The most brilliant display of Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) in our 8 years experience in the 1st 2 weeks of May – perhaps the snow & ice of last winter has produced this memorable sight?
Sea watching on 3/5 produced red-necked & Slavonian grebes and common scoter. Hill birds on 3/5 included cuckoo (also on 12/5), merlin and 2 hen harrier food passes and sky dancing displays.
We watched a jack merlin display at very close quarters for about half an hour on 12/5 – simply stunning!
A trip to Westray was good for migrant waders including purple sandpipers and black-tailed godwits on 5/5.
Sea duck were still around with long-tailed duck, goldeneye, scaup (still around on 30/5) and common scoter giving good views (9 – 12/5).
Migrants included swift (8/5), common sandpiper (9/5), spotted flycatcher (12/5) and red-backed shrike (27/5).
Whooper swans are still lingering (29/5), and the little terns returned on 12/5.
Other unusual birds during May have included (pale-bellied) brent goose (22/5 & 30/5) and a 2nd winter Iceland gull on 30/5.
Brilliant views of a pair of cuckoos on 31/5.
June is just a beautiful month, not least because the sea pinks and squill adorn the cliffs.
Interesting birds have included a Manx shearwater in Scapa Flow (2/6); a summering whooper swan at the Brodgar Pools on 7/6; 2 common sandpipers at Graemeshall Loch on 8/6; and 2 crossbills at Rackwick on Hoy on 10/6.
We have also had stunning close up views of hen harrier, short-eared owl, merlin & peregrine early in the month.
We also opened our cetacean account with a pod of Risso’s dolphins in Birsay Bay on 7/6, and saw 4 harbour porpoises off The Ool on Switha on 10/6.
Rarest sighting of the month was of 2 beetles, too rare to have an English name, Chrysolina intermedia, lovely ladybird-sized beetles with deep red stripes along their lower backs.
Later in the month we saw a pintail with a brood of 5 ducklings (16/6); peregrines with well grown young; and a quail at Marwick on 17/6.
Spring 2008 has been the best year for migrants we’ve experienced, and June opened with a red-backed shrike on 1/6, with blackcaps and garden warblers singing at the same site.
The most spectacular bird of the 1st week however was undoubtably a male ruff in resplendent white plumage (along with 7 black-tailed godwits) on 2/6!
Raptors seem to have hatched their young now as we saw a food pass by a pair of hen harriers with great views of a female merlin (and a cuckoo!) at the same site on 5/6, finishing with a red-throated diver on her nest.
Unusual birds the following week included a blackcap locally (6/7); a grey wagtail and common sandpiper on Hoy (12/6); and a whimbrel and golden plover in our freshly cut silage field at Gerraquoy (13/6).
Harbour porpoises were showing well in June, with sightings on several days at Hoxa Head, but a minke whale on 24/6 came close enough to us to hear its breathing!
Black-tailed godwit numbers at The Loons built up to a maximum of 16 on 29/6.
Bird of the month however appeared in our local village on 25/6 in the form of an adult rose coloured starling, one of up to six in Orkney at the same time.
A female pintail at The Loons on 29/6 saw the month out in style.