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.
October began splendidly with a rare American vagrant, and another 1st for Orkney (that’s 2 in 2 weeks!!) with a red-eyed vireo at the Langskaill plantation in Tankerness. Wonderful views of a delightful bird.
Meanwhile later in the month our winter visitors arrived back with our local greylag augmented with pinkfeet, barnacles and whooper swans; and the seaduck – scoters (common and velvet), long-tailed duck, great northern divers and Slavonian grebes all in good numbers.
There were 7 hen harriers at our local roost on 18/10 and we were seeing merlin almost daily. A jack snipe on Hoy on 20/10, and a woodcock invasion at the end of the month with birds everywhere.
The Atlantic (grey) seal pups were an annual treat at the month end.
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!
Cold, fresh weather, but memorable sightings to open our 2007 season…thousands of golden plover locally and the 1st summer visitors: wheatear, chiffchaff and whimbrel (15/4); followed by swallow on 16/4.
Stunning views of a displaying – skydancing – hen harrier on Hoy on 17/4, along with mountain hares and peregrine.
Winter birds such as slavonian grebe, long-tailed duck and great-northern diver all resplendent in summer plumage.
Lapwing, curlew and redshank are all displaying in the field immediately in front of the conservatory giving great views.
The first cetaceans of the season were seen off Hoxa Head – 3 harbour porpoises – on 29/4; and a splendid male whinchat obligingly perched right outside our conservatory for us on 30/4.
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.
On 2/9 a Short-eared owl sat on one of our fenceposts – just right for the ‘scope – and on 3/9 a male hen harrier floated by, with ringtails on an almost daily basis thereafter.
A female Merlin has also been seen several times hunting locally.
Wader hunting with our guests continued to pay dividends on 5/9 with lovely views locally of a Buff-breasted sandpiper, another rare American vagrant.
The following day, one of sultry calm, we delighted in 7 Harbour porpoises and a Minke whale at the entrance to Scapa Flow.
By October the winter birds had arrived, with excellent views of Red-necked and Slavonian grebes, Scaup and Whooper swans.
Grey geese everywhere: Greylag; Pinkfeet; Barnacle; and a solitary Brent. Grey seal pups were seen at close quarters – great for photography!
And finally, a glimpse of an otter on 23/10 finished the season with a flourish…..