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.
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!
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!
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!