June 2011

June got off to a superb start with a pod of 4 orcas at close range at Sandside in Deerness, a male, female and 2 youngsters (3/6).

We were having lunch, enjoying a great northern diver close by on a gloriously sunny day, when the male orca exploded out of the sea before our very eyes.  Absolutely breathtaking.

Orca pods were also seen by ourselves and our guests on 16/6 (Barrier # 4 East); and 20/6 (Hoxa Head).

Red admiral butterflies are ubiquitous, and we found a rare mason wasp in Deerness on 10/6.

Unusual birds during the month have included a sub-adult hobby and 2 swifts on Hoy (17/6); and a dozen black-tailed godwits on 23/6.

A high altitude food pass by a pair of hen harriers was also enjoyed on 23/6.

We listened to a corncrake calling locally on 25/6.

A bit of a red letter day on 26/6 which started with great views of a jack merlin hunting; continued with seeing a water rail hopping over bogbean, swimming and then flying at The Loons; and ended with finding a Temminck’s stint at The Shunan – a great day!

June ended with a flypast by 21 swifts at Barth Head on 29/6, with 3 harbour porpoise out to sea.

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.

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!

July Highlights 2005

We discovered a wonderful (and rare) Oysterplant colony on a nearby beach and Red admiral butterflies appeared all over the islands.

On the afternoon of 6/7 we were treated to some gymnastics and blows from a couple of Minke whales who had obviously chased some fish around Grimness headland – quite close in and big animals!  In fact up to 4 Minkes fed in this area for several days, thrilling our guests.

On Hoy at St. John’s Head on 13/7 we were treated to a wonderful sight of a family of Peregrine falcons teaching their young how to stoop.

Meanwhile back on the farm a very late Oystercatcher eventually hatched her 3 young on 14/7.

Some mornings are unbeatable – despite the rain on 18/7 we saw a rare White-billed diver (happily in the company of a Great-northern diver for comparison); followed by an otter, always a treat!