May 2012

The Spring passage began with whimbrels and sandwich terns going through on 1/5.

Great views in brilliant sunshine on 4/5 of 2 pairs of hen harrier, an Iceland gull, and red-throated diver.

Our swallows finally made it back very late on 7/5, along with our first sighting for the year of a queen great yellow bumblebee (we saw another on 23/5).

Some super migrants on 9/5: male pied flycatcher (female on 24/5) and white-billed diver (also on 17/5); with the Arctic terns arriving back at last.

SE Herts RSPB LMG had a great week in mid May, smashing our week’s record with 108 species, adding more on North Ronaldsay!  They saw migrants such as wryneck, red-breasted flycatcher, red-backed shrike and rustic bunting.

Other unusual birds for May included little egret and a calling corncrake (17/5 ++); a crossbill (18/5); and redstart (20/5).

Quite exceptionally, Scapa Flow held a humpback whale on 18/5 and a sperm whale on 19/5.

We also saw the 1st basking shark of the season on Westray on 20/5.

Flycatchers were around late in the month (spotted on 21 & 24/5; and pied on 24/5); a whitethroat (23/5); red-backed shrike (23/5); and a cuckoo at last (27/5).

We saw the month out with good views of a Minke whale in the Stronsay Firth (30/5).

May 2011

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.

September 2010

A great start, with 14 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay (3/9), followed by our 1st fieldfare at home on 6/9.  7/9 was a bit of a red-letter day with a pair of common cranes at Warebeth; 4 curlew sandpipers in stunning light at the Loch of Skaill; and 4 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay.

The purple patch continued on 9/9 in classic ‘fall’ conditions with a wryneck and a stunning male red-breasted flycatcher, both nearby on South Ronaldsay.

Migrants everywhere – garden warblers, willow warblers, pied & spotted flycatchers, and redstarts.

We enjoyed a juvenile red-backed shrike at Burwick on 11/9, saw more Lapland buntings at Hoxa on 12/9, and saw the cranes again on the shores of the Loch of Stenness on 13/9.

Other interesting birds included a greenshank and a juvenile black-throated diver on 13/9; & a family of snow geese in with greylags on 16/9 in Deerness.  On 20/9 the greenshank was still present, along with 2 little stints; and the 1st common scoter of the winter was seen in the Bay of Skaill.

The month ended with a flourish, with a pectoral sandpiper in the heart of Kirkwall in the Peerie Sea (22/9); whilst closer to home, literally yards away we finished the month with another red-breasted flycatcher (that’s 2 in one season!) and a yellow-browed warbler on 30/9.

September 2009

The Franklin’s gull hung around, with other migrants making headlines such as the bird of the year (so far anyway!) which turned up  in our back yard, at the south end of our island, in the form of a sandhill crane, only the 3rd UK record on 22/9.

Fantastic close views of an American golden plover in Deerness on 26/9.  Also a hobby on 16/9, and a red-backed shrike in Evie on 18/9.

Plenty of harbour porpoises also with 17 on 31/8 and 18 on 14/9, with a minke whale for good measure also on 14/9.

An amazing school of porpoises in Switha Sound on 17/9 numbering at least 38.

Lots of raptors now stravaiging around – especially hen harrier, merlin, kestrel, peregrine sparrowhawk & short-eared owl.

May 2009

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).

June 2008

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.