in such seas – or even rougher conditions – but it does mean that we cannot survey.) Then there is the pitching of the boat, especially if the waves are coming side on to the transect line that we are trying to follow, which can also make life very difficult for observers and, of course, there are safety issues too with such conditions.
So, as we anticipated would be the case at this time of year, we just have to sit and wait. (There is data-filing to do and also cetacean spotting practice from the shore, to improve out identification abilities, so we are not just sitting around thumb twiddling.)
This also means that we get to spend more time at the WDCS Wildlife Centre at Spey Bay. And this is always a treat because, at anytime of year, this magical place there the brown tannic waters of the River Spey meet the North Sea, is always rich with wildlife. Whilst the ospreys and the swarms of swallows that were so prevalent here in the summer have wisely migrated away, swans, geese and ducks are now present in some considerable numbers. The ducks include golden eyes, which seem to favour the river mouth and the extraordinary robust sea-going eider ducks which prefer the more salty waters. There are also whirling flocks of starlings in the evening and healthy numbers of corvids and gulls patrolling the shore, shifting through the great mounds of sea weed and other debris freshly washed onto the pebble bar that protects Spey from the North Sea.
A day to Remember
The sky is a mass of ragged fast moving clouds and occasional patches of blue and it is bitterly cold this Sunday morning, but this has not stopped a gathering of perhaps one hundred well-lagged people converging on the main square of Buckie. A couple of members of the WDCS survey team have come here too. This is Remembrance Sunday and as we approach the eleventh hour of this Remembrance Sunday, when we traditionally take time to remember those lost in war, the roads are closed and a small but proud procession marches along the main street. There are soldiers in uniform, army cadets, the boys brigade and others, and they are led by an impressive sergeant-major and three standard bearers.
A short service follows in front of Buckie’s rather beautiful war memorial and wreaths of poppies are placed at its base by various representatives of the local community. A piper resplendent in green tarten plays a lament. The drum major gives two hearty strikes to his big base drum and two minutes of silence follow. Only the ceaseless calling of the gulls and the crying of a small baby permeate the respectful pause.
In the background, as only those with a view of the sea can see, the Buckie lifeboat passes by.
Then, after a few words from the officiating priests, the crowds disperse. The Boy’s Brigade marches back up the main street, every boy heartily blowing his bugle, and then they and others disappear into churches and halls, no doubt glad to get out of the biting wind.