Saturday, 25 January 2014

FootIt mania

The last weekend... for FootIt and being on the leader board I had to make a massive effort. However, first of all there was the Big Garden Birdwatch to deal with so it wasn't until 10:00 that hound and I headed off south to the lochs. The Birdwatch time provided a second FootIt Sproghawk seen from the kitchen window but nothing of significance. The Shunan held much the usual with the addition of two Whoopers and careful scrutiny of Bosquoy did not refind last weekend's star bird. Off to Loch of Harray then, and again good birds but nothing new. So despite athe afore mentioned Sproghawk, Whoopers, Slav Grebe, Goosander x2, Scaup x2, L-t Duck x7 and a good selection of the commoner things no gains.

Lunch (Cullen Skink) was taken outside to maximise the effort, lovely day here on the whloe sunny and fairly still, and then I headed north to the moor. The hope was that the sunshine might have encouraged an early Skylark and Red Grouse is still required. Four species were seen by the time I reached the moor, none of them new. A hare conveniently ran towards The Kame so the dog took off in hot pursuit and then quartered the ground most thoroughly, to no avail. With little hope left we headed west to cover the lower moorland slopes but other than a single Snipe nothing showed. A Hen Harrier was distantly quartering The Kame but it was not seen to flush the required grouse. There was then an episode of dog legging it to pursue a number of Brown Hares all of which scattered widely and required me to cut across a number of fields to keep her in sight, an unwanted detour, that also produced no birds.

Raven nest, an interesting find

Nearly 3.00pm and nothing to add to the list for a day in the field.

I reached the junction of the track, one last effort, the farm has once in my memory held a winter Pied Wag. Down the road, a ringtail is heading low straight towards me and as she turns she flushes six finches onto the nearby fence. Expecting Greenfinch I raise the bins, Linnets! They dropped into the field and I walked on to the gate where I found an interesting small field with 6 tups grazing. I scanned and found Skylark, not one but 27, probably the largest flock I've ever seen on the patch. At this point the Linnets flew from hiding under the dyke to join the feeding Skylarks and all were succcessfully scoped. I carried on down the hill to check for the absent Pied Wag, on the way back up the Linnet numbers had increased to 35, a good sized flock for Orkney in winter.


The walk home was a bit more cheery. Sitting out with tea in the late afternoon a male Hen Harrier circled and headed over. I made a last effort down to The Shunan in the hope of a further Short-eared Owl, I've seen just one so far this year, but no owl and nothing unexpected.

So that may be it for FootIt as the forecast for the morn is pretty grim 95%+ rain, wind 43 gusting to 67mph from SW. If I'm very lucky I may be able to take an early shot at the moor but I don't have great hopes.

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