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).
The coltsfoot is in flower; lapwing and curlew are displaying; and the first wheatears and chiffchaff are heading through South Ronaldsay – it must be Spring!
Last week the snipe and redshank joined in with their spectacular displays.
Even the twite are displaying, one of our specialities.
But just to prove that it remains early in the season there are still 3 whooper swans in a nearby field, and a jack (male) merlin is hunting locally, not yet on his breeding grounds in the hills.
First primroses in flower and a pair of courting sandwich terns on 11/4 confirm that Spring has sprung.
Migrants now passing through Gerraquoy, with c 500 pinkfeet on 14/4; lots of flocks of golden plover issuing their beautiful bubbling courting calls as they pass; and a cock wheatear on the lawn on 15/4.
More migrants last week too with whimbrel overhead on 20/4, and a solitary bird feeding in our field on 23/4. A large flock of 23 whimbrel in Marwick on 25/4.
Our swallows arrived back at home on 26/4.
Highlights included a sky-dancing hen harrier, 2 merlin and 4 short-eared owls on 27/4; and a pair of red-throated divers and the first Arctic skua also on 27/4.
Common terns back at Hoy on 30/4.
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.
We’ve been island hopping with our guests this month and have been to Eday, Rousay and Shapinsay in quick succession.
We pride ourselves in using gorgeous picnic spots – imagine rushing tides, red-throated divers sailing close past and fresh otter tracks…
Harbour porpoises have been much in evidence with lots of sightings.
The grey seals are noisy and are gathering in readiness for pupping.
The first purple sandpiper of the year back from the Arctic was spotted on Shapinsay on 13/9.
A stroll out to nearby Rose Ness on 15/9 produced a solitary sooty shearwater, heading northwards.
During the 1st week of October we held a photographic course and had at least 3 days of wonderful light – the resulting pics have been placed on the website under the Photo Holidays section.
We also saw the first long-tailed ducks back for the winter, buzzards (an Orkney rarity!), and brent geese.
Three days of stunning weather in mid October brought great sightings of slavonian grebes, scaup, grey seal pups and harbour porpoises.
Eight – yes eight – Red-throated divers at less than 100 metres in glorious sunshine, with five in the telescope at once on 7/8 was a glorious sight.
Waders started to come back through, with Sanderling, Whimbrel and Greenshank all seen this month.
A determined wader hunt on 22/8 with a Belgian guest saw Black and Bar-tailed godwits, Ruff, Knot and wonderful views of Snipe and Dunlin, with a delightful adult Pectoral sandpiper (rare American vagrant) the next day.
An impressive southerly blow on 29/8 drove the Manx shearwaters right into Scapa Flow and we were watching Storm petrels at only 100 metres from the Churchill Barriers as they battled against the wind and seas.