Autumn birds featured waders and warblers. 2 grey plover on Westray (9/8) began our migration season, with a juvenile ruff at home being a first for Gerraquoy on 10/8. Many ruff were present in Orkney over the next few weeks.
Twite flocks began to build with 40+ at Hoxa on 25/8, where at least 15 harbour porpoises were also seen.
Sandwich terns became present again with the first on 25/8.
A fall in mid September saw lots of ‘common’ migrants (robins, blackcaps, willow warblers) but also a yellow-browed warbler, grasshopper warbler and lesser whitethroats locally on 19/9.
A little stint was found in a large wader flock (mostly golden plover & lapwings but also many ruff) also locally on 21/9. 4+ harbour porpoises were present in Hoy Sound on 24/9, and a further 6+ from Hoxa on 1/10.
Great views of a water rail at The Loons hide on 30/9.
A rare N American vagrant, a Bonaparte’s gull, was seen over Kirk Sound, Holm on 7/10.
On 12/10 an adult, presumed male, injured, ill or simply disorientated sperm whale was present off Kirkwall harbour, giving rare and good views to many locals.
Sperm whale strandings occur every few years (we’ve seen two) but to see a live animal is most unusual.
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.
Spotted a peregrine falcon locally in the 1st week. Then we headed for the southern tip of our island to try and find a beached sperm whale, which, unfortunately, had already been washed back out to sea – we did, however, enjoy seeing lots of grass of Parnassus en route.
Perfect sea conditions on 10/8 gave 2 harbour porpoises, whilst on land we saw peregrine, hen harrier and short-eared owl locally within minutes of each other.
Our barley field has been cut and up to 100 curlew are using it, with twites flocking now to 30 birds or so.
Absolutely amazing views from 50 metres away of a huge adult basking shark in Echnaloch Bay on 26/8, watched it for about half an hour.