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).

April 2012

We had an amazing tour to Andalucía in southern Spain in early April: 148 species seen (or heard) with first sightings of Baillon’s crake, little crake and Rupell’s vulture. Other highlights included great & little bustards, displaying booted eagles and Montagu’s harriers, a Bonnelli’s eagle at the nest, and a juvenile Spanish Imperial eagle overhead.

Meanwhile back in Orkney the 1st migrants appeared for us at Hoxa Head on 16/4: wheatears, puffins and a bonxie.

Migration got seriously underway a few days later with the arrival of redstart, robin, willow warbler and brambling locally (19-21/4).

More unusual birds during April included a solitary stock dove on 24/4; a water rail at The Loons 29/4; and a tight group of 6 black-throated divers at Hoxa on 30/4.

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.

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).

April 2008

April came in like a lion this year, if not out like a lamb.

Our 1st guest of the season was lucky enough to see 5 species of raptor in 30 minutes: peregrine, rough-legged buzzard, merlin, kestrel and hen harrier; with a short-eared owl the day after, making 6 species.

A couple of weeks later however (24/4), David & Tricia Hawkins not only smashed the 3 year record for most # of birds in one week, (they saw 91), but included an incredible 8 species of raptor: hen harrier, buzzard, kestrel, peregrine, sparrowhawk, goshawk, short-eared owl and marsh harrier (the latter 2 on 25/4)!  The goshawk did a display flight only 50 metres away from us (a 1st for Steve!), and a pair of hen harriers performed an acrobatic food pass.

April 2008 is therefore named the month of the raptors.

Lots of other species, including the perfect combination of winter birds (such as brambling (24/4), great grey shrike (26/4), scaup, whooper swan and white-fronted geese); and summer visitors arriving such as wheatear (10/4), whimbrel & Sandwich tern (21/4), willow warbler (24/4), sand martin and swallow (25/4).

Under normal circumstances the bird of the month would have been the beautiful male black redstart at the Old Man of Hoy (24/4), but even he was eclipsed by the displaying goshawk.

All the seabirds , including small #s of puffins, returning to the crags late in the month.  An early harbour porpoise on 10/4 was our 1st cetacean record of the season.

We also had great views of brown hares boxing (19/4), and blue hares on Hoy (24/4).

A single pale-bellied brent goose was seen on 27/4.