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.
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!
April has been scudding by with one day good and one day bad.
Summer visitors now starting to arrive with swallow, wheatear, Sandwich tern, bonxies, whimbrel and chiffchaff all back by 22/4.
The first set of twins born into the herd for 8 years arrived on 15/4!
Sadly a North Atlantic white-sided dolphin was also washed up in perfect condition earlier in the month – a very handsome girl.
Meanwhile back at the seabird cliffs a few guillemots and razorbills were venturing back at Marwick on the 30/4 and puffins on South Ronaldsay on the same day.