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Pete's Blog - January 2022


Storm Arwen devastated parts of the east coast of Scotland and England last November, bringing down thousands of trees, damaging buildings and causing major transport disruption. With 98mph winds overnight in parts of Northumberland and a full tide first thing in the morning, I did what only a photographer would do and made for my nearest patch of coast - a 45 minute drive away - to catch a bit of the drama. And what drama it was!


St Marys Island, jutting out into the North Sea was taking the full force of the storm, with the sea whipped into a maelstrom of white surf and foam that resembled horizontal snow. It was hard to stand upright let alone take photographs, so i bumped up the ISO setting and shutter speed to avoid camera shake and did what I could to record the scene. Only two other people were about at 9am and by 9.30am I'd had enough and headed for Tynemouth, stopping off at Cullercoats on the way to watch the heaving seas covering and uncovering the promenade. No-one was risking a walk there and it was very reminiscent of the North Sea tidal surge in January 2017 when I'd videoed some of the most dramatic seas I'd ever seen.


A couple of equally brave (or mad) photographers were above King Edwards Bay at Tynemouth with their telephotos lenses scanning the huge waves crashing against the northernmost lighthouse at the entrance to the Tyne. And then a lone Great Black-Backed Gull came into view, struggling into the fierce northerly gale and somehow making progress towards Longsands - one of very few birds venturing over the sea at the time. I managed to capture a sharp image of it, set against the roaring surf. To my delight and surprise, it was awarded photograph of the week on, with the following commentary...


Last week, many areas – but especially Scotland and northern England – were subjected to extreme conditions as Storm Arwen battered these shores. Life can be challenging enough for humans at such times, but spare a thought for how difficult things must be for birds during exceptional periods of weather.

Peter Duncan's moody shot epitomses the hardships faced by seabirds around our coastline. Here, a Great Black-backed Gull – one of the toughest birds around – fights its way into the gale with Tynemouth Lighthouse and heavy seas as a backdrop. This evocative scene is a true reminder of the power of nature and is a worthy winner of this week's award.


Now that certainly made it worth an early start to catch a little bit of drama.


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