The 1st week of July was spent in Shetland, where we were troubled a little by mists
and poor visibility. We did, however, have a wonderful evening with the storm
petrels on Mousa (4/7); and see several pairs of whooper swans. Back in Orkney
I’m pleased to report sightings of stonechat (11/7 – they were decimated in our
recent hard winters). Scottish primroses completed their 2nd flowering; and
harbour porpoises were seen off Hoxa on 18/7. Interesting birds during the month
included manx shearwater (23/7); grey plover, swift, greenshank & pintail (all
25/7); & golden plover flocking back through (26/7). We helped ring storm petrels
with the RSPB on 25/7. But easily the star bird of themonth though was a roller,
present in Finstown from 26/7, the 1st in Orkney since 1966 – some bird!
Early July was occupied by our Shetland tours, with 67 bird species seen, including 4 red-necked phalaropes (6/7); a little gull (8/7); storm petrels at Mousa (9/7); redwing & lots of whimbrel.
Shetland cetaceans included minke whale (13/7); and several sightings of harbour porpoise.
Lots of islands visited also: Bressay, Mousa, Noss, Out Skerries, Papa Stour, Unst & Yell. Back on Orkney at the end of the month harbour porpoises were showing well at Hoxa on 26 & 30/7 with a minimum of 7 seen on each occasion.
We took most of the month “off” to visit the British Birdwatching Fair (BBF) at Rutland, and to get some big outdoor jobs done on our new peedie barn self-catering, such as installing the solar panel and septic tank.
We are taking bookings shortly for April 2007 onwards.
It was great to meet so many people at the BBF, and for the many folk who participated in our Highland Park quiz, the correct answer to the question “How many species of seabirds breed in Orkney?” was 21 (source Seabird 2000 survey), as follows: fulmar; storm petrel; gannet; cormorant; shag; Arctic skua; bonxie; black-headed gull; common gull; LBB gull; herring gull; GBB gull; kittiwake; Sandwich tern; common tern; Arctic tern; little tern; guillemot; razorbill; tystie; and puffin.
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.