There is now a splendid 2nd flowering of the Scottish primrose.
On 12/7 we saw a total of 5 hen harriers in several locations, some at very close quarters.
Now that the breeding season is over we are seeing hen harriers and short-eared owls on an almost daily basis at home, with the owls especially giving wonderful close up views.
The return wader passage has started with whimbrels from 17/7 and a knot on Rousay on 19/7.
The seabirds lingered on the crags until the 3rd week of July this year, with plenty of young auks and kittiwakes visible.
A female marsh harrier, heavily in moult, floated over the house on 23/7, being mobbed by a veritable posse of all things, such that it was a wonder it could make any progress.
The month finished in style with great views of a young minke whale on 30/7 and a young peregrine on 31/7.
Wader antics and noise define this month as curlew, snipe, lapwing, redshank and oystercatcher all have chicks and guard them deafeningly!
Migrant butterflies also winging in – red admirals and painted ladies.
We’ve had great close-up views of hen harrier and short-eared owl, and a marsh harrier has been prominent locally on several occasions.
The orchids are now in flower.
On 28/6 June was seen out in spectacular fashion by a pod of 5 or 6 orcas playing around in the southern entrance to Scapa Flow, with animals coming out of the water several times (lots of splashes!) and a male present with a simply enormous dorsal fin. Wow!
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…..
Late April and early May 2005 had its attractions such as a great grey shrike locally (20/4) and we watched a beautiful male ring ousel from the conservatory at only 50 metres away (30/4).
Whimbrels passed overhead regularly, and lapwings, curlew and snipe all literally came within inches of our new “hide” (conservatory!).
The seabirds arrived back at the cliffs, and the Scottish primroses (Primula Scotica) had their 1st flowering.
The birds of prey were on form, and we saw hen harrier food passes, five short-eared owls at once, and merlin and peregrine regularly.
Best of all, however, was a pod of 7 Risso’s dolphins, which thrilled our guests for two days (12 & 13/5) as they hunted fish by the # 1 Churchill Barrier. At only 200 metres away or less, their pale scarred bodies could easily be seen, as could their blunt faces and huge dorsal fins, reminiscent of orcas. Wow…………