Sunday, 22 November 2015

Winter arrives

Last weekend it blew and this weekend it snows, winter has arrived.

The seawatching last weekend was great on the Saturday in the strong westerly with an unprecedented Kittiwake count of 1104 in two hours. They were still going at the same rate over an hour later when I returned from walking out to beyond the Whalebone so I will have seen many more. Also 13 very late Soots and best of all two Common Scoter, very uncommon from Pt of Buckquoy. Much was expected from the Sunday but the expected return movement didn't happen and it was disappointing.

Pile of Linnets in the garden was unusual.  And a Raven was hanging around the rookery.

During the week Louise had a white morph Gyr zooming around the back of the house on Thursday lunchtime. No sign today though.

Not much of a seawatch today, just 2 GND and a Red-th Diver. But a Grey Plover along the beach was new for the year.

Driving back home though there was a Short-eared Owl sitting in the middle of the road. Stop, reverse, it was obviously stunned. I managed to catch it and get it back up to the house and stick it in a cardboard box to see if it would recover but a couple of hours later it was dead. When I looked at it closely one wing was missing from the shoulder. Subsequently saw three live ones during the rest of the day. This was the second I've found killed on the roads in Harray this year.

Much rather see them like this... 

In the garden there was a Goldfinch, just the second of the year, late in the afternoon (too late for a photo). Smart House Sparrow in the sunshine earlier on...

Sunday, 8 November 2015


Great days birding both yesterday and today. I didn't really get going early enough on either day but by 08:30 or so I was in the field on Saturday. I volunteered to feed the ponies so that meant that Howaback was the first port of call.

Like the American Wigeon in the spring I was scanning through the duck flock a number of times before picking out "the different one". This time the bright white flashes on the breast sides drew my attention to a black, grey and white Aythya duck that seemed subtly different from a Tuftie. It was feeding along the edge, near the far bank, so took a bit of concentration but eventually it turned and showed the broad white band on the bill and the distinctive head shape.

Six Patchwork points, nice! (Couldn't refind it today though.)

Other nice things at Howaback included 2 Slav Grebes, 9 Whooper Swans, 45 Twite and a couple of Stonechat.

Then on to The Merkister where 700 or so Pochard were quite a spectacular sight. Loch of Bosquoy produced two drake Goosander, first for the winter and rather bizarrely the much travelled (around the county) Black Swan.

Then home for much searching for Woodcock (not found) and small birds, Blackcap, Brambling being the best. There were some great birds during the day, three Hen Harriers, a Shortie, four Kestrel sightings of at least two individuals. Interesting unseens were Song Thrush, Woodpig (which have left in the last week or so), Moorhen, Linnet (which I probably saw but they were distant in the neeps), Buzzard (which I saw but off patch whilst on an early afternoon errand). Right at the end of the afternoon a mystery warbler was feeding amongst the almost bare twigs of the Sycamores, too little light to identify. Interestingly this morning there was a Chiffchaff with the Blackcap, so that probably solves the mystery, it never pumped its tail usually a give away for a chiff. 53 species gave me a 50.96% #patchday score.

Today I spent a few hours at Birsay for 40 species, best being Pochard new for the year for that patch, a male Hen Harrier and two Red-throated Divers. 40.4% #patchday score.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


I ended up chairing the meeting about stoats yesterday evening and despite some concerns that it might easily become a mud-slinging fest' it was a very good meeting. The local SNH staff talked frankly about past failures and positively about the feasibility of eradicating this unwanted addition to our mammalian fauna. I was impressed by the analysis from SNH. I was very impressed by the contributions from the floor and general positive vibe of the meeting. At the end there were plenty of folk signing up to offer help with trapping, sightings, advice on traps. Having read the repeated and endless whining on Facebook about this issue the meeting was a breath of fresh air. Actually Facebook has been very, very useful in building the data set with which to base the report which should gain national SNH support and funding, so well done to MG for his initiative in setting up Stoats in Orkney ( ) and gaining many records which would have otherwise been lost.

I'll put stoat links in a place in the side panel.

Plenty of thrushes still passing through, many as I drove down the track this morn. Finally managed to get the car fixed today after it was backed into by a local coach... what a pain, thus transport problems have recently hindered birding activity.

Over the weekend there were interesting warblers in the garden, unfortunately I failed to nail the one... maybe it was a Hume's, no calling tho. I spent a lot of time searching for it and the chiff I'd seen very briefly, no further show.

Here are a few recent pix anyway.

Not the best pic of Brindled Ochre as I sorted the trap before work on a morning this week, it is really rather dim at that time now. One of my favourite moths.

I love seeing the winter thrushes bombing by

Dusk from home

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Hare - Hoodie skirmish

Back at work so despite a trip to Hoy on Wednesday when there were plenty of birds moving very limited time with the daylight to go birding.

Today there were quite a few thrushes about but the most interesting thing was this interaction between a Hoodie and adult Brown Hare. The hare looked well but I suspect that the Hoodie thought it was a potential meal.

Interesting looking buzzard today, Common Buzzard tho. (A Rough-leg really would not go amiss as I've never found one.)

Monday, 26 October 2015


Other than Sedge Warbler Yellow-browed has been the most common warbler on the Old Nisthouse patch with three. A Chiffchaff did finally join the list with this interesting bird. The call was slightly odd, but not tristis and whilst it was quite a brown looking thing to my eye it did not have the right look.

Nice seawatching with a good few Great Northern's passing Northside.

...actually the day after this big blow which produced a few small skuas. After Northside I went on The Brough and had a single distant Sooty.

Still a few of these about.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Days of still...end

The wind got up today and the cloud came and it rained, that's more like it, more as it should be otherwise our reputation will be damaged. I didn't really intend to go birding much but ended up going to Howaback mid morning, having been awoken by nearby fusillades and incessant Greylag calls, yes the "hunters" were in the fields below the house with their toy geese and their camouflage.

Anyway down to Howaback and a quick scan of the loch found the Whooper family on the far shore, as I was watching a familiar call came to ear and a quick investigate produced a Yellow-browed Warbler in the Water Treatment site willows. Two more groups of Whoopers were found and a couple of Stonechats were on the fence lines.

Back to the house for the heating engineer, as the central heating had conked out, quickly fixed but a consult on our leaking mains water source led to a bit of serious hole and trench digging. The thing has been leaking for a while and the back lawn is becoming a quagmire to be negotiated with every trip to the shed or washing line. The sun shone briefly and the sycamore next to my now growing hole echoed with a loud and much repeated Yellow-browed call. Grabbing the bins I dived under the tree for some excellent yellow-green stripey views. (No pix tho.)

 From the garden pics

There were nice bird surprises the rest of the day too. A couple of Kestrels, a very late Bonxie over the garden, a super female Merlin by The Shunan and at dusk a Swallow hawking swiftly around the house.

Now the wind is really up, the rain horizontal from SSE, maybe a bit of promise for the morn.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Sunrise - sunsetting

The dangers of rural photography - it's ok I was safe indoors having a cuppa at the time...


Dawn of a good birding day with Sibe Chiff and Yellow-browed Warbler in the same bush at Barony Mill, 10 points in 10 seconds! (Patchwork Challenge reference.) There was a Little Stint on the beach too.

Dusk on the Saturday evening, so still, Loch of Harray.

Other pictures....

 Brick and Rosy Rustic

 Opilione, I'll get around to an ID shortly


I expect Stonechat to breed here again next year, wiped out after the 2010 -2011 winter they only began to reappear in Harray last autumn but are currently a more regular sight.