Friday, 15 November 2013

Coll of the night

My august aurora image is the cover photo in the Scotsman regarding article on best places to see northern lights in the country...
http://www.scotsman.com/news/environment/best-places-in-scotland-to-see-the-northern-lights-1-3187445

Two Marsh Harriers and Red Kite poisoned...
http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2013/11/13/two-marsh-harriers-and-one-red-kite-found-poisoned-in-east-anglia/

Mountain Hare massacre on Grouse moors...
http://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/the-gruesome-fate-of-mountain-hares-on-scottish-grouse-moors/

I am on the isle of Coll for the next few weeks to photograph the night skies for the Coll Dark Sky Project. The island has applied to the International Dark-Sky Association to become Scotlands first dark sky island reserve which would help promote tourism here in the winter months and also help preserve true darkness which is a severely decreasing natural spectacle on the planet. My photography will contribute to promoting visitors to the island and extending the tourism season into the winter months . Read more here - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-17893195 


Lismore lighthouse at dawn on my way across to to Arinagour on board the Clansman.


I have been on the island for 10 days now and managed to find some windows of opportunity in the changeable weather conditions. The classic westerlies are bringing in constant sunshine and showers so to find a couple hour spell to photograph clear skies for a sequence has been challenging with some rewards. 
For the first five days there was no moonlight during dark hours and also such strong winds and squalls added to the experience of trying to capture the night sky in harsh conditions. I got my bearings on the island and pin pointed certain locations which I thought would work as a nightscape. A nice bit of moonlight and a break in the cloud cover enabled me to get a few sequences for the days to follow working around the village of Arinagour as I plan to go further afield in the coming weeks. 



Lovely morning looking out to the Treshnish isles from Arinagour...

On the astronomy front it was the peak of the Taurid meteor shower on the 12th November and I managed to see a few shooters and a small fireball but the lunar light soaked up most of the display  I got my first view of Comet ISON in the early hours of the morning 9th Nov as it was at magnitude 9 so with the aid of my binoculars I could see the small object with help from my iphone star app. The aurora winds have reached 5kp at times but the timing has been wrong with daylight hours or solid cloud cover but fingers crossed in the next fortnight.


North point of mainland Coll Looking out to the magical Cairns of Coll...
a place we visit on Sea Life Surveys trips. Crushed seashell beaches and rich productive waters...

Suil Ghorm lighthouse with the snowy peak of Rum behind...


Wildlife highlights since I have been on the isle include a close flyby of a male Merlin down on the RSPB reserve in the south west of Coll. A juv Hen Harrier flushing Snipe was another good sighting also on the reserve. Five geese species seen and heard on the isle with the resident population of Snow Geese here along with Barnies, White-fronts, Greylag and Pinkies in flight calling at night. Common Waders include Redshank, R Plover, Oystercatchers and Curlew. 2-3 Great Northern Divers in the bay in breeding plume along with an Otter and the local Common Seals. A visit to the north shore of mainland Coll produced two Harbour Porpoise off the Cairns and two GN divers in winter plume. Small birds on the isle have mainly consisted of Starlings, House Sparrows, Rock Pipits, Reed buntings, Stonechat, Twite and Linnets. 



Arinagour main street...a 25% waxing moon provided the light as no street lights in the village makes
 for great stargazing conditions from an urban area...

A Lunar rainbow from Coll...a 50% moon low on the horizon provided the light for a nice
colour spectrum which was enhanced on a long exposure

An iridium flare catching the suns light as it flashed very strong in the sky...

I will continue to persevere for the remainder of the month and get as much dark sky footage as possible. I am also preparing for a talk at the primary school on Friday 22nd about what we can see in the night sky and about our solar system so looking forward to that. 

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