The most brilliant display of Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) in our 8 years experience in the 1st 2 weeks of May – perhaps the snow & ice of last winter has produced this memorable sight?
Sea watching on 3/5 produced red-necked & Slavonian grebes and common scoter. Hill birds on 3/5 included cuckoo (also on 12/5), merlin and 2 hen harrier food passes and sky dancing displays.
We watched a jack merlin display at very close quarters for about half an hour on 12/5 – simply stunning!
A trip to Westray was good for migrant waders including purple sandpipers and black-tailed godwits on 5/5.
Sea duck were still around with long-tailed duck, goldeneye, scaup (still around on 30/5) and common scoter giving good views (9 – 12/5).
Migrants included swift (8/5), common sandpiper (9/5), spotted flycatcher (12/5) and red-backed shrike (27/5).
Whooper swans are still lingering (29/5), and the little terns returned on 12/5.
Other unusual birds during May have included (pale-bellied) brent goose (22/5 & 30/5) and a 2nd winter Iceland gull on 30/5.
Brilliant views of a pair of cuckoos on 31/5.
May migrants have included a gorgeous trip of 4 dotterel in Tankerness on 9/5.
A bit of a red-letter day on 15/4, with great views of an adult sea eagle in Rendall; followed by close ups of our beared seal in Finstown. It’s a long way from home – should be in the high Arctic!
Other highlights included Scottish primroses in flower on 18/5, a pair of wood sandpipers on 19/5, and a cuckoo on 20/5 & 25/5.
We saw a food pass by a pair of hen harriers on 25/5.
Bird of the month though (so far!) was a red-rumped swallow in our local village of St. Margaret’s Hope on 25/5.
Orcas have been seen on a weekly basis now for about 3 weeks in the Pentland Firth, Scapa Flow, and around the islands.
Mayday brought us 4 Risso’s dolphins by # 1 Barrier in Scapa Flow; whilst the day after we saw 5 species of raptor (marsh harrier, hen harrier, sparrowhawk, peregrine and short-eared owl) and two superb drake garganey!
Lots of hen harriers, including food passes on 7/5; and a wonderful trip to Westray on 8/5 which included the gannetry at Noup Head, puffins at their burrows at the Castle of Burrian, lots of purple sandpipers and turnstones at close quarters, and a beautiful pair of pintail.
Arctic terns and Arctic skuas now back in numbers.
Surely the highlight of the month occurred on 11/5 when we watched a pod of 5 orcas for an hour off Grimness Head just by home. The irony was only 3 hours earlier Steve had finished filming with a BBC TV crew near the same spot and said “all we need now is a pod of orcas passing by……”
A great day on Hoy on 14/5 gave us views on both species of hare, including a pair of brown hares boxing at Houton (see pic below).
Amazingly Sarah and our guests then saw the same pod of orcas again in Deerness on 18/5 – see pic top right.
A great trip to Papay Westray on 24/5 gave two calling corncrakes, stunning close up views of both species of seals hauled out, the usual seabirds at Fowl Craig, Scottish primroses in flower and two black-tailed godwits.
Back home 4 whimbrel fed right outside the conservatory, best views ever!
We heard another corncrake on 27/5 and had wonderful views of a female marsh harrier hunting over reedbeds.
There is now a splendid 2nd flowering of the Scottish primrose.
On 12/7 we saw a total of 5 hen harriers in several locations, some at very close quarters.
Now that the breeding season is over we are seeing hen harriers and short-eared owls on an almost daily basis at home, with the owls especially giving wonderful close up views.
The return wader passage has started with whimbrels from 17/7 and a knot on Rousay on 19/7.
The seabirds lingered on the crags until the 3rd week of July this year, with plenty of young auks and kittiwakes visible.
A female marsh harrier, heavily in moult, floated over the house on 23/7, being mobbed by a veritable posse of all things, such that it was a wonder it could make any progress.
The month finished in style with great views of a young minke whale on 30/7 and a young peregrine on 31/7.
Late April and early May 2005 had its attractions such as a great grey shrike locally (20/4) and we watched a beautiful male ring ousel from the conservatory at only 50 metres away (30/4).
Whimbrels passed overhead regularly, and lapwings, curlew and snipe all literally came within inches of our new “hide” (conservatory!).
The seabirds arrived back at the cliffs, and the Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) had their 1st flowering.
The birds of prey were on form, and we saw hen harrier food passes, five short-eared owls at once, and merlin and peregrine regularly.
Best of all, however, was a pod of 7 Risso’s dolphins, which thrilled our guests for two days (12 & 13/5) as they hunted fish by the # 1 Churchill Barrier. At only 200 metres away or less, their pale scarred bodies could easily be seen, as could their blunt faces and huge dorsal fins, reminiscent of orcas. Wow…………