Sometimes You Get More Than One Bonus…


From my window I have the advantage of looking right over the sand dunes of Ffrith Beach onto the bay. One view I can always see is the windmills of the North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm.

North Hoyle Offshore Wind Farm is Wales’ first offshore wind farm, and the UK’s first major offshore renewable power project. Situated in Liverpool Bay, it commenced operation in 2003. North Hoyle covers an area of 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi), and is located approximately 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) off the coast between Rhyl and Prestatyn. As a Round 1 projects North Hoyle was intended to act as a testbed, helping to build the UK’s understanding of offshore wind, whilst in total also providing well over 1,000 MW of green generating capacity for the UK. All of the Round 1 offshore wind farms were limited to a maximum area of 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi), and no more than 30 wind turbines.

The wind farm’s 30 Vestas V80 Offshore wind turbines are each rated at 2 MW capacity, giving a maximum project output of 60 MW. At the time of installation this was the most powerful wind farm in the UK, producing sufficient electricity annually to power 50,000 homes.

Anyway, I digress. Looking out of the window yesterday I noticed a new shape on the skyline and close inshore too. Although it was raining, with very low cloud cover, I thought, photo opportunity. Normally anything coming in close to the shore doesn’t hang around too long, so bad weather or not I’m off out…..and here’s what was close inshore

It’s called the NOSTAG 10 and is used for cable laying. I’m not sure if it’s laying a communication cable or something to do with the wind farm. It’s current track says it’s about a kilometre off-shore but it did seem a lot closer yesterday afternoon. Now here’s where the bonus comes in. Whilst I was getting wet and at the same time trying to keep my big 500mm lens dry I spotted this black object bobbing in the sea. A fair distance out but I did get some detail

This was at the maximum extension of the 500mm lens in low light. The seal was probably about 500 metres out. It surfaced for about 2-3 minutes and then dived for about 5. It would then pop up further along the beach but it seemed to be patrolling backwards and forwards. Looking out to sea I could see a real heavy squall coming in and I was on the most exposed part of the beach. There’s no shelter so it was time to head back to the car. Just then along came bonus number 2….

Now I didn’t know what this was but according to my friends on the Fuji MyFinePix site it’s a Turnstone a bird species in the genus Arenaria in the family Scolopacidae. They are closely related to calidrid sandpipers and might be considered members of the tribe Calidriini (thank goodness for Wikipedia). Turnstones are high Arctic breeders, and are migratory. These chunky powerful birds have strong necks and bills well suited to their feeding technique. As the name implies, these species readily turn stones or seaweed looking for hidden invertebrates. They are strictly coastal, preferring stony beaches to sand, and are often found with other waders such as Purple Sandpipers. Their appearance is striking in flight, with white patches on the back, wings and tail.

The Ruddy Turnstone (or just Turnstone in Europe), Arenaria interpres, has a circumpolar distribution, and is a very long distance migrant, wintering on coasts as far south as South Africa and Australia. It is thus a common sight on coasts almost everywhere in the world. In breeding plumage, this is a showy bird, with a black-and-white head, chestnut back, white underparts and red legs. The drabber winter plumage is basically brown above and white below. This is a generally tame bird and is an opportunist feeder. Unlike most waders, it will scavenge, and has a phenomenal list of recorded food items, including human corpses and coconut.

Right, time to get off the beach, it’s getting far too wet. A quick 5 minutes over the dunes, get in the car, dry the camera and lens off. On the way home I decided to stop off at Barkby Beach which is slightly further along the coast….you never know what you might find. It’s only about 5 minutes drive and in that time the squall had disappeared and the sky was starting to lighten a little. I could still see NOSTAG 10, only this time it was sideways on.

You can clearly see the cables being laid in this image, so I’m glad I took the drive. Then came along bonus number 3.

This was quite in-shore as well. Not moving particularly fast, but look at that little white boat just in front of it. In reality it passed well to the left of that little boat, didn’t even rock it with its wake. Zooming in to the front I could see it was called SEAJACKS something, but I couldn’t quite make out the last part of the name

As it passed close in-shore and was more or less sideways on to me I could now see its name

It looks like it’s called SEAJACKS KRAKEN which was constructed by Lamprell Energy in Dubai. This state-of-the-art, self-propelled jack-up vessel is capable of fast, safe transit and positioning between locations; this not only transforms operations in the oil and gas industry, but also facilitates efficient installation and maintenance of offshore wind-farms. That ship is really close inshore because when the tide is out I can stand beside the green marker and even walk out further.

Mind you when the tide is in those rocks are totally covered. Going back to the SEAJACKS KRAKEN as it carried on it way you can see that up front it is carrying parts for the wind-farm.

When I checked its current position I could see that it’s involved in the Walney 2 Offshore Wind Farm construction. This wind farm will consist of 102 turbines which will be known as Walney Offshore Windfarm. Located approx 15km west of Barrow-in-Furness the wind farm is being built in two phases – Walney 1 and Walney 2. Both phases will have 51 turbines, each one capable of generating 3.6MW of electricity and a staggering total of 367.2MW which would be enough to power 320,000 homes. The maximum height of the turbines is 150 metres from blade tip to sea level and only 8 metres (24’) shorter than Blackpool Tower.

Well that’s it for this article and although I went out with the intention of shooting the NOSTAG 10 I was lucky to get the bonus images as well. So here’s a question for you. If the right opportunity comes along will you photograph it or do you only concentrate on what you set out to do?

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3 thoughts on “Sometimes You Get More Than One Bonus…

  1. Steve Ransome September 4, 2011 / 17:10

    Wow, that’s another belter Mike. I have alwasy wondered how the turbines were constructed. Some very close shots there, good ones too. I wonder how you were able to ID the Turnstone though!!! Lol
    I must say, I learn a lot from your photoblogs, all the info with the shots make for interesting reading and viewing.

    Cheers Mike, not long to go to our meet. Hope the weather improves!!! Lol

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