Warm Seas/Navigation/Cold Seas???.....

by Bernie Bell - 17:28 on 10 December 2023

Warm Seas/Navigation/Cold Seas???.....


It started on Friday when Mike went for a walk and we posted what he found as a 'comment' on the Orkney Wildlife Facebook page… https://www.facebook.com/groups/133013273445588/?locale=en_GB


Mike just got back from his constitutional and told me he'd seen an unusual fish - described it - and it sounded like the above - over to Mike......... Cast up on the path above the Bay of Hinderayre in Rendall, I found a long silver fish (about 12 inches long), which I thought must be a garfish. Having seen your picture, I now think it was in fact an Atlantic saury - no photo unfortunately. It was in perfect, fresh condition, except for its bill being broken. I cast it down onto the beach for the gulls to find. No idea how it came to be cast up so high, but the easterly wind would have driven waves and tides onshore...”

The ‘sightings’ multiplied and, in response to a comment on the OWF page I wrote……..

“‘Wrong place at the wrong time’ – indeed – as climate changes the world changes, things are moving and will take time to adapt. There will be casualties along the way. I’m not being callous – I’m observing – that’s what’s happening – and will continue to happen. What did the ancient folk make of it when the land started to disappear under water? Strange days indeed.”


On Sunday, we set off to go for a walk at the Ring of Brodgar, but as we approached the Finstown bridge my eye was caught by silver ‘flashes’ on the shore-line.  We pulled into the car park and went down to the shore to have a look.  I don’t know how many Atlantic saury were stranded along the shore and right up the bank…


My size 4 wellie gives some idea of size…

The back of the Saury is darker than the underbelly....

Some of them were alive and flapping, so Mike tried putting them back in the water…..

But when he did so, an odd thing happened - they would turn round and swim back to shore again. We wondered if something has gone amiss with their navigation system?  Or maybe a combination of that with the warmer water fooling them, and luring them from their usual routes?  But even so – why swim back to shore when they had been ‘rescued’?


There were a few other folk on the shore – one man said he was collecting fish to have for his tea – another said they would keep the cat happy!  We were talking of how, in the not very distant past, people would have been down there collecting the fresh fish, and maybe also smoking some for later.  This got me thinking of the people who lived in the nearby Iron Age Broch ….

….which might look like a lumpy bit by the road – but it is a broch.

I could picture them, if something similar had happened back then, making the most of Nature’s bounty – fresh fish for now – smoked by the fire for later.


We crossed the road to find that there was a similar situation by the Oyce of Firth……

So the fish must have gone right up into the Oyce with the tide.


We then went to the Finstown public toilets to wash our hands and noticed that all along the side of the pier there were more fish scattered, some crammed into the crannies between the stones of the pier wall ……




Mike wondered if they had burrowed into the crannies on purpose, as that pointy ‘neb’…

…is for poking about in the sea-bed for food – but crannies between stones are a different matter.  Another aspect of the confused behaviour shown by these fish?


All in all an interesting, intriguing and somewhat disturbing event. 

We never got to Brodgar – we embraced the un-expected instead!

When we go home Mike was investigating and found these items….



…which appear to indicate that cold temperatures might have caused these mass strandings!  A mystery.


Finstown on the BBC!!!....



The mystery continues...

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