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.
October began splendidly with a rare American vagrant, and another 1st for Orkney (that’s 2 in 2 weeks!!) with a red-eyed vireo at the Langskaill plantation in Tankerness. Wonderful views of a delightful bird.
Meanwhile later in the month our winter visitors arrived back with our local greylag augmented with pinkfeet, barnacles and whooper swans; and the seaduck – scoters (common and velvet), long-tailed duck, great northern divers and Slavonian grebes all in good numbers.
There were 7 hen harriers at our local roost on 18/10 and we were seeing merlin almost daily. A jack snipe on Hoy on 20/10, and a woodcock invasion at the end of the month with birds everywhere.
The Atlantic (grey) seal pups were an annual treat at the month end.
On 2/9 a Short-eared owl sat on one of our fenceposts – just right for the ‘scope – and on 3/9 a male hen harrier floated by, with ringtails on an almost daily basis thereafter.
A female Merlin has also been seen several times hunting locally.
Wader hunting with our guests continued to pay dividends on 5/9 with lovely views locally of a Buff-breasted sandpiper, another rare American vagrant.
The following day, one of sultry calm, we delighted in 7 Harbour porpoises and a Minke whale at the entrance to Scapa Flow.
By October the winter birds had arrived, with excellent views of Red-necked and Slavonian grebes, Scaup and Whooper swans.
Grey geese everywhere: Greylag; Pinkfeet; Barnacle; and a solitary Brent. Grey seal pups were seen at close quarters – great for photography!
And finally, a glimpse of an otter on 23/10 finished the season with a flourish…..