Early July started with a wonderful visit to Westray and its puffins & gannetry on 3/7, where we also saw a swift overhead. Star of the day though was the “Westray Wifie” or the “Westray Venus”, a 4,800 year-old human figurine, the oldest ever to be found in Scotland, a piece of neolithic rarity on display in the Westray Heritage Centre.
Our annual trip to Shetland went well, with sightings of orca (pod of 4 moving through Yell Sound on 15/7); otters and the usual close up views of gannets at Hermaness and puffins at Hermaness and Sumburgh.
Meanwhile back in Orkney, we’re seeing whimbrel & sparrowhawk almost daily in late July, meaning the late Summer passage has begun.
A basking shark off Burwick on 27/7; and several sightings of harbour porpoises, including at least 10 off Rerwick Head on 30/7, was a fine way to see out the month.
Mayday brought us 4 Risso’s dolphins by # 1 Barrier in Scapa Flow; whilst the day after we saw 5 species of raptor (marsh harrier, hen harrier, sparrowhawk, peregrine and short-eared owl) and two superb drake garganey!
Lots of hen harriers, including food passes on 7/5; and a wonderful trip to Westray on 8/5 which included the gannetry at Noup Head, puffins at their burrows at the Castle of Burrian, lots of purple sandpipers and turnstones at close quarters, and a beautiful pair of pintail.
Arctic terns and Arctic skuas now back in numbers.
Surely the highlight of the month occurred on 11/5 when we watched a pod of 5 orcas for an hour off Grimness Head just by home. The irony was only 3 hours earlier Steve had finished filming with a BBC TV crew near the same spot and said “all we need now is a pod of orcas passing by……”
A great day on Hoy on 14/5 gave us views on both species of hare, including a pair of brown hares boxing at Houton (see pic below).
Amazingly Sarah and our guests then saw the same pod of orcas again in Deerness on 18/5 – see pic top right.
A great trip to Papay Westray on 24/5 gave two calling corncrakes, stunning close up views of both species of seals hauled out, the usual seabirds at Fowl Craig, Scottish primroses in flower and two black-tailed godwits.
Back home 4 whimbrel fed right outside the conservatory, best views ever!
We heard another corncrake on 27/5 and had wonderful views of a female marsh harrier hunting over reedbeds.
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.