April 2012

We had an amazing tour to Andalucía in southern Spain in early April: 148 species seen (or heard) with first sightings of Baillon’s crake, little crake and Rupell’s vulture. Other highlights included great & little bustards, displaying booted eagles and Montagu’s harriers, a Bonnelli’s eagle at the nest, and a juvenile Spanish Imperial eagle overhead.

Meanwhile back in Orkney the 1st migrants appeared for us at Hoxa Head on 16/4: wheatears, puffins and a bonxie.

Migration got seriously underway a few days later with the arrival of redstart, robin, willow warbler and brambling locally (19-21/4).

More unusual birds during April included a solitary stock dove on 24/4; a water rail at The Loons 29/4; and a tight group of 6 black-throated divers at Hoxa on 30/4.

August, September, October 2011

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.

September 2010

A great start, with 14 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay (3/9), followed by our 1st fieldfare at home on 6/9.  7/9 was a bit of a red-letter day with a pair of common cranes at Warebeth; 4 curlew sandpipers in stunning light at the Loch of Skaill; and 4 Lapland buntings on the Brough of Birsay.

The purple patch continued on 9/9 in classic ‘fall’ conditions with a wryneck and a stunning male red-breasted flycatcher, both nearby on South Ronaldsay.

Migrants everywhere – garden warblers, willow warblers, pied & spotted flycatchers, and redstarts.

We enjoyed a juvenile red-backed shrike at Burwick on 11/9, saw more Lapland buntings at Hoxa on 12/9, and saw the cranes again on the shores of the Loch of Stenness on 13/9.

Other interesting birds included a greenshank and a juvenile black-throated diver on 13/9; & a family of snow geese in with greylags on 16/9 in Deerness.  On 20/9 the greenshank was still present, along with 2 little stints; and the 1st common scoter of the winter was seen in the Bay of Skaill.

The month ended with a flourish, with a pectoral sandpiper in the heart of Kirkwall in the Peerie Sea (22/9); whilst closer to home, literally yards away we finished the month with another red-breasted flycatcher (that’s 2 in one season!) and a yellow-browed warbler on 30/9.

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.