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!
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.