September 2010

A great start, with 14 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay (3/9), followed by our 1st fieldfare at home on 6/9.  7/9 was a bit of a red-letter day with a pair of common cranes at Warebeth; 4 curlew sandpipers in stunning light at the Loch of Skaill; and 4 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay.

The purple patch continued on 9/9 in classic ‘fall’ conditions with a wryneck and a stunning male red-breasted flycatcher, both nearby on South Ronaldsay.

Migrants everywhere – garden warblers, willow warblers, pied & spotted flycatchers, and redstarts.

We enjoyed a juvenile red-backed shrike at Burwick on 11/9, saw more Lapland buntings at Hoxa on 12/9, and saw the cranes again on the shores of the Loch of Stenness on 13/9.

Other interesting birds included a greenshank and a juvenile black-throated diver on 13/9; & a family of snow geese in with greylags on 16/9 in Deerness.  On 20/9 the greenshank was still present, along with 2 little stints; and the 1st common scoter of the winter was seen in the Bay of Skaill.

The month ended with a flourish, with a pectoral sandpiper in the heart of Kirkwall in the Peerie Sea (22/9); whilst closer to home, literally yards away we finished the month with another red-breasted flycatcher (that’s 2 in one season!) and a yellow-browed warbler on 30/9.

August 2007

Spotted a peregrine falcon locally in the 1st week.  Then we headed for the southern tip of our island to try and find a beached sperm whale, which, unfortunately, had already been washed back out to sea – we did, however, enjoy seeing lots of grass of Parnassus en route.

Perfect sea conditions on 10/8 gave 2 harbour porpoises, whilst on land we saw peregrine, hen harrier and short-eared owl locally within minutes of each other.

Our barley field has been cut and up to 100 curlew are using it, with twites flocking now to 30 birds or so.

Absolutely amazing views from 50 metres away of a huge adult basking shark in Echnaloch Bay on 26/8, watched it for about half an hour.

April 2007

Cold, fresh weather, but memorable sightings to open our 2007 season…thousands of golden plover locally and the 1st summer visitors: wheatear, chiffchaff and whimbrel (15/4); followed by swallow on 16/4.

Stunning views of a displaying – skydancing – hen harrier on Hoy on 17/4, along with mountain hares and peregrine.

Winter birds such as slavonian grebe, long-tailed duck and great-northern diver all resplendent in summer plumage.

Lapwing, curlew and redshank are all displaying in the field immediately in front of the conservatory giving great views.

The first cetaceans of the season were seen off Hoxa Head – 3 harbour porpoises – on 29/4; and a splendid male whinchat obligingly perched right outside our conservatory for us on 30/4.

June Highlights 2006

Wader antics and noise define this month as curlew, snipe, lapwing, redshank and oystercatcher all have chicks and guard them deafeningly!

Migrant butterflies also winging in – red admirals and painted ladies.

We’ve had great close-up views of hen harrier and short-eared owl, and a marsh harrier has been prominent locally on several occasions.

The orchids are now in flower.

On 28/6 June was seen out in spectacular fashion by a pod of 5 or 6 orcas playing around in the southern entrance to Scapa Flow, with animals coming out of the water several times (lots of splashes!) and a male present with a simply enormous dorsal fin.  Wow!

May Highlights 2006

Migrants continue to pass through, with chiffchaff and lesser whitethroat seen at Gerraquoy on 6/5, and a female whinchat on 11/5.

In a glorious spell of weather a day tour on 9/5 produced allsorts, from Risso’s dolphins offshore, seabirds back on the crags, great-northern divers and long-tailed duck resplendent in breeding plumage, and two ringtail harriers at breathtakingly close range.

Scottish primroses were resplendent in flower mid month, and the sea pinks and squill adding hues to the cliffs by the month end.

Great views of all seabirds, including puffins at close range.

Weather amazing – bright and dry for much of the month, with a north-westerly wind to keep us moving.

On 29/5 some guests from London were amused by a lengthy and noisy squabble outside the conservatory between our local pair of Arctic Skuas, a family of oystercatchers and curlews, and some gulls!

April Highlights 2005

Late April and early May 2005 had its attractions such as a great grey shrike locally (20/4) and we watched a beautiful male ring ousel from the conservatory at only 50 metres away (30/4).

Whimbrels passed overhead regularly, and lapwings, curlew and snipe all literally came within inches of our new “hide” (conservatory!).

The seabirds arrived back at the cliffs, and the Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) had their 1st flowering.

The birds of prey were on form, and we saw hen harrier food passes, five short-eared owls at once, and merlin and peregrine regularly.

Best of all, however, was a pod of 7 Risso’s dolphins, which thrilled our guests for two days (12 & 13/5) as they hunted fish by the # 1 Churchill Barrier. At only 200 metres away or less, their pale scarred bodies could easily be seen, as could their blunt faces and huge dorsal fins, reminiscent of orcas. Wow…………