Harbour porpoises featured on 5 & 20/6 off Shapinsay & Hoxa Head respectively.
Interesting birds early in June included cuckoo (8/6) and siskins (10/6). Perhaps the bird of the month, however, was a female surf scoter at Echnaloch, present from the 10/6 for a few days, in the company of some common scoters and a female long-tailed duck.
Mid-month interest was provided by a calling quail on 14/6; a turtle dove (14/6); and a great yellow bumblebee at Barth Head. A visit to Eday on 15/6 enabled a count of the Calf cormorant colony at 300+birds.
The most brilliant display of Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) in our 8 years experience in the 1st 2 weeks of May – perhaps the snow & ice of last winter has produced this memorable sight?
Sea watching on 3/5 produced red-necked & Slavonian grebes and common scoter. Hill birds on 3/5 included cuckoo (also on 12/5), merlin and 2 hen harrier food passes and sky dancing displays.
We watched a jack merlin display at very close quarters for about half an hour on 12/5 – simply stunning!
A trip to Westray was good for migrant waders including purple sandpipers and black-tailed godwits on 5/5.
Sea duck were still around with long-tailed duck, goldeneye, scaup (still around on 30/5) and common scoter giving good views (9 – 12/5).
Migrants included swift (8/5), common sandpiper (9/5), spotted flycatcher (12/5) and red-backed shrike (27/5).
Whooper swans are still lingering (29/5), and the little terns returned on 12/5.
Other unusual birds during May have included (pale-bellied) brent goose (22/5 & 30/5) and a 2nd winter Iceland gull on 30/5.
Brilliant views of a pair of cuckoos on 31/5.
May migrants have included a gorgeous trip of 4 dotterel in Tankerness on 9/5.
A bit of a red-letter day on 15/4, with great views of an adult sea eagle in Rendall; followed by close ups of our beared seal in Finstown. It’s a long way from home – should be in the high Arctic!
Other highlights included Scottish primroses in flower on 18/5, a pair of wood sandpipers on 19/5, and a cuckoo on 20/5 & 25/5.
We saw a food pass by a pair of hen harriers on 25/5.
Bird of the month though (so far!) was a red-rumped swallow in our local village of St. Margaret’s Hope on 25/5.
Orcas have been seen on a weekly basis now for about 3 weeks in the Pentland Firth, Scapa Flow, and around the islands.
7 snow geese in South Ronaldsay (they flew over the house!) on 8/5, but a real red-letter day on Westray on 10/5 with a Risso’s dolphin then a pod of 4 orcas off Noup Head.
There was a classic “fall” of migrants in mid May, with several species of warbler (including many lesser whitethroats), pied and spotted flycatchers and redstarts.
Best birds however were a red-backed shrike male still around on 17/5, and a splendid red-spotted bluethroat male also on 17/5.
We saw our first harbour porpoises of the season from home, around Grimness Head during the period 20-22/5.
The last week of May was a good week for raptors with great views of a food pass between hen harrier male and female, a peregrine at the eyrie with 2 chicks, good views of short-eared owls, and a jack merlin (all 26/5). Also a cuckoo at Holm (28/5), and a pintail with a brood at The Loons in West Mainland (29/5).
The 1st week of July gave a superb adult yellow (white)-billed diver, just down the road in Water Sound from 2/7 onwards.
Other unusual sightings included a cuckoo (1/7) and lesser redpolls (4/7).
Excellent sea conditions on 3/7 produced a minke whale and 3 harbour porpoises from Cantick Head on Hoy.
In Shetland 7 – 21/7 with 2 one-week tours, wildlife highlights being a solitary bull orca on 14/7 in Yell Sound, and lots of close-up views of puffins and otters.
Back home a harbour porpoise and 11 puffins off Hoxa on 28/7, and a solitary swift at Deerness on 31/7.
Spring 2008 has been the best year for migrants we’ve experienced, and June opened with a red-backed shrike on 1/6, with blackcaps and garden warblers singing at the same site.
The most spectacular bird of the 1st week however was undoubtably a male ruff in resplendent white plumage (along with 7 black-tailed godwits) on 2/6!
Raptors seem to have hatched their young now as we saw a food pass by a pair of hen harriers with great views of a female merlin (and a cuckoo!) at the same site on 5/6, finishing with a red-throated diver on her nest.
Unusual birds the following week included a blackcap locally (6/7); a grey wagtail and common sandpiper on Hoy (12/6); and a whimbrel and golden plover in our freshly cut silage field at Gerraquoy (13/6).
Harbour porpoises were showing well in June, with sightings on several days at Hoxa Head, but a minke whale on 24/6 came close enough to us to hear its breathing!
Black-tailed godwit numbers at The Loons built up to a maximum of 16 on 29/6.
Bird of the month however appeared in our local village on 25/6 in the form of an adult rose coloured starling, one of up to six in Orkney at the same time.
A female pintail at The Loons on 29/6 saw the month out in style.