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.
Wader antics and noise define this month as curlew, snipe, lapwing, redshank and oystercatcher all have chicks and guard them deafeningly!
Migrant butterflies also winging in – red admirals and painted ladies.
We’ve had great close-up views of hen harrier and short-eared owl, and a marsh harrier has been prominent locally on several occasions.
The orchids are now in flower.
On 28/6 June was seen out in spectacular fashion by a pod of 5 or 6 orcas playing around in the southern entrance to Scapa Flow, with animals coming out of the water several times (lots of splashes!) and a male present with a simply enormous dorsal fin. Wow!
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.
Late April and early May 2005 had its attractions such as a great grey shrike locally (20/4) and we watched a beautiful male ring ousel from the conservatory at only 50 metres away (30/4).
Whimbrels passed overhead regularly, and lapwings, curlew and snipe all literally came within inches of our new “hide” (conservatory!).
The seabirds arrived back at the cliffs, and the Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) had their 1st flowering.
The birds of prey were on form, and we saw hen harrier food passes, five short-eared owls at once, and merlin and peregrine regularly.
Best of all, however, was a pod of 7 Risso’s dolphins, which thrilled our guests for two days (12 & 13/5) as they hunted fish by the # 1 Churchill Barrier. At only 200 metres away or less, their pale scarred bodies could easily be seen, as could their blunt faces and huge dorsal fins, reminiscent of orcas. Wow…………