July 2012

The 1st week of July was spent in Shetland, where we were troubled a little by mists

and poor visibility.  We did, however, have a wonderful evening with the storm

petrels on Mousa (4/7); and see several pairs of whooper swans.  Back in Orkney

I’m pleased to report sightings of stonechat (11/7 – they were decimated in our

recent hard winters).  Scottish primroses completed their 2nd flowering; and

harbour porpoises were seen off Hoxa on 18/7.  Interesting birds during the month

included manx shearwater (23/7); grey plover, swift, greenshank & pintail (all

25/7); & golden plover flocking back through (26/7).  We helped ring storm petrels

with the RSPB on 25/7.  But easily the star bird of themonth though was a roller,

present in Finstown from 26/7, the 1st in Orkney since 1966 – some bird!

August, September, October 2011

Autumn birds featured waders and warblers.  2 grey plover on Westray (9/8) began our migration season, with a juvenile ruff at home being a first for Gerraquoy on 10/8.  Many ruff were present in Orkney over the next few weeks.

Twite flocks began to build with 40+ at Hoxa on 25/8, where at least 15 harbour porpoises were also seen.

Sandwich terns became present again with the first on 25/8.

A fall in mid September saw lots of ‘common’ migrants (robins, blackcaps, willow warblers) but also a yellow-browed warbler, grasshopper warbler and lesser whitethroats locally on 19/9.

A little stint was found in a large wader flock (mostly golden plover & lapwings but also many ruff) also locally on 21/9.  4+ harbour porpoises were present in Hoy Sound on 24/9, and a further 6+ from Hoxa on 1/10.

Great views of a water rail at The Loons hide on 30/9.

A rare N American vagrant, a Bonaparte’s gull, was seen over Kirk Sound, Holm on 7/10.

On 12/10 an adult, presumed male, injured, ill or simply disorientated sperm whale was present off Kirkwall harbour, giving rare and good views to many locals.

Sperm whale strandings occur every few years (we’ve seen two) but to see a live animal is most unusual.

April 2011

We enjoyed a fine spell of weather in late April which brought the migrants back home.

Our local short-eared owls & lapwings were displaying, and the bonxies returned to territory.

The 1st chiffchaff was singing locally on 15/4; and the 1st wheatear back on 19/4.

Our swallows returned home on 21/4 (4 days earlier than last year!); and the 1st whimbrel passed overhead on the evening of 23/4.

Flocks of gorgeous golden plover are passing through daily, and the yellow flowers of Spring are most enjoyable: celandines, marsh marigolds and primroses.

3 late whoopers were seen at Liddel on 29/4.

April 2010

The coltsfoot is in flower; lapwing and curlew are displaying; and the first wheatears and chiffchaff are heading through South Ronaldsay – it must be Spring!

Last week the snipe and redshank joined in with their spectacular displays.

Even the twite are displaying, one of our specialities.

But just to prove that it remains early in the season there are still 3 whooper swans in a nearby field, and a jack (male) merlin is hunting locally, not yet on his breeding grounds in the hills.

First primroses in flower and a pair of courting sandwich terns on 11/4 confirm that Spring has sprung.

Migrants now passing through Gerraquoy, with c 500 pinkfeet on 14/4; lots of flocks of golden plover issuing their beautiful bubbling courting calls as they pass; and a cock wheatear on the lawn on 15/4.

More migrants last week too with whimbrel overhead on 20/4, and a solitary bird feeding in our field on 23/4. A large flock of 23 whimbrel in Marwick on 25/4.

Our swallows arrived back at home on 26/4.

Highlights included a sky-dancing hen harrier, 2 merlin and 4 short-eared owls on 27/4; and a pair of red-throated divers and the first Arctic skua also on 27/4.

Common terns back at Hoy on 30/4.

September 2009

The Franklin’s gull hung around, with other migrants making headlines such as the bird of the year (so far anyway!) which turned up  in our back yard, at the south end of our island, in the form of a sandhill crane, only the 3rd UK record on 22/9.

Fantastic close views of an American golden plover in Deerness on 26/9.  Also a hobby on 16/9, and a red-backed shrike in Evie on 18/9.

Plenty of harbour porpoises also with 17 on 31/8 and 18 on 14/9, with a minke whale for good measure also on 14/9.

An amazing school of porpoises in Switha Sound on 17/9 numbering at least 38.

Lots of raptors now stravaiging around – especially hen harrier, merlin, kestrel, peregrine sparrowhawk & short-eared owl.

June 2008

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.

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.