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.

April 2009

A group of 4 from the Market Bosworth Natural History Society smashed our bird record for the week commencing 18 April 2009 seeing 100 species in total. Highlights included a female goosander at Graemsehall Loch, 255 scaup on Harray Loch, water rail at The Loons (all 19/4); 4 hen harriers together including a male displaying (20/4); and 3 species of scoter in one telescope on 20/4 – common, velvet & 2 drake surf scoters – what a sight!

The scaup flock on Harray Loch now down to < 100 birds with one common scoter included (27/4).

Raptor highlights included 2 male hen harriers fighting – talon grappling in the air and beak-to-beak combat on the floor (27/4).

The bird of the year turned up on 28/4, a male snowy owl, looking somewhat sheepish in a green field full of sheep on the Orkney Mainland, a stunning bird.

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.

September and October 2006

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.