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.
The whimbrel passage may have started early with birds at Gerraquoy on 4/7 and nearby at Eastside on 5/7.
Glorious colonies of oysterplant flowering on local beaches in early July, along with sea rocket and sea kale.
A very young common seal pup hauled itself ashore just yards away from us at a local beach on 7/7 and promptly fell asleep!
We saw an otter cross the road by # 1 Barrier late at night on 11/7.
On 13/7 we saw our 1st Minke whale of the season off Grimness Head along with two harbour porpoises.
Indications that the breeding season is over for another year included hen harrier and short-eared owl at Gerraquoy on 19/7 – we will see these birds regularly at home for the next few weeks.
Two guests went off to Rackwick Bay on Hoy and had great views of a basking shark on 26/7.
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…..
We saw day-old lapwing chicks being brooded by their mother, and a 2nd year immature glaucous gull (12/6), just to remind guests how close we are to the Arctic.
Meanwhile the sea pinks and squill were in full bloom on the cliffs and the orchids in the rough.
On 16/6 we watched a pod of 7 orcas – yes, killer whales – for over half an hour from the conservatory!
Another amazing experience on 28/6: first, sightings of harbour porpoise, but followed by gymnastics from a pod of 5 Risso’s dolphins. The dolphins entered Scapa Flow from our vantage point at Hoxa Head and as we watched them for an hour or more they lazed on the surface, “spy-hopped” and breached before our very eyes.
How could you follow that? Answer – only 50 metres away, a fresh common seal pup, all dewy eyed and appealing….
Then we saw the month out in fine style on 30/6 with wonderful views of a rare American migrant – a Laughing gull adult – on the nearby island of Burray.