Friday, 20 March 2015


Here's the start

A completely brilliant experience, enhanced by all the enthusiasm of everyone at work.

The cloud strangely helped as it filtered the image and made the sky all the more spectacular.

It did go quite dark and the skylarks stopped singing

and the day ended with a quite strong aurora in the sky, no great colours but plenty of brightness and some overhead movement.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Last weekend

Best bird was a Water Rail in a garden at Palace, a patch tick for my coastal spot, I failed to photograph it though, so here's a picture of Palace waves.

Checking back at The Loons on Sunday I failed to see the Bittern again but these were nice...

 Greenland White-fronts, there were 70


Little Grebe

Elsewhere there were 1181 Eider in a flock by the Hatston fish cages.

and time for a boat, Midas II in our garden.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Well, I never expected to see one of these today....

Not on The Shunan unfortunately (where there were 91 Black-headed Gulls, 2 pair of Shoveler and a pair of Pintail) but at The Loons. Thanks to JB for the text (and the impromptu party in The Loons hide).

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Gyr again

Yesterday I'd just got to work when Louise phoned to say she'd seen a raptor by the Shunan, I'd just been watching a Peregrine down there but she described a dark phase Gyr rather well, especially as it was seen without bins. A couple of texts got MR down there who also managed to see the beast, but no photos. Maybe there'll be chances at the weekend....

The Blue-winged Teal showed rather well yesterday morning as well, in very nice light, the reason I'd contacted MR in the first place. Unfortunately a huge wagon arrived with more stones for the track and managed to disturb the quackers as it unloaded, my pics not quite as good as MR would have obtained I suspect.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Bird race round-up

A great day out, good company, great birds.

Managing to get the Blue-winged Teal on the list early on was a good move, it gave excellent views at close range, although one team member seemed to find it hard to get on to it, causing a general degree of panic. A Peregrine proved helpful flushing the duck out of the vegetation, it then conveniently sat in a nearby field. Birsay produced the usual seabirds, Skaill most of the expected ducks,

including the Ring-necked Duck.

but no Green-winged Teal.

Large quantities of bread failed to attract any gull interest, or of interest, at Stromness.

White-billed Diver was located at The Hope.

And I managed to find a cracking boat at Waukmill Bay.

Total 88 with just two team members seeing the Woodcock and general panic ensuing when I almost failed to get on to the SEO.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Bird Race warm up...

Bit of a buzz around today in not especially good weather led to me not seeing the Blue-winged Teal, adding Short-eared Owl for the year to the Old Nisthouse patch and losing the dog (temporarily) at Marwick. Gales forecast for the morn so not the best of conditions for the 100 species mark....

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Spring (not)

Blue-winged Teal is still on The Shunan and managed to relocate the Green-winged Teal on Loch of Skaill, somehow avoiding the Ring-necked Duck...

Buzzard was added for the Old Nisthouse patch and Long-tailed Duck for Palace.

 Where's the Blue-winged Teal?

 Rainbow over Harray

Oystercatchers and Lapwings by Old Nisthouse

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Spring (maybe)

Yesterday was the first calm day this year that I've been able to go birding so down to Loch of Harray as Long-tailed Duck was still required for the year list. It took a bit of doing but one eventually gave itself up. Also for the year a very distant Red-throated Diver, and always nice to see drake Scaup and no fewer than 4 Slav Grebes.

Slavonian Grebe

On to Howaback where there were plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings, a very large flock of Twite and good numbers of waders and duck. The hound disappeared after a rabbit so I spent longer there than anticipated but in the sunshine and gentle weather there was not much to complain about.

 Twite with Curlews

 Whooper family

Two carbo Cormorants

On Friday I'd gone into Kirkwall, couple of things from the PDC.

 Gull at the back looks dark to my eye...

Hopefully the charge for plastic bags will reduce this sight in the future.

Very windy today, Peregrine passed the bedroom window as I sipped my early morning cuppa, then a Sparrowhawk low between the cars from the kitchen. Could barely make headway at The Links and retreated to hiding behind the dyke and watching around the burn. Best was on the way back, these gulls feeding around the plough.

Common Gulls follow the plough

Jobs to do yesterday p.m.

Something missing?

That's better

 Rather a lot of hours later....

Sunday, 8 February 2015

WeBS and Howaback

Howaback produced Fulmar and Red-breasted Merganser for the Patchwork list today.

 This is the burn at Howaback

Great birding at Loch of Sabiston for the WeBS count with loads of birds, nothing special just piles to sort through.

Mollie and I took Cora to Evie late afternoon, nice skies and reflections.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Another quacker (or two) from across the pond

Nice surprise this afternoon. Having delivered youngest daughter to a friend's I went on to Loch of Skaill, always a place for lots of birds. Working through the tufties for about the third time the bill markings of one jumped out at me, nice, Ring-necked Duck. It was quite close and I got good views for about a minute. Looked away to text it out, looked back, disappeared..... Searching through again I picked out the Green-winged Teal that was found there last week, more brightly marked than the Bosquoy bird to my eye, a different one.

Ring-necked Duck, the one on the water

Not found R-nD before, so rather chuffed. Subsequently managed to relocate it at the other end of the loch.

Earlier on the seawatch at Point of Buckquoy produced a Blue Fulmar, a Puffin and right at the death a very smart 2cy Glaucous Gull, think that's the ninth one for the Palace patch this year. Also there Tystie for the year.

This has been present in Palace village all winter so far, not a species that is especially common there

No sign of the rarer teals on the home patch. On Bosquoy a large female Peregrine was terrifying everything towards dusk. With persistence she forced a Curlew down on to the water repeatedly but just couldn't pick it off. In the end I wasn't convinced it was serious about hunting and was perhaps just being playful, not that the Curlew was enjoying the game. Also there a couple of Goosander.

On Thursday finally added Black-headed Gull to the year list for the home patch, hunting over the new partially harvested neep field.

Patchwork running totals for 2015
Old Nisthouse - 61 species (85 points)   FootIt - 53 (66)    Comparitive PWC 2014 - 117 (169 points)

Palace, Birsay - 46 species (58 points) - Comparitive PWC 2013 - 93 (121 points)

Sunday, 1 February 2015


Horrible flu and ghastly weather on Saturday so very little birding done. Weather was better today and the flu had abated somewhat, but Louise had the flu so I had ponies to care for, hay to fetch, girls to sort out etc.



The Blue-winged Teal showed well on The Shunan and I managed to add Slavonian Grebe and Scaup from Loch of Harray, despite it being pretty choppy. Amazingly enough I'm only five species short on last year's patch total for January around home, so not bad. Quality species as well with the teals, Iceland Gulls and the uncounted Gyr. Ruff, Jack Snipe, Goosander, Merlin and Kestrel are all worth a mention, a January Pied Wag was quite a turn up. Missing were Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Skylark and Woodcock.

I failed to get to the coast in quite promising weather for seawatching so no extra points there.

A bit of a recalculation with the numbers from the downloaded BirdTrack lists give:

Patchwork running totals for 2015
Old Nisthouse - 60 species (84 points)   FootIt - 53 (66)    Comparitive PWC 2014 - 117 (169 points)

Palace, Birsay - 44 species (56 points) - Comparitive PWC 2013 - 93 (121 points)

 Token bird...

Sunday, 25 January 2015

I'd rather have a white one please...

I rarely go out without the scope but yesterday afternoon I was feeling lazy, and it was windy so keeping it still here would be a challenge, so off I set... First up, behaviour of other species indicated there was a raptor about. After a lot of scanning about I was rewarded with a pretty brief view of a dyke hopping large falcon, well very large. Big Peregrine was my thought but... Next it was in the air scrapping with a Peregrine, what I guessed in comparing them was a small male. This time I got a bit of a longer view and the thought of Gyr did go through my head but... In the end I just passed it off but one or two things did bother me about the id. So when I bumped in to my neighbour by his Loch of Bosquoy house late this afternoon and he said he'd had prolonged and close views of a dark phase Gyr hunting yesterday afternoon I was a tad jealous. Trouble with dark phase birds is that I think they are almost impossible to get accepted as the falconers hybrid issue comes in to play. No doubt this was the real deal. Whatever, great bird, even my brief views were of quite a beast. Story wasn't over though as after getting home just in front of the rain this afternoon, sat drinking tea and Louise saw a very large falcon with contrast between the underwing coverts (dark) and the primaries (pale) scoot over our big sycamore and into the distance.

When I finally got to The Shunan yesterday afternoon with no scope and wanting to check if the Blue-winged Teal was still there I just blasted off a pile of photos.

 There's the B-wTeal on the right of the picture

However, this is a tad more problematic, adult Iceland maybe, opinions welcome.

I'll take the scope in future.

Seawatch yesterday produced Fulmars going 3,000 an hour and two Blues with them, and not much else but Guillemot was a Patchwork tick.  The gull scrum produced nothing of note, but always an interesting moment. 

 A very blustery walk around the Links revealed  two Reed Buntings, tricky to get there.

 A few minutes later it looked like this

Late afternoon, end of the telescopeless walk around

Today both the Blue-winged Teal and the Green-winged were in view, there was a Pied Wagtail and a drake Goosander at Bosquoy, early Oystercatcher and drake Shelduck on The Shunan and Louise finished the day off with a brief view of the Gyr (thing) from the kitchen window.

Oh, nice boat at Bosquoy...

Patchwork running totals for 2015
Old Nisthouse - 56 species   FootIt - 51 (66)    Comparitive PWC 2014 - 117 (169 Pts)

Palace, Birsay - 38 species - Comparitive PWC 2013 - 93 (121 Pts)