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.
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.
April has been scudding by with one day good and one day bad.
Summer visitors now starting to arrive with swallow, wheatear, Sandwich tern, bonxies, whimbrel and chiffchaff all back by 22/4.
The first set of twins born into the herd for 8 years arrived on 15/4!
Sadly a North Atlantic white-sided dolphin was also washed up in perfect condition earlier in the month – a very handsome girl.
Meanwhile back at the seabird cliffs a few guillemots and razorbills were venturing back at Marwick on the 30/4 and puffins on South Ronaldsay on the same day.
Eight – yes eight – Red-throated divers at less than 100 metres in glorious sunshine, with five in the telescope at once on 7/8 was a glorious sight.
Waders started to come back through, with Sanderling, Whimbrel and Greenshank all seen this month.
A determined wader hunt on 22/8 with a Belgian guest saw Black and Bar-tailed godwits, Ruff, Knot and wonderful views of Snipe and Dunlin, with a delightful adult Pectoral sandpiper (rare American vagrant) the next day.
An impressive southerly blow on 29/8 drove the Manx shearwaters right into Scapa Flow and we were watching Storm petrels at only 100 metres from the Churchill Barriers as they battled against the wind and seas.