June 2009

A little egret at Graemeshall Loch (5/6) was only our 2nd in Orkney in 5 years.

The little egret at Graemeshall Loch was still present on 7/6.

With light northerly winds for most of the week we concentrated our efforts on the sea for a couple of days and were rewarded with a record 4 species of cetacean in the 2 days: fin whale, minke whale, harbour porpoise and Risso’s dolphin.  The fin whale was our 1st in Orkney, seen out in the Pentland Firth, a massive animal (2nd largest creature on earth!) with a massive blow. Two other much smaller whales with big blows were also present, possibly a group of fin whales travelling together….fantastic!

In mid June the short-eared owls were all feeding young and showing very well at home and elsewhere.

Waders such as oystercatcher and lapwing forming large post-breeding flocks.

A brilliant showing of northern marsh orchids this year, and now the beautiful grass of Parnassus is in flower.

June 2007

A slavonian grebe in summer plumage on Harray Loch was an unusual start to the month on 1/6, still there on 12/6.

We had a great 1st week with a couple of American birders from Colorado (thanks, Chuck and Nancy!) and despite the dull and misty weather saw 80 species of birds – a record for June.

A trip to Noup Head on Westray, and Marwick and Mull Heads gave some great seabird shots.

Painted lady and red admiral butterflies inundated the islands from 10/6 onwards and the orchids – heath spotted and northern marsh – are at their best.

Tours in mid June revealed a tufted duck with 10 newly hatched ducklings popping out of the water like corks; a female pintail all by herself; 3 black-tailed godwits a-courting; and an odd solitary pink-foot (a good June record on 12/6).

A day at the raptors on 12/6 gave us peregrine, kestrel, short-eared owl and 6 hen harriers, including a wonderful male to female food pass.

Great close views of 4 harbour porpoises on 17/6, and a 1st summer little gull on Harray Loch on 18/6 delighted us with its hunting antics and flight.

Sarah excelled herself on 22/6 when she saw 2 basking sharks very close in at the Broch of Deerness.

A 2nd summer glaucous gull was seen near home on 28/6, and just a day later a bonxie landed 5 metres from the conservatory with a huge fish, surrounded by angry gulls!

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!

June Highlights 2005

We saw day-old lapwing chicks being brooded by their mother, and a 2nd year immature glaucous gull (12/6), just to remind guests how close we are to the Arctic.

Meanwhile the sea pinks and squill were in full bloom on the cliffs and the orchids in the rough.

On 16/6 we watched a pod of 7 orcas – yes, killer whales – for over half an hour from the conservatory!

Another amazing experience on 28/6: first, sightings of harbour porpoise, but followed by gymnastics from a pod of 5 Risso’s dolphins.  The dolphins entered Scapa Flow from our vantage point at Hoxa Head and as we watched them for an hour or more they lazed on the surface, “spy-hopped” and breached before our very eyes.

How could you follow that?  Answer – only 50 metres away, a fresh common seal pup, all dewy eyed and appealing….

Then we saw the month out in fine style on 30/6 with wonderful views of a rare American migrant – a Laughing gull adult – on the nearby island of Burray.