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!
June is just a beautiful month, not least because the sea pinks and squill adorn the cliffs.
Interesting birds have included a Manx shearwater in Scapa Flow (2/6); a summering whooper swan at the Brodgar Pools on 7/6; 2 common sandpipers at Graemeshall Loch on 8/6; and 2 crossbills at Rackwick on Hoy on 10/6.
We have also had stunning close up views of hen harrier, short-eared owl, merlin & peregrine early in the month.
We also opened our cetacean account with a pod of Risso’s dolphins in Birsay Bay on 7/6, and saw 4 harbour porpoises off The Ool on Switha on 10/6.
Rarest sighting of the month was of 2 beetles, too rare to have an English name, Chrysolina intermedia, lovely ladybird-sized beetles with deep red stripes along their lower backs.
Later in the month we saw a pintail with a brood of 5 ducklings (16/6); peregrines with well grown young; and a quail at Marwick on 17/6.
7 snow geese in South Ronaldsay (they flew over the house!) on 8/5, but a real red-letter day on Westray on 10/5 with a Risso’s dolphin then a pod of 4 orcas off Noup Head.
There was a classic “fall” of migrants in mid May, with several species of warbler (including many lesser whitethroats), pied and spotted flycatchers and redstarts.
Best birds however were a red-backed shrike male still around on 17/5, and a splendid red-spotted bluethroat male also on 17/5.
We saw our first harbour porpoises of the season from home, around Grimness Head during the period 20-22/5.
The last week of May was a good week for raptors with great views of a food pass between hen harrier male and female, a peregrine at the eyrie with 2 chicks, good views of short-eared owls, and a jack merlin (all 26/5). Also a cuckoo at Holm (28/5), and a pintail with a brood at The Loons in West Mainland (29/5).
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.