Category Archives: seabird

wildaboutshetland

Sumburgh Head, our most southerly headland, where nature blends with RSL and his family of lighthouse builders.

Hjaltland,

From the O(ld) N(orse), Hjaltland is above all the Old Viking name to my home islands, wir Auld Rock, as we love to call Shetland.

To get back to da Auld Rock is to go hame, or home… Or heim if you are Norwegian in search of cultural connection, or sailing adventures.

I have always regarded Shetland as a collection of hidden gems inside a blue (or jade… Or metallic grey, as our sky defines it!) casket. Living on the fringe of Scotland – as north as you can go, and yet full of surprises. Together with Orkney, Shetland form the Northern Isles.

Looking towards the Atlantic from the Scord of Wormadale.

Yet each island group remains distinctive in every way – including flags and dialects – and both have to be explored.

An adventurer’s paradise

Nestled between a sea and an ocean on the 60th parallel, da Auld Rock has everything to offer. From history, language, culture, food to nature. And our natural world is magic! After all, it is not for nothing naturalist & TV Broadcaster Simon King once defined it as one of Britain’s last corners of utter wildness…

Wild and spacious, looking towards St. Ninian’s Isle in the North Atlantic.

Ideally situated at the crossroads with Scotland and the Nordic world (Norway to the East, Faroe & Iceland, North West) we are both the most northerly edge of the UK and the Scandinavian corner of Scotland!

Whilst Orkney has wonderful, lush gentle slopes and rounded heads, Shetland offers both gentle and more rugged landscapes (from mini-fjords to towering cliffs via miles of moorland) with a greater diversity of habitats (due to its own collection of rocks, ranging from soapstone to serpentine, via sandstone, limestone or pink granite to name but a few…) which, in turn, offers unparalleled wildlife at and around 60N… In one word, breathtaking.

Shetland ponies in buttercups

We are a maritime world, and what best but discover it from the sea – highly recommended in summer, as our Roost (the open area where tides from the North Sea and Atlantic collide) feels far friendlier than in winter…

Looking towards Hellister (headland, left) and Norway!

Hame is a land where we lose sight of horizon, as sea and sky become one…

Hame is a land where boats are more than a way of life… If an Orcadian is a farmer with a boat, a Shetlander is a sailor with a peerie (small) plot of land.

Whilst only two inhabited islands are accessible by one-way bridges, a boat will take you about everywhere, including to birds!

Hame is anchored in history, from the very earliest human settlements to today, where we have made a close-knit community.

South Shetland Up-Helly-Aa, a unique fire fest postponed till 2021 due to CO-VID times…

Curious about it? Jarlshof remains one of our most impressive archaeological sites that is so unique in Britain, for it offers us a time walk unrivalled… Another hidden gem!

From Dunrossness to Unst, our most northerly inhabited isle, the land is littered with Norse and pre-Norse treasures.

Nature…

Nature, naturally natural!

Hame is that place to get away from it all! Throw away your watch to the sea, and dare ask time to a selkie…

“Just give me five minutes, will you???”

From flora to marine and avifauna, we are ruled by nature, in turn, ruled by seasons and the sky.

You too are a keen nature lover? Then Shetland is for you!

Shetland so inspiring…

From the darkest nights, at times coloured by our Northern Lights (Mirrie Dancers) in winter to our azure nights (Simmer Dim), where our sky’s filled with birdsong, Shetland is alive.

Aurora Borealis from my back garden.

But in summer..

Blue night known locally as Simmer Dim.

Here, dare to virtually explore further : nordicblackbird60n for I love to record my homeworld as a photographer.

The magic latitude

This is hame, home, as I live and love it. So I speak, share and write about it as a poet with so much passion. When the time is right, and if you too wish to leap to this Auld Rock, stay for a while, and want to walk this shore with me, your adventure will truly start either on board MV Hrossey or Hjaltland.

Eyebright

Et si vous voulez tout cela en français, je me ferai une immense joie de partager ma maison shetlandaise avec vous. 😌

Suivez-moi… Follow me 🙂

See you soon, and fair winds!

Bon vent, et à bientôt !

Literary works: From Shore to Shoormal/D’un rivage à l’autre (BJP, with D. Allard, 1992) and Compass Head (Nordland Publishing, 1996)

Contrasts

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From My Window

From my window,

I imagine les frères Lumière,

wish, dream of sound,

wrens, lavericks, whaaps an shalders, as

beaks open, muted by glass that

separates us from

their verve,

time to

bill-read and celebrate deprived of

notes, arpeggios, songs…

From my window,

salt smudges clouds, blue,

The Old Manse,

sunsets,

seasons – each shaft of light creates pictures always defined by

criptic skies,

limelight from sun,

my human eyes, stunned cameras in

Shetlandscope caged in a frame

rectangular.

From my window,

life secluded in a fisheye, where

herring gulls turn barn owls, and

corbies re-write their shadows,

corvids, alive, play in

our sky…

CO-VID confined us behind glass, like

a Chaplin on celluloid.

© Nat Hall 2020

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Unst

Unst is my summer/autumn “pilgrimage”.

Filled with magical wildness, Vikingness and wildlife, it is the said island RLS chose as – in terms of outline – his treasure island for the purpose of his famous novel…

An island fit for exploration and adventures that will unveil so many treasures…

And speaking of treasures, two nights ago, I found a treasure in which a poem was sleeping in a pocket-size moleskin I once took with me to this top of my northerly archipelago (well as north as “inhabited” can go!) – the edge of my world.

In this precious notebook, I travelled back to those late July days where a friend and I returned to a favourite beach – Eastings, Sandwick, Unst – Uyesound, Baltasound, Skaw, Norwick, Hermaness and its nearby Boat Station… Magic places I never tire of. That summer was that in 2017.

AUDIO VERSION available https://soundcloud.com/nordicblackbird/unst-wir-treasure-island-by/s-bTquKktEyE8

Sandwick Beach, Unst

This poem is entitled

Unst, Wir Treasure Island

1. Sandwick Beach

Inside your hood, you hide and smile –

eyes riveted to horizon, that gang of tirricks above surf,

that perfect beach lost inside blue,

home to sanderlings and solans,

the Moon’s best friend, whatever tide.

Note:

Tirrick: Arctic (or common Tern); Solan: Gannet

Dratsie (otter) at Sandwick Beach, 27/7/17

2. Dratsie

Out of the sea an otter runs,

fur filled with dreams,

walks out on sand.

Boat Station, off Hermaness

3. Island Life

Bonxie, Loch of Cliff – female Dunters, Hermaness, Boat Station – meadow pipit chick on roadside – Tysties and Rock Pipits, Boat Station – Solans off Boat Heaven, Haroldswick… Dratsie fishing in the bay with its head popping up – two Swallows, Saxavord Resort – Pied Wagtail, 2 Raingjus at Norwick…

Note:

Bonxie: Great Skua, Dunters: Common Eiders, Tystie: Guillemot, Raingjus: Red-Throated Diver.

Norwick Beach

4. Norwick Shalls

You walked back ta da Noost wi shalls,

a braally treasure i’da haands;

da sheenie kind,

better dan silver, gold an aa.

And from da Shetland Dialect:

You walked back to the top of the beach with shells,

A fine treasure in your hands;

the shining kind,

better than silver, gold and all.

Any’s shalls 🙂

5. Skaw

A’da end o’da boannie road dat takks dee awye fae da sea,

follow da steinshakkers,

da lone clood an da wind-

da ocean bed, raw serpentine

Dere is a meadow a’da end,

a bed o eyebright an a stream –

Eden shaped up couleur croissant.

Any at da Lang Hoose (Harodswick, Viking Unst Project)

6. Da Lang Hoose

Inside da laang hoose wir entered, an fun fowr chairs chiselled by haands oot’ o pine trees…

As if spirits invited wis fur a laang yarn or juist fur mead.

Dere wis nae fire i’da hearth, bit wir felt hame, sae wir sat doon.

Inside da Laang Hoose, Haroldswick.

And from the Shetland Dialect:

6. The Long House

Inside the long house we entered and found four chairs chiselled by hands out of pine trees…

As if spirits invited us for a long chat or just for mead.

There was no fire in the hearth, but we sat down.

Da hearth 🙂

© Nat Hall 2020 (revisited from regional verse initially penned 27-29 July 2017).

For you, Any, intrepid adventurer, with love.

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A Tale of Two Islands

You, in your corner of Antrim, where your sea jewel emerald, a giant heaved up a causeway in

a story black as basalt, hexagonal to crystalise wrath from ocean;

and yet too short to reach my shore. He never thought of a land bridge, since you fret at

Carrick-a-Reede,

planks and ropes, in suspension between two cliffs, where fulmars glide, cackle with pride – in that Northern Irish accent…

You should be dreaming in Glasgow.

Broch making in Hoswick

Here, we build brochs as watch towers from rounded stones to eye each movement from the sea.

Da Roost has declared us landlocked.

I made a fresh pot of veg soup with enough carrots, leek and kale; freed my coatrack from winter tales And polished taps to revive chrome…

A full spring clean I call redd-up.

I count minutes between two gusts, knot for windspeed around headlands where lights still blink and

refract hope…

Instead our world’s tied to bollards, silenced and still; locked inside docks, behind closed doors,

I too wish to forward the clock;

watch you sail past my island shore, as the sun rises in your eyes… Watch you glide across the pressgang, long corrugated corridor that reunites our words and smiles,

Instead, I listen to the wind…

What a start to the new decade, April and voar. Somebody unleashed a devil, a terrorist invisible that sweeps and snatches blindfolded…

And pray it spares you in Belfast.

© Nat Hall 2020

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So

What happens between equinoxes remains a mystery.

…A black hole or stravaig in a desert where time locks itself in, as bubbles inside surf, or footprints lost through tides and gales.

Many walks done and gone. I still remember the Vernal Equinox, as March gave way to light and warmth. When birds returned to the island, and jenny wrens perched on roses to sing their songs, joined by blackbirds at dawn and dusk. A song so powerful, explosive and whimsical, you need to turn back and listen.

And as May comes with its unbound clemence, and shiny bright, stars vanish in the blue of night, as Beltane gives way to summer.

Summer, summer, da Simmer Dim, as our sky turns an opera house. Our island sings in tussock grass, around the bays – above our heads. It is a time filed with bounty, as our summer guests fish and hunt. A time where life fills with colours, where chicks grow feathers outwith dark. Darkness unknown to so many of us and fledlings until Arcturus reappears in late July. Our Atlantic and sense of North glow back orange. We then reignite our candles. In this mystical universe, the very few urban dwellers welcome July with refracting light in the bay. They do not question the great clock – the astronomical delight as da mirkin wins back its way. mirkin, murky times lie ahead…

Some walk through time on land, at sea.

As August wanes in honey gold, our most westerly land beacon feels a poltergheist at sunset. Foula, foul, fugl Island, with its bewildering cliff tops, redefines ife, geometry. Light as we knew from Simmer Dim – our nightless nights – lose in power, intensity. Our path to hairst and the autumnal equinox becomes clearer.

It is when night unveils its kaleidoscope of gales and stars. And we look more carefully, auroral glows in between clouds. Our pace hastens as we go home to the fire back in our hearths. Too soon the tides will speak out loud, and auroras trapped inside clouds will signal a new phase across the season. Few gannets fly, fish in the bay. Rose flowers gave way to their own fuits. The overgrowth lost its lushness… A lower sun shines through few leaves from alders or strong willows. That sense of blue tarnished with grey has lost its way. Deep purple hills back to bracken, bare and so brown.

September stepped in as a thief. October followed in its grace. Each wake-up call from our bedside triggers the start of each sunrise. Each minute lost now and regained, days have shortened and yet, still bright. I hear Sawhain’s still a long shot… Our winged friends wander south and south. For us, dwellers of thre island, we need to prepare for dark times.

Now, the island can sleep in peace, with auroras, constellations, stars and comets – a twany moon there as a friend.

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renouveau

Spring has multiplied signs throught that long and still ice-bladed month of March. If light has reached parity with darkness on the 20th day, and our migrating visitors called at night and settled back in our fields and meadows whilst others pursued their incredible journey north, the island still needs to wake to the promises of the season.

April, April… Life rekindles

March now behind us. Tonight I heard eight puffin scouts have been located west of my favourite headland in our inshore waters. Earlier, friends reported the magical ascending song of a skylark as they wandered by abandoned crofts… Common Eider drakes already sit by their concubines… On inspection of the ground, daisies and bluebells have long braved snow, ice and thaws, re-icing and equinox gales. Even within the perimeter of my sanctuary, the grass has grown and would deserve a serious cut. Spring, voar, so precocious.
Eider drake and its concubine reunited at Aith Voe.
Light reappears on the 60th North Parallel. I read somewhere that between the two solstices – and more precisely as we approached the Vernal Equinox – we were gaining up to two hours of light every month… Now, as April has entered in the great cosmic ballroom, my sunrises and sunsets are becoming more epic.
Turnstones by the edge of water…
Strangely enough, fog has already been rolling on from our local hills. “Exotic” and “curious”, for fog remains an oddity before April… February and March both felt odd in places.
Peculiar episodes of fog we, islanders, usually experience from mid-April…
Yet April promises (or do I really take this for granted?) liberation from many claws – storms, gales, and other signatures from the icy months. And if I have yet to listen to my first skylark, I know it will not be long. The sky just needs to quieten a little more and our star to warm up those acres of storm-bent grass around our meadows… Wake, wake, wake, wake!

April is when you return to me.

The magic of walking to my favourite headland.
As I am typing you are gradually falling asleep. Your case is packed. Your passport lies in a pocket of your handbag… Tomorrow, you too will begin your migration north – north by NE, as you will cross that stretch of your Irish Sea to find your way back in Glasgow before making your way to my North Sea from the mouth of a sheltered harbour. We can travel the world like swallows… or Storm Petrels. But to journey, we need a boat. I may not wait for you from my favourite headland on Saturday, But I will gladly watch that great blue Viking efigee on the white hull we call da boat approach my favourite offshore island of Mousa at about 6.30 in the morning and drive parallel to you, as the bow kisses each wave from our sheltered waters. If we are lucky enough, Mother Sea will let you enter the Bressay Sound with grace.
Happy common seal in the surf. Selkie life…
It will be your first time. Selkies and seagulls will salute you on your passage. You are about to return to me as seabirds find their way across miles of oceanic deserts, da Roost to reconvene with my headlands, bays and meadows. Now, my turn to find sleep from my northern latitude, as I will be by your side tomorrow, in voice and spirit. I have prepared home to welcome you on my northern island. In anticipation to your arrival, I wrote a piece entitled North Voyager. It sounds and reads like a leitmotive… And yet it does epitomise that promise from Spring.
North Voyager

There is a time when you will see edge of
my land,
          the rounded head shaped by
                                that kiss of Atlantic and
cold North Sea; where
solans glide above Spring's crests,
follow the furrow from
                                  the ship,
blue man on white,
head-dressed to defy every tide and
                                 moder dy...
No castle perched, but 
a lighthouse that defines hamewir tun an 
                                      hearth;
and if you stand out on
the deck, that gentle breeze fae 60N will
whisper words in northern tongue,
roll every "r" in every breath,
                            sea spray, spindrift -
touch you with salt glued on its lips.
Now,
you're parallel to my world, birds and 
                                             sandstone -
maalies join solans in the wind,
              Mousa appears left to your eyes,
   inshore waters will guide you to
da Horse's Heid, as Bressay grows 
closer to heart, and
        mine will beat as fast as dyne,
now you're safe in the Bressay Sound.

Only minutes and a pressgang separate us.

                                         Welcome to 
                      my northern island.

 
© Nat Hall 2019 

Dialect word glossary:

solans: Gannets
moder dy: the underlying of the swell used by ancient firshermen as a guide.
hame: home
wir tun: our toonship (human settlements)
Spindrift: sea spray, balls of salt created by gales
maalies: Fulmar Petrels
da Horse's Heid: [place name] the Knab (headland in S Lerwick)
dyne: yours

Solan (Gannet)

Bon voyage!

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treasure islands

img_6439

Love my homeworld, and shared it with five intrepid explorers.

Here it is, in a poetic form.

A Day among Birds

I felt the sea today,

harnessed my

heart to

wave

level.

Gannets,

gannets, gannets filled

my sky – solan,

havsule,

a sea of wings in island blue above

my eyes, like a painting or

magic swarm

morning had flushed off in

a dream…

My memory now

filled with salt they call

spindrift – today I felt

treasure islands.

NH 2017

Photos at my Instagram (@nordicblackbird)

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outcry

It’s all about adding and substracting… In the artist’s own words.

Paul Bloomer’s latest exhibition ar the Shetland Museum & Archives in Lerwick, Scotland, UK, feels an epic saga in charcoal, cladding the whitest of walls inside da Gadderie, that non-static space devoted to the muable world.

The huge pictures felt they had been tailored to perfection. Paul needs to create his own creative time at his Bigton studio when he is not lecturing at the Shetland College at Gremista, or travelling to Europe with (or without) his students. 

My top favourite picture – swans’ flight –  was inspired by a recent trip to Vienna…  A regular visitor to Spiggie Loch as a visual artist or devoted angler, I was both surprised and amused to hear it on Sunday as Paul spoke of each charcoal on paper gigantic pictorial metaphors. 

Originally from the Black Country, Paul anchored his heart &  art  on this symbolic latitude where time and space are regulated by light and darkness in that perpetual dance of seasons.

However, as an islander, he too looks at the world in a unique perspective. 

And he works like a poet or a writer, with a pocket size sketchbook, to capture moments he will later reproduce on a gargantuan scale… 

Paul makes parallels between people and avian migration. His dreams transcend through circles… Black versus white.  

He constantly reminds us how mankind generates that poisoning world, itself pictured as a leitmotive throughout and in various ways, metaphors, as Paul reflects on each throughout that Sunday afternoon stroll in his presence.

Paul the environmentalist – politically engaged… Raged by a poisoning world, in which political disciples hide, such as those deduced by populism. His charcoal stick does not fail to challenge the viewer…

He nonetheless searches for lightness through nature, to find love and sensuality among geese, swans or starlings, Shetland’s commonest and yet captivating birds.

Sensuality expressed though the oneness of entangling whooper swans.

Paul very aptly entitled his exhibition a prayer for the healing of nations.


A must see. 🙂 

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world tales


On Top of the World



After the rain,

three herring gulls on

chimney pots;

now

sun’s blazing

Anderson’s slates.

In

between

two rounds of

showers,

blackbird voices,

raw

arc-en-ciel. 

young maa



out of wharf, ripples & ruffle,

it comes to dip among

brown kelp;

bobs

up

&

down

water surface

and finds solace amid

islands,

where clouds

harness silver edge

tides… Where wings wrangle

herring gull pride.

Where they

come to

feed

at

present.

The Edge

Look at the edge of your own world.
Free your heart & feet from tarmac,

where gutters offer

no relief.

Untie your boat, grab your

own oars.

Hear the call of the

waterline,

everlasting song of rollers

melts in white

sand –

some call it a desert

island,

but to my heart,

it is music.

Either side of the shining

edge,

we find our prints tied around kelp:

on the dry side of the mirror,

men have wandered among knives and

white broken

shells spewed offerings;

so few can listen to the wind,

the song of seasons inside wings

of a kingdom made of

lush Land,

where the sun rests

after crimson.
I hear you

say,

“you’re a dreamer” –

“time is money to all of us.”
I say “throw your coins to a sea, paper to oblivious

limpets..

The world you live feeds from

despair, liars and lice;

they gave you dreams as

tasty bait.

Tied to a tree inside concrete,

sea rockets smell so alien…

We imagine resolutions

and yet

shackles

locked around feet,

with their keys kept inside

boardrooms, between

the

hands of

their makers –

make no mistake,

they will not give them easily;

magpies like anything

shiny.

This world I love has its

pure gems.
© Nat Hall 2017

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wheel of life

hairst b and w.jpg

September, month of smiles and tears.

Yesterday, I congragated with friends and fellow writers from the Westside as well as the Waas community to say agoodbye to one of us. I loved the way his son spoke of my friend, and the way Janet somewhat managed to conceal some of her grief. The service was very poignant. I, among so many of us, will miss the good doctor who animated our monthly friday nights in Weisdale, as well as the many facets of everyone who was connected to his life. But he lives in our hearts, and his writings testify the life journey of a very brave, adventurous, life and children loving man. Rest in peace, Robin.

September, change of light.talking sky in Hairst.jpg

Weeks fly like lit gun powder; fridays tear down the pages of our almanacs like a develish, untamed child too eager to rid of school days. And the sky follows suite. Little have I noticed sunsets and sunrises shifted on the the great cosmic clock… That daylight had begun to shrink. The island now unveils those autumnal hues.  A more difuse light now clads everything on the island. The sky awaken and talks again.  Whereas swans are starting to flock at Spiggie, others are thinking to go… Northern wheatears, pied wagetails and meadow pipits, together with a few swallows still grace our fence posts, road verges and fields… Though they too will depart from our shores and let others replace them for the darker months ahead.

September, trade of wings. young wheatear.jpg

That juvenile northern wheatear will home itself south of my eyes for a few months, should it survive that great epic maiden flight south. I feel somewhat eager to reconvene with our winter visitors, whilst already marvelling at eclipse or winter plumage from some of our local avian friends. Guillemots certainly are noticeable from Gutters’ Gaet or Bressay Sound.  And if observation feels rather limited during weekdays, the odd visit to harbours, lochs, fields, voes and wicks (bays) rekindles that pleasure.

mute-swans

And as nothing remains the same, September will vanish in flames, and let October take over. With the tenth month, I too will trade land and migrate for precious time to the other side side of he North Sea, as I will reconvene with friends and fjords. That second collection of verse demands so, as my heart does.

With October, the more prominent return of darkness… And the almanac will obey the laws of the universe.

IMG_2854

 

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