Wednesday 30 December 2009

Iceland Gull

Struggled through the snow and ice to Stromness for an afternoon and lunch out. Eventually the Iceland Gull put in a fleeting appearance, appearing from nowhere it flew a few feet over my head and then disappeared behind the ferry terminal. I had been hoping to get a good enough view to age this bird properly as there seems to be some disagreement about its years, or maybe there are two? Unfortunately the view was inconclusive except to say it's not an adult.

A few other bits and bods around the harbour including a Pied Wagtail, I haven't seen one of those for a while. A grebe on the far side defied ID (no scope).

There were a few of these.

Getting the rug and other shopping home was a bit of a laugh but with two sledges and willing offspring to pull them ....

Monday 28 December 2009


Stonechat in the garden, a smart male, this afternoon. No doubt the snow and ice had something to do with that.

More snow and cold

They say it's not usually like this, the winter is characterised by rain, torrents of it, but this is cold. Snow fell overnight, that's made a crust over the ice and walking is more comfortable again.

A small falcon went through the garden, too quick, defying ID. Loch of Bosquoy still has a good open pool, it appears slightly larger today and there are still at least three Slavonian Grebes on there, watched from the warmth of the kitchen. Also on LoB today, Goldeneye, Tufted, Pochard, Teal and a few hundred Wigeon. House Sparrows around the feeder make a new record of 65 and there is one Dunnock still.

Louise's sister began her journey out of here by tractor yesterday. What a contrast with East Mainland, we nipped down to Deerness for a brief seaside walk after our trip to the airport.

Saturday 26 December 2009

Winter chill

The top way out - achieved with the help of JC + tractor

It's got rather chilly here in the north, too chilly as everything is freezing up. We live a Klick up a track so no grit and the thawing and freezing has caused the track to become an ice track, crampons are required to walk on it. I managed to get the car out on Thursday but bringing it back an hour later was scary as it slid towards the 1 metre ditch, including running water of unknown depth in the bottom of it. So having managed to get the car back in to the gateway I left it there. However, tomorrow, it would be useful to have the car as I need to go to the airport, that's if the planes are doing their taking off thing. Our neighbour appeared at lunchtime to feed his cattle in the barns next to the house so I ventured a request. The customary "no bother" reply and so sometime later the Renault was hitched to the huge tractor with a rather short bit of rope. |It was all a bit hairy, the track being icy on the upward route, the tractor only getting grip on the verge and cornering was slightly alarming, at one point, taking a rather sharp and ice ring like bend tractor headed for ditch, car went straight on and JC and I both looked somewhat alarmed I suspect. However, finally the car was left on a nice snowy grass triangle next to the lightly gritted lane and hopefully I should be able to safely drive it tomorrow.

It would have been good to go birding on the coast with all this chill. The Shunan is almost solid and Loch of Bosquoy has but one pool. An interesting pool though with three Slavonian Grebes on it espyed distantly from the house.

At dawn on Xmas Eve Peregrine was added to the in the garden list as two screamed through airspace arguing noisily. Nearby there were 9 Skylarks, 2 Stonechats, 4 Reed Buntings and the usual mob of Starlings and House Sparrows. At least one Dunnock, one Robin and one Song Thrush continue to be present along with ten or twelve Blackbirds. Today a male Hen Harrier drifted over the Shunan.

Sunday 20 December 2009

Sno oh

Went nowhere yesterday, it was cold and nasty. The electrician came first thing to fit the fixed lights, basically they'd suffered some meltdown. In the garden a 100% increase in Dunnock = 2 was welcome and Kestrel made the from the garden list.

More snow today but I felt more into it as the wind had dropped. Redwing in the garden and several hundred Starlings. Ravens mooched about and flew through. I went down to Loch Skaill round lunchtime and somehow managed not to see the Swew which had been reported 30 mins earlier. However, there were 29 Barnys, 16 Whoopers, a Slav Grebe and a Scaup. A Hen Harrier flew through, low over the water.

Best though were the gulls which required some serious scrutiny, this being a northerly air flow n all. The largest mob were cashing in on cattle fodder just north of the loch. No joy with the white wing'ed but worth a go, one will turn up here. No time to look at the cetacean corpse at Birsay .... oh pigeon gull come my way.

Nice little flock of Skylark mostly eating something on the road.

Monday 14 December 2009

Mothing advice

Thanks to those who have given advice. In the end I've ordered an MV fitted Robinson from ALS who were very helpful and even gave me a small discount on carriage which was very nice of them.

Currently half watching Koyaanisqatsi as I type and sort out bird records. Philip Glass's music is wonderful but the images are superlative.

Thought I'd fixed the lighting problems, at least I found which fuse it was but unfortunately it's decided to be bad tempered and keeps blowing, electrician time I reckon.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Counted ...

Car Ness and Tankerness plus the airport road to St Andrew's School was my patch and a very entertaining day it was too. Highlights included Alan's Goldfinches 9+1 were an Orkney tick as they flew off the roost; a Canada Goose,a big one, (again an Orkney tick for me and the only time ever that I have described a Canada Goose as a highlight - a small one next time please) on Car Ness at Castlegreen. A Red-necked Grebe off Weethick Point consorting with one of only two Slavs (also 3 GNDs, a R-tD and a possible B-tD there with huge numbers of waders on the fields and 4 Shelduck). A cracking male Merlin sat on a post in front of the car at Crofty, Tankerness. Over 600 Pinkies proved very hard to count on Tankerness as they kept getting up and mixing up and two Hen Harriers and two Sparrowhawks were very welcome. Oh, and it was sunny and calm and altogether a very pleasant day, hope it clears again for the meteors tonight.

How many FGFiaF? 7,092

Then on to Kirkwall for Xmas shopping delight, picking up bird food and supermarket. Got home, tried to replace bulbs with energy savers and managed to fuse all the lights at one end of the house and I can't seem to find where the fuse is to mend them, ooops.

Sorry still no photos, just not taking any at the moment for some reason.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Fat, grey friends in a field ...

It's counting day again tomorrow so I shall be venturing east as that is where I'm lined up to count.

Today I didn't go birding but there were still up to 6 Blackbirds around the garden plus a Dunnock and a Robin. The latest addition to the in the garden list is Raven which made airspace hotly pursued by two Rooks. Unfortunately Great Black-backed Gull missed airspace by about 50 metres, similar to last weekend's Peregrine. There were most likely more than the 95 Curlew in the field two below the house, the majority concentrated near the wall so some were hidden, couple of Oystercatchers there as well. These counted just prior to lunch in the garden, it wasn't exactly balmy but sunny, still and very pleasant indeed.

The triumph of the day was finally mending Grannie's sofa, I've put the legs back on which I sawed off in a unsuccessful attempt to get it through the doorway into what was the old buttery. Grannie's sofa now lives quite contentedly in the kitchen where we've all got used to it living, indeed today's Raven was spotted from its worn but comfortable embrace.

Thursday 10 December 2009

Winter Moths again

Three Winter Moths by one particular window. We have a tungsten bulb at this window and they come to that but I've not found them on the windows where a fluorescent tube is burning. High on my Christmas list is a decent moth trap. I'm going for actinic, rather than MV. Anyone have any views on the difference in catch between the two types of light?

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Wine whine

The wine company I use emailed me. Apparently a pallet was dropped somewhere in transit and my six bottles no longer contain the hoped for accompaniment to Stilton and oatcakes. They have of course resent the order which will arrive a little late but I was in no hurry. Green glass shards, dented torn cardboard stained wine red, a small pool on a concrete loading bay; not what the winemakers intended for their labours.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Feeder success

The new feeders at work are a great success, too much of a success as they need filling up every day now. Greenfinch today and House Sparrow numbers are up to 5 or 6. A decent flock of Fieldfare today (27) with 4 Redwing (no these were not at the feeders).

So as not to be consigned permanently to the musical dinosaur category I'm replacing all that blues (at the bottom of the panel) with something a bit more modern if not much more upbeat. Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone) has a new album out and his back catalogue is also well worth a nosey. White Corolla is one of my favourite pieces of music and this live version (last piece) is nearly, but not quite, the equal of my preferred recording available through Daytrotter; unfortunately the released version has a voice that is synthesised or someone else or ... I don't know, maybe just because I heard the Daytrotter recording first I like it best.

Don't miss his very cool website at: (click the cat).

Monday 7 December 2009

Thanks for the cartoons Nick - a riposte

See the side panel for my festive, seasonal tunes

Saturday 5 December 2009

Trigger happy

Lots of Winter Moths yesterday evening again but not evident ce soir.

Here's a blast from the past (with a mega sound track) - sorry about the ads, couldn't get rid of them.

Thursday 3 December 2009


Lots of small moths evident as I drove up the track and then around the window where I've got a light on. Nipping out found about ten around the window. These are all Winter Moth.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Addition to garden list

Nipping home at lunchtime found at least 7 Blackbirds and a Song Thrush in the garden. Strongly suspected the Dunnock to be present again (no bins) but a smart male Greenfinch under the feeders was unmissable. "From the garden" list currently stands at 48 and "in the garden" at 27. Smart birds in the garden include Hen Harrier (twice on consecutive days, a male then a ringtail) and Brambling. From the garden includes Long-tailed Duck and Slavonian Grebe (admittedly on distant Loch Harray but identifiable none the less).

Sunday 29 November 2009

Unbounded joy

No, not the one on the twig

After lunch, washing up. Blackbirds on the lawn under the feeders and a sparrow behind, in the scrubby stuff. Erm, that's not hopping, looks like it's creeping. Bins. Woooaaahhh, Dunnock!

and then ...

Scanning Loch Harray from the viewpoint on the eastern side. Not much going on. Then falcon across the surface, wing tips almost dipping the water as it flew straight into the feeding Wigeon in the shallows. Wigeon panic, but one remains in the talons. There then followed a tussle as the Peregrine tried to get the unfortunate duck out of the water and the duck tried to drag the Peregrine under. Eventually the tired and damp Peregrine seemed to have won through. Not so. Great Black-backed Gulls flew in, Peregrine flew off and the tussle began again with the Wigeon desperately trying to escape as it was stood on and gradually pecked to death.

In the distance the Black Swan sailed serenely on.

Saturday 28 November 2009

To Stromness

Across the Sound to Hoy

The PDC held the usual numbers of Long-tailed Ducks (23) and Goldeneye (c20) with 110 Tufted but nothing more interesting amongst the quackers or amongst the gulls.

Strangely I hadn't visited Stromness other than for work reasons since moving here in August. Today we decided to have a bit of a browse around the shops after the usual Saturday netball. However, before the shops we went out on to the beach at Warebeth and wandered around to the end of the cemetery. There was a GND and a Long-tailed Duck in the bay but the Sound of Hoy was a revelation with 439 Shags (minimum) feeding there, plus a Red-throated Diver. Add the 50 or so Shags on the rocks at Warebeth, plenty of commuting between there and the Sound, and 500 would be a conservative total.

Rotting Kelp

Last Sunday

The Birsay Whooper

A quick look at Birsay was followed by a buzz round Loch of Boardhouse where there were good numbers of Pochard, Tufted Duck and Wigeon. 4 Slavonian Grebes were the highlight.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Another stunning Saturday morning ...

The Brough on a bonny morn

Louise's worry about moving here was that the wind would never cease and that the sun would never shine. So far about every third morning has been sunny and calm.

I wandered down to the Shunan this morning, after a quick shufty around the garden (Fieldfare, Blackbird 5, Redwing 3) to find more Redwing, c100 down the track, with a good few more Blackbirds and the Shunan stuffed with quackers (Wigeon 25, Teal 162) but no sign of the hoped for carolinensis.

The weather being jolly, porridge scoffed, we all headed for Birsay, here Fulmars were heading west at about 200 an hour (maybe more), there were 5 Pink-feet in a field and a pile of gulls to the north but family in tow I didn't really get much of a chance to get into it in a serious way.. Before too long we had to head for Kirkwall and the netball do.

The PDC was as usual stuffed with ducks, probably 25 Goldeneye, 20 Long-tailed Ducks at least and 100 Tufted. I viewed from the "wrong" side and was on other duties so counting was a bit rough and ready.

We finally had to do some house stuff but a detour into the local sounds emporium (support your local "record" shop) led me chance on a gem. Whilst quickly browsing the cd shelves before being hauled off to consider curtains and tables, I came upon a recent release by Robin Trower and Jack Bruce. Now one of my fondest memories of the 70s is seeing Trower (during Bridge of Sighs time) at Liverpool Stadium - beyond awesome. So it was hard to resist. I've embedded a clip from earlier this year of the Last Door - recording a bit flat it has to be said but you'll get the gist. Never understood how one person can make so much unholy wonder from a single instrument (Nick, you must point Nick D to this, I'm sure his estimation of my musical taste will be reconsidered - no hiphop or drum'n'base here). I would just love to hear this live, "Distant places of the heart" is also pretty special . I'm in the groove for this at the moment as "Are you Experienced?" is blasting me backwards and forwards to Kirkwall at the moment (absolutely banned by the family, "Dad, this is the worst music in the world".)

Another Kirkwall moment, spotting PH to whom I owed a fiver for the texting service I caught up with him and handed over the cash. Only having a tenner the change somehow ended up in the girls open hands, never seen again by me as they disappeared rapidly into open shop doors ...

The 15 minute drama after Loose Ends on R4 "Jam today" is worth a listen.

Birsay tomorrow I reckon - Killdeer where art thou?

Sunday 15 November 2009

Our fat grey friends

Fat friends in a field

Oh joy! Goose count day. Why did I volunteer to do this? A good excuse for a day out birding when boxes should be unpacked or the boat tidied up or the garage sorted, but actual time to look at other birds was a bit limited as I tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to navigate the lanes and tracks north of Kirkwall and Tankerness.

Counting more than 5,000 Greylags uh! Trying to string a "rossicus" and failing rather dismally; does anyone else have trouble with pink and orange when on geese? (15th from the right in the pic is the culprit methinks.) Finding one Barnacle. A loose feeding flock of 10 Great Northerns was nice. Counting more than 600 Pinkies. No time for gulls and no time for the couple of finch flocks. Even less time to join Julian on Deerness and enjoy large falcon sp or his 80 pet Snow Buntings.

On the whole other motorists were tolerant of my erratic parking, stopping in the middle of nowhere on a narrow lane to count the rather distant geese.

The only other excitement of the day was the final collapse of my tripod's head. It has been gradually becoming more senile through the autumn. Today it just gave up any attempt to maintain the decorum between scope and tripod and let everything "hang loose, man". I seem to have a problem with these bits of kit. Dear Manfrotto please make your expensive stuff without the built in self-destruct. In recent years I have junked one carbon fibre (totally useless, leg catches just give up and spare parts are apparently unavailable) and two tripod heads (screws bend and break if you look at them - slight exaggeration; and in this case whole mechanism just disintegrates into a jelly like mess). However, I guess the legs of this aluminium one aren't too bad. I'll probably buy Manfo again as the alternatives I've tried in the past have either been more fragile and just generally hopeless (Velbon) or well made but no good for birding (Benbo). Dear Benbo, please make a birding tripod with a cracking good spotting scope head and bring it in for less than £150. Off to the Warehouse Express or Clifton Cameras site now, might even treat myself to a non-swivel plate thing - devilish expensive though.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Shed roof x2

Spent much of this glorious, sunny, still day on the roof of one shed or another attempting to patch the leaks. I eventually descended for lunch rather waterproofed myself. The suggested solution of just getting in the washing machine could have provided a clean solution, although the g-forces might have been somewhat disorienting.

Football has been played and the composter put in place.

Twice today I've been sureish I've heard Dunnock from next door's garden. On the first occasion I was on a shed roof covered in rubberised solution and on the second it was down in the far corner I reckoned. So it's unclaimable I think. Still 14 Blackbirds around this evening and Pied Wagtail and Twite were added to the garden list, both flyovers.

From the garden at the end of the day

At Birsay this morning there were huge numbers of Snipe on the beach. I counted nearly 100 but there could easily have been five times that many. Not much else to report there except 60 or so Purple Sandpipers and a flock of 25 Greenfinch in the village.

Saturday 7 November 2009

House list

One female Scaup - PDC

The traditional house list is what is seen from the house and garden so... scoping somewhat distant Loch Harray added Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck, pretty good "garden" species. Earlier a Chiff had flitted around the front and 15 Siskin had paused in the Sycamores before flying through.

Last night's excursion into Kirkwall found that the curry house is not just good but really rather fine, a worrying experiment following "worst curry in the world" experience in Banff not so long ago. Bit of a relief. So what with two decent micro-breweries life's essentials are currently secure. Tea is the only commodity "I can't live without" that it is proving difficult to source something of drinkable quality. T'internet may be required for this mission. The wine arrived today, double the carriage cost but a pretty prompt service, ordering large quantities would seem to be the solution :-)

Birsay this morning was as lively as ever, a Grey Plover, a fine addition to my Orkney list.

Fantastic evening sunset and sea at Marwick.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Willow Warbler again

General opinion is that this was just a non-standard troch.

Lindsay Cargill reports a parrotbill alert

Check them xbills :-)

Over 200 Snow Bunts seen on Deerness today, ties in with a fall on Fair isle of 350 today also.

Now what are the chances of a Cirl Bunting turning up on Stronsay? Dusky also reported there ....

Sunday 1 November 2009

Puzzle maybe

I post these pix of what I think is an acredula Willow Warbler, it called like a Willow Warbler, however the leg and foot colour is extraordinary ...

Also posted here pix of the Yellow-browed at Skaill (Deerness).

Both these birds were seen 4th October 2009

Around Harray and Birsay

Dunlin and friend

Up to Birsay first thing, mission Snow Bunting. Gave the usual high tide feeding mob a going over to start with but just one Purp amongst 25 or so Dunlin. Then through the village where there were 11 Blackbirds, 2 Robins and 2 Stonechat. Over the burn and off towards the dunes. 65 Wigeon on the sea, a roost of exactly 50 Ringed Plover and 74 more Wigeon on the pools which I decided to flush in order to walk the edges. One Snipe, no Jack Snipe and then a familiar call and over my head were 3 Snow Bunting - I do just love it when that happens. Suss out the spot, go for it and there they are. All along the beach I was giving every Rockit a serious grilling, well sooner or later that'll pay off; but does make for slow progress.

Louise made for Skaill beach and cliffs on my return, offspring being unwilling to go anywhere, I was gazzumped, 12 Snow Buntings. However, a Brambling, a Song Thrush and two Pochard were added to the garden list during the late morning when I was supposed to be unpacking boxes.


Late afternoon found me along the Stenness - Brogdar road searching Loch Harray. A bit good this ... have I ever seen such a Pochard flock? 898, in recent years 1 was a good total at Scaling Dam. Also 8 Slavonian Grebes, 47 Scaup, a drake Long-tailed Duck, 7 Goldeneye and a likely Bean Goose .... Three distant geese out on the water, one of which was an obvious Greylag the other two were a distinctly smaller bird and a bird about the same size. The smaller bird did flap its wings and show some, but not much, pale on the forewing but the other bird was larger and had an angular head, looked good for Bean. These birds were briefly joined by another goose, a Pink-foot/Bean type again. But the light was failing the rain was beginning to flail down and they were a long way off. I'm not great at grey geese anyway.

Fieldfares and L-t ducks

Grilling The Shunan

Intermittent Fieldfare flocks were a feature of the morning with 12 over the garden early on and then flocks of 29, 50, 120, 67, 2 and 3. There were few Redwing on the move and occasional Skylarks. A Reed Bunting also headed east over the garden.

In Kirkwall a Grey Wagtail flew over the police station and there were 17 Long-tailed Ducks on the PDC. Down at St Peter's Pool the 4 Brent Geese were still present.

Thursday 29 October 2009

View from bath

View from the kitchen this very morn

... and from the bath

Wednesday 28 October 2009


Supervision duties meant I spent half an hour or so outside this morning. A swirling flock of 30 or so Starling indicated something was up and so it was for them as a Sparrowhawk flap,flap glided away across the neighbouring field. A familiar croaking offered a Raven but then moments later an interesting shape was confirmed as a male Hen Harrier.

Earlier on the way down to work and around the house 12 or so Fieldfares were complimented by 100 or so Redwing by The Shunan. A Robin was singing on the fence of the garden with a second nearby and Blackbirds were skulking around and about (4). Plenty of Snipe and a couple of hundred Teal were also by the Shunan and just 25 Pinkies flew over.

Monday 26 October 2009

More moving in

The other major debacle of the moving in scenario was the do with Granny's sofa. Granny's sofa would not go through the door to the room where we wanted it to live. Much huffing and puffing and pushing and shoving proved ineffective. After some discussion it was decided that without the legs it might be persuaded to enter the room. However, unlike modern sofas Granny's sofa's legs are integral, inseparable from the whole; well they were. A swift rummage amongst the luggage and the fret saw was found and the legs were carefully amputated. Right sofa, through the door you go, er, not.

Granny's sofa now resides in the kitchen where if you sit on it it wobbles, a wobbly sofa.

Granny's legless sofa

Louise was despatched to the local hardware store today where various glues and other mending items were purchased or borrowed, restoration is likely to be a trickier feat than amputation, methinks.

No birds today, lovely weather but work insisted. Common Gulls and two Herring Gulls on the school field were all I could manage. Louise reported that the local House Sparrow population has discovered the garden feeders, Pine Grosbeak, get thee hither.

Pinkies from Saturday

Sunday 25 October 2009

Moving in

Have moved in to the new (old) house. Family had rather grim crossing
with much wailing and failing to maintain contents of stomach.
Huge piles of boxes all around the house and much muttering of where
is this and that. Opened the kidney beans ingredient for supper with a
hammer and chisel.

Piles of Redwing and Fieldfare around the house and down by The Shunan
with a good scattering of Blackbirds - 6 on the back lawn on a couple
of occasions.

500 Pinkies over the house on a couple of mornings and a quick nip to
Birsay produced a gang of Purps. However birding very limited due to

Worst moment on waking this morning to damp feet, calling Louise to
discover one of the cats had just peed on the bed, cat now a ginger
hat and cosy pair of gloves. (Note to humourless critter rights crew,
that was a joke.)

Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday 20 October 2009


6.5 hours of MIAOW MIAOW didn't drive me quite mad but close. Soon
enough we'll be on the ferry and I'll be pleased to escape this very
smelly vehicle. The hamster has been climbing the bars and the fish
losing water but so far everyone has survived. More birds arriving on
new home, R-bF, another AMG, juv Rosy Starling and various Barred and
Y-b Warblers, hopefully have time to look for some things later in the

Sent from my mobile device

Saturday 17 October 2009


Frank turned up again yesterday at Mill Sands, he's prooving to be an elusive fellow. I do have a suspicion that he has a nice cosy chicken coup to dwell in, venturing further afield when I'm well out of the way - at present in Yorkshire.

A nice selection of birds I've not seen for a couple of months here. Little Owl evaded me yesterday but Bullfinch was calling today, dipped Treeper but have seen most of the other locally common things.

Birds have been moving through here all week with Redwings morning and late evening with a sprinkling of Fieldfare. No huge numbers of either though. Reports of a big flock of Pinkies through earlyish this morning.

Highlight of the day though was Ellen managing to ride her bike.

Tuesday 13 October 2009


The residence being somewhat north of VC62 I have today resigned as the recorder. There is a certain masochistic streak in me which will miss the hours of delving through huge lists of single figure Black-headed Gull records, or maybe not.

We're with pix again

Being temporarily back in Yorkshire I can post pictures again. This unfortunate glitch will soon be sorted out northwards as well, Zen and BT permitting. I'll add the pictures to the old posts I think. The only pictures I don't seem to have brought along with me are the Y-b Warbler and the weird acredula with orange legs and feet.

Nipped down to Filey for sentimental reasons on Sunday and managed to glimpse a Firecrest, a species I haven't seen for a while. Whilst looking for (mostly) and at the Firecrest I was pretty sure I could hear Y-bWarbler calling, but slightly confusing Goldfinch whittering was going on all the time so I might have been mistaken.

A couple of Dunlin on the beach were very tame (click pic for BIG)

Filey Brigg and a certain young person wearing a coat which currently continues to reside in Filey ggggrrrrrrr

On returning from Filey N&S turned up at the house bearing a curry. This was gratefully devoured with accompanying beers and wines. We then ventured outside in the dark to admire the new mobile bird observatory. Looks like somebody's self-found list is likely to accelerate in the not so distant future.

Saturday 10 October 2009

I've got that nervous feeling ....

Having driven Sooth through the night I know it's only a matter of time before the next mega is found. High over Scandi, good old easterly all yesterday - "Go Paul go!"

Tuesday 6 October 2009

It's all getting a bit manic ...

Friday afternoon saw me out of a meeting and over to the Langskaill Plantation on East Mainland playing my usual game of dipping. I may have seen vireo leaf movement, or I may not but the first of three serious attempts to see this bird ended in a cold, dank trudge back to the car.

Saturday seawatch produced three lovely Soots winging past Birsay. But then when I got home I found that (SW I presume) had clocked 33, 5 Leach's and a couple of Grey Phals. Well that's one theory blown out of the water. An evening return produced nothing more. A repeat effort the next morning did find me seeing 4 Great Northerns and an Arctic Skua. A nip up the coast soon explained why Whitaloo might be a better bet, that bit of height made the difference.

Sunday afternoon and what to do, dip of course, three attempts and three failures for the vireo, I even failed to see the Yellow-browed there. However, chin up Orkney ticks of Chaffinch and Goldcrest. What to do next? Homage to the juvvy AGP which was showing well then into the quarry garden where there was a rather odd acredula Willow Warbler (bright orange feet and legs) and another Orkney tick Pied Fly. Feeling a bit better I headed for the bushes at Sandside and bingo Yellow-browed, now I felt much better.

At the end of the day on Monday I felt like some fresh air and the text news indicated Birsay was a good destination. EM and I trudged the beach rather dejectedly until he had to leave. Feeling another dip was coming on I redoubled my effort and bingo! Initial distant views turned into a rather excellent half hour close range grilling, albeit virtually in the dark by the end, of a Spotted Sandpiper.

First thing this morning and further American possibilities with the report of a putative Epidonax flycatcher over on Burray but work beckoned ... it had disappeared in any case.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Wrong place or wrong time?

My new local patch

Now it seems that my theory about where to watch at Birsay may have
been scuppered or I was too early or I shouldn't have spent at least
half my time checking gulls at my feet. Any way I seem to have missed
a fair few birds this a.m. A further attempt for the vireo was in
vain. Ah! But I did secure two Orkney ticks Chaffinch and Goldcrest.
There's always tomorrow and a NW wind.

Sent from my mobile device

The (wrong) wind doth blow

Too much south in today's blow but three Sooty Shearwaters and Fulmar's motoring though at 1,400 an hour at one point. Probably try again later.

Friday 2 October 2009

Groundhog day

Birsay Rockit

The same Great Northern (maybe) went west this morning as yesterday,
same time to the minute but maybe a bit more distant. Few Fulmars and
a good few Kitts and three Arctic Skuas an adult and two juvs just as
yesterday. There were a few passerines out at sea today, dots though
but one of the skuas had a very good try at catching one.

In Kirkwall again but today the buzz on the BBerry was PH finding a
Red-eyed Vireo. When I was free to twitch it the rain and wind had
started and although there were a couple of brief sightings whilst I
was there I failed to connect. So it goes. Tomorrow looks better for
the sea than twitching passerines, Sunday maybe ...

Sent from my mobile device

Monday 28 September 2009

Sea, rain, sea, rain, sea ...

Two seawatching sessions yesterday produced the lowest Fulmar passage since I landed in August, at one point yesterday morning down to 35 an hour. So it was surprising that in the afternoon the sea gave up a proper "Blue Fulmar" - what I would term a double dark morph with full gery blue head, body and wings, smart. Prior to this bird I'd seen two rather scruffy looking darker individuals which were either dark pale morphs or they needed a bath.

Also on offer was a Black-throated Diver, passing conveniently with a Red-throat in tow, three juvenile Arctic Terns and various other bits and bats. At the end of the day nine (I think) Dark bellied Brent Geese almost flew in the car-hide window (thus the counting problem, too close and too quick) a wrestle with the ignition and the rain spattered west window descended, fast draw with the bins and I'm just about sure it was nine that disappeared along Birsay beach.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Yank bonanza

Despite the cuckoo going missing I still managed a bit of a Yankie do yesterday in glorious autumn weather.

After several searches gave up looking for the Yellow-bill and headed to the plover field where first one and then the other American Golden Plover turned up. Excellent views and a few record shots were obtained.

A search of the nearby quarry revealed an Accro which was finally ided as a Reed Warbler, also Chiff and Willow there.

The Ringed Plovers at various Deerness locations were then given serious scrutiny but no webbed footed characters were located.

Over on Tankerness, Mill Sands held a huge gull flock which eventually revealed a first winter Med Gull. Crawling through the brush here to get close to the flock may have caused the loss of the new tally counter :-( which despite searching every pocket has disappeared.

Then a trip down the road, a brisk march, mending hopeless disintegrating tripod head en route, to Weethick Pt where stunning views of three scoter species were obtained (nice record shots of these too). Also there 11 Slav Grebes, and a Black-throated Diver which was also severely scrutinised for cross pond species. The Common Scoter was another bird given a grilling for American cousin status, also sadly unproductively. More Slav Grebes and an awkward distant diver were seen from Essenquoy Sands.


Ho, hum what to do .... go and see the crane again I think. Down to South Ron where impatience and very noisy cattle led me to leave too early but stopping off at Murray to look at lots of Pink-feet PH appeared and with a "There it is" the third American species and fifth American bird of the day was bagged. That made 6 of 4 species in 25 hours ... not bad eh?

Friday 25 September 2009

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Edit - Ooops the post was not intended for here, never mind it gives quite good directions to the bird. Hope it is still there this very morn. - The report on News is a little misleading the cuckoo has gone to roost in the ditch on the landward side of the Gloup on Deerness. The Gloup
is not a quarry that might mislead folk to looking in the quarry to
the west . Park in the Gloup car park and walk down the path to the
sea and the Gloup with care. The bird is in the nettle clump in the
ditch about 20m inland from the first viewing bridge on the Gloup.
Earlier the bird was actively feeding in the Gloup care required there
is no fence and it's a bit of a drop :-)

Still can't post pix I'm afraid, a shame as the bird virtually landed on my foot and despite the poor light got a few (slightly blurry) but good enough images. What a mega beast!!!

The pic is here

The bird went to roost opposite the banana - now there's a clue

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Tuesday 22 September 2009


Sitting in a meeting this afternoon with the BBerry buzzing away on
silent every 15 mins; something was going on. When the meeting ended a
quick look at the phone was all it took to secure the next
destination. Having worked some fairly horrendous hours recently and
the meeting being away from base the birding gear was packed in the
boot so no hesitation South Ron here I come. Over the barriers another
crane hopeful was in the rear mirror as we headed south. For once I
arrived with the bird in view and I got all of 3 minutes before it up
and flew, not quite clinching views I felt though. Fortunately a very
sharp eyed observer found the beast lying down in small group of Geebs
and after a trudge along the track. A serious Orkney soaking in the
downpour excellent views were obtained. A chat with a local indicated
it might have been here for two weeks and I'd searched these very
fields on Saturday - not well enough clearly. So Sandhill Crane you're
twitched. Thanks to PH for perseverence in the rain finding it.
However back to normal form later as I dipped the Yank Plover, that's
more like it.

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Sunday 20 September 2009


The looking promising seawatch turned out not so good so after an hour
I decided to go to the beach and look at gulls and waders on the
rising tide. Having spent a good while grilling gulls I glanced down
at the noisy Starling flock just below the car and whOooaah PINK -
adult Rosy Starling.

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Sunday 13 September 2009

Frank and the pipit

Drew a blank. After much searching found the Deerness gull flock but
despite careful scrutiny (some were rather distant though) the two
year old remained elusive, Frank evaded me again. Had just crossed the
narrows and was staring into the sound when the text came in so back
to the Gloup car park but despite assistance from the finder no sign
of the pipit: so it goes. Weather looks ok for tomorrow....

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Blogging from an uninhabited island - because I can ... At least two
Robins and a Willow Warbler

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Saturday 12 September 2009

Let' go ... Seawatching

The weather didn't turn out how I expected, fiercish westerly driving
rain; no brainer then Birsay it was. I prefer the comfort of the
mobile hide in the car park to the rather exposed Whitaloo, also
because I reckon it looks a better bet geographically. At least today
that decision worked out well with very good views of a close Leach's,
11 Soots and various other bits and bats. After 3 hours retreated for
some grub. Bread had developed green spots so had to make scones.
Following a few hours work a return seemed a plan. Waders were flushed
off the beach by hardy walkers but 1140 Goldies were close enough for
a serious grilling, again no littler cousins. Back again to the sea
another Leach's showed briefly, two annoyingly awkward sub adult
skuas defied Id but LTS was a strong possibility for each. Another
fine Leach's showed superbly before time was called.

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Thursday 10 September 2009

In praise of Stanley

Spent the last couple of evenings watching Barry Lyndon a film I
haven't watched for a considerable time. It is truly a cinematic
masterpiece in almost every respect and does not betray its years (
available from Kirkwall public library).

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Wednesday 9 September 2009

Blowy Birsay

It was still blowing this morning and despite oversleeping there was still time for an hour or so seawatching as I had a training event to attend that didn't start until 9. The number of Fulmar passing west close in was so impressive, nearly one a second on average so in excess of 2,700 an hour going west with not one east in the sample count. Gannets were also motoring with about 380 an hour west. The stars of the show were 4 Sooty and 6 Manx Shearwaters all close enough and all heading west. There was a possible storm petrel as well but best forgotten as it was just glimpsed to disappear in a trough never, of course, to reappear. Guillemots and Razorbills were also trickling west. Three small flocks of Teal were seen, 6, 6 9 and it is possible more were missed as these were over the beach and a beautiful pale phase adult Arctic Skua. 15 Bonxie were seen to go west in the hour but this would be an unreliable count for a total as many of these cut in too close to be seen with the scope.

Nipping back to Birsay briefly this evening in the sunshine a very close Sooty skirted the Brough as I got out of the car but otherwise it was much quieter with just a single of each Puffin and Red-throated Diver and Fulmar going west at 550 an hour and east at 130 an hour (east counts from the Brough car park are not a reliable indicator of total passage though as they get "pushed out" by the Brough itself). The main purpose of this evening's visit to look for waders was abandoned due to the state of the tide and the birds being flushed by people.

If I've the energy an early morning trip to Mill Sand may be called for tomorrow (another meeting in Kirkwall provides the opportunity) as a Yank Goldie was suspected today. Which reminds me one of my flocks of Teal this morning had an unidentified plover leading them, mmmm.

Monday 7 September 2009

More beer

There is a second micro-brewery on Orkney, the Swannay Brewery. The
Scapa is a very good IPA.
1222 Golden Plover at Birsay yesterday pm, but no smaller cousins that
I could see. Sparrowhawk was an Orkney tick whilst on my daily exterior
supervisory amble this morning.

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Sunday 6 September 2009

Westerly blowing

The west wind was blowing this morn when I arrived at the delightful Marwick Bay. Many of the Fulmars were doing their hundreds of feet up thing again but just counting the low over the sea ones 1000 an hour were going south with but 240 an hour going north. Gannets were at 500 an hour south and 70 an hour north.

Manx Shearwater was the first of three species I did not see yesterday, four south and one north in 2 hours or so. A Red-throated Diver went south. The or a Whimbrel went south.

Now here's an interesting thing, why are almost all the Common Gulls on the fields adults (948 out of 950 yesterday for example) and all the ones feeding over the sea, moving south over the sea and generally mooching about on the shore juveniles? Could it be that the young birds need more iron in their diet? Juveniles of this species appeared to be trickling south through the watch.

Here's another interesting thing, why did most of the Fulmars go north yesterday morning but south this morning? Does the wind direction really make that much difference?

Plenty of Mepits again this morning, certainly trickling south and 7 finches that might have been crossbills went south. I didn't hear these too well but they sounded similar to the 15 or so that went south over Dounby at the beginning of the week which had a very strange varient on crossbill call; quite unlike Yorkshire birds.

Other interesting things were a flurry of Razorbills going north and south, Bonxies, going mostly north (12N, 5S) but I'll have missed many of the close and high ones. A Puffin.

On the way to breakfast there were two Greenshank and a male Hen Harrier at The Loons amongst a huge Greylag Goose party, several of these had orange collars. Then it rained very hard, now it's stopped. R-b Shrike at Stromness so perhaps I'd better go birding.

A Big Day Out

The plan for yesterday was to start off with a seawatch at Marwick Bay and then see what might follow. However, arriving at the favoured spot at six or so an immediate problem became apparent, no wind, certainly nothing from the west, if there was anything it seemed like a breath of south-east. A happy hour and a half was spent around the bay, including 30 mins staring hopefully out over the waves. I was there early enough to check the roosts so 306 Curlew and one Whimbrel, 600 or so Common Gulls were decent numbers. After half an hour or so the Mepits began to appear and as usual there were plenty, at least 70 around the bay and probably twice that number. A Wheatear was of interest. Fulmar were going north at 1100 an hour and south at 70 an hour, Gannets were going north at 360 an hour and south at 70 an hour. Other seabirds included two Razorbills; there was also an annoyingly distant, suspicious looking small wader.

The Loons produced several Sedge Warblers, Reed Bunting, a male Hen Harrier, 38 Golden Plover and an assortment of Lapwings and Curlew. Several Water Rails were as usual heard and not seen. A SEO was at the watchpoint but then it started to be very "soft" (drizzle and thick mist) - breakfast.

I had a good feeling about South Ron so embarked on the long trek down to Burswick. Common Buzzard was an instant Orkney tick as was Willow Warbler. But then calamity as I failed to spot the wader roost on the beach before it spotted me - there were interesting bits and bats in there. 27 Snipe were put to flight off the beach and there were plenty more buzzing around. 2 Sandwich Terns were welcome. There were a variety of quackers on the little loch up the road including 3 Shoveler. There was a huge flock of Linnet and Twite (100+) but unfortunately they were in thick and distant vegetation. Out on the east coast I attempted a seawatch whilst eating lunch, not very successful.

On Burray Echna Loch produced its usuals but nothing unusual.

Graemeshall Loch (also known by myself as Loch of Dips) was enjoying a Common Gull party, many on the water and an interchange with a nearby field (kitchen) 950 were counted, all but two adults, sitting in the field with the gulls were 4 Sandwich Terns.

Tankerness, and I had hopes for Mill Sands but rain and a lack of exciting waders made for a slightly dull time despite a lot of tramping about and considerable wiping of optics. A fair selection of waders was amassed, except Sanderling. A Greenfinch landed on the beach. Loch of Tankerness took a bit of grilling for 370 Wigeon and not much more.

Feeling pretty puffed out by this time I reckoned a trip to a new place, for me, Inganess Bay might be of interest. Trying the patience of local drivers, who were exceedingly patient and didn't hoot even when I stopped in the middle of the road reading the map blocking it entirely, I eventually found the track down to Sand of Essonquoy. This was a good move. First Arctic Terns of the day, five; then a Common Tern + juv. What's that Little Grebe doing on the sea, er, funny long neck it's got, altogether an odd looking thing; I eventually worked out it was a moulting adult Slavonian Grebe, first I've seen for many a year (when were those ones on Elland GP Nick?). Red-throated Diver in summer plumage, adult dark phase and pale phase Arctic Skuas. After an hour or so I drove around to the other side, Sand of Wideford where there was a single Sanderling.

Back on West Mainland The Shunan produced at least 46 Snipe.

75 species in total, not a bad day out, I might order it up with extra rare sauce next time though.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

The Loons

Having grabbed some food I decided to head for The Loons for the last hour on Monday evening. Good decision. I was interested to see if the Swallow roost was still active and if it was how many birds were now there. I haven’t watched many hirundine roosts in recent years and estimating the numbers as they become more and more panicked as the dark approaches is a tricky business. The birds were much closer to The Loons hide, making estimating the number even more tricky, but there seemed to be considerably more than last week. Swallows were rapidly touring the whole reserve area and beyond but I reckoned that about 3,000 was a reasonable guess. As it got darker a few hundred birds attempted and eventually settled in front of the hide. At the last moment as the last few settled a Merlin shot through and caught one. With the Swallow in its talons the Merlin struggled to fly but eventually made a fence post across the reeds with its prey. It then dropped down and when next seen was without its prey, or maybe there were two Merlins. There followed a series of unsuccessful attacks on the roost, the Merlin tearing around the reeds in front of the hide in the half light. At one point several tens of Swallows got up in a panic confusing the Merlin even more. Also present were at least one Greenshank, Water Rail, 4 Grey Heron, 11 Snipe and possibly a Spotted Redshank, although it was heard but distantly and mostly drowned out by farm machinery engaged in crepuscular harvesting.

On the mammal front a large Brown Rat swam across the pool in front of the hide.

Monday 24 August 2009

Sky watching for Fulmars

Arrived at Marwick Bay at 6:00 to a birdless sea (relatively speaking). Calm, W 1-2. Scanned about, mmm interesting, first time I've been here and there have been fewer than a million Fulmars a second (very slight exaggeration) flapping and shearing by. Then something caught my eye up in the sky, Fulmars were all passing at between 50 to 100m or so up, pouring south at around 1,500/hour. The Bonxies were playing the same trick. The sample counts involved getting a bit of a stiff neck. As time went on more were low over the sea but these were just extras and tended to be further out. I guess this was all due to the lack of wind and the lift the birds could get from the Marwick Head cliffs, interesting though. There were few moving north but many of these were quite high. One very likely Blue went south but I just didn't get quite the clinching view.

In an hour and a half I heard one Mepit, so Jon I guess they should be queueing up on Whalsay. I might try again tomorrow because there may be more cloud and wind then. Back in Dounby there appeared to be a trickle of Mepits but conditions were less than ideal.

The wagtail situation was resolved to some extent by good views of an adult White and careful viewing of a juv and another less easy to age bird. There was a Pied present too. These could be compared with Pied adults and juvs back in Dounby later so I'm happy with these individuals and the ones yesterday that I suspected (possibly the same individuals). This should point to some Pied/White movement going on I would think. Although on a note of caution M.a.alba do sometimes breed in the northern isles.

Other than the high flying Fulmars ("Get back down here to the waves where you're supposed to be!") Shags were clearly on some sort of outing itinery with flocks of 40 or so (maybe the same flock) flying north then south a few times before 30 or so went north followed swiftly by 72 and then by 18. I'm not sure I've seen a flock of 72 Shags before.

Other seabirds included a Puffin, south; 2 Arctic Terns north; an Arctic Skua, south and 4 Manxies north with one south. Kittiwakes weren't doing much and Gannets were predominantly going south, just.

Nice evening for a tired Black Kite I would have thought ....

Sunday 23 August 2009

No photos

Hopefully to be remedied shortly ... technical problems.

Vis mig

Went to the Shunan yesterday evening, 7 Blackwits which flew off and a likely Wood Sand (not included in the log) that I heard briefly. Also there 10 Dunlin and a pile of Teal.

Too puffed out for mothing unfortunately.

Early a.m. headed to Marwick Bay with the car as a suitable mobile hide. The most interesting and slightly amazing aspect was the Mepit vismig, bearing in mind it was pouring with rain. 176 came in/off in the first two hours with a further 30 in the third hour. Also strongly suspect a coasting movement of Pied/White Wags as different birds kept appearing in front of me and their calls were constant. Several of the juvs looked very clean flanked and pale backed, also sharp calls heard, but I don't like iding these in the autumn ( I find the rump feature not easy to see either).

On the sea the Fulmars were going like mad, southerly movement got up to 1100 an hour at the same time as 700 an hour were going north. I suspect these must just be feeding movements as there are no blues amongst them although south does seem to be consistently out numbering northerly moving iindividuals. 66 Bonxies in the three hours also, again mostly south (50 to 16). Also seen one Arctic Skua and two Tystie as well as 5 Knot that came in/off.

Saturday 22 August 2009


Seawatching from Birsay, not too early this morning, produced Fulmars going west (then south) at 1,700 an hour. Bonxies were mostly cruising for a bruising rather than doing anything migratory. Best though were the waders on the beach at high tide with summer plumage Sanderling, 3 and Knot, 4; 16 Dunlin and plenty of the commoner species. A Sand Martin was again present so I would suspect breeding.

A quick look in to Marwick Bay disappointed with the waders but a distant Manxie went south. Wheatear were again evident, there seem to be a few about at the moment.

Moth mistake - Bordered Gothic was a misidentification, the moth was a Gothic, still not common but Bordered Gothic is a rarity.

Saturday morning Radio 4 has slipped a bit, the current 12:30 slot is just not funny. And more media gloom, my Guardian, yes you can get it here but limited supplies, was missing The Guide.

Friday 21 August 2009


Having enjoyed a couple of hours at Marwick Bay, Manx, Knot,
Sanderling, Dunlin, Southerly moving Bonx I felt the need for a beer.
A certain relief that there is a local micro-brewery and a pleasant
further surprise that their "Northern Light" is pretty good, a bit
sharper than my favourite "Summer Lightening" but certainly
recommendable - Mr Walton take note :-)

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Tuesday 18 August 2009

Lovely evening trundle around

Went up to Whitaloo Point yesterday evening to have a mooch about, then drove down to The Brough. I'm still trying to figure out the seawatching thing. No seawatching yesterday as there was no wind. A Sand Martin flew through the Brough.

On to The Loons where there were again Swallows gathering. This time I drove around to the other side where I was a little closer to the roost, I could see birds dropping in to the reeds. Approximately 1,000 birds present.

Managed to identify some of the moths caught the other evening, a Gothic was the most interesting.

This morning I had to nip back to the house to grab some music for my assembly, having been up at work early to do a radio interview. On the way a Peregrine flew through the village. There are plenty of Golden Plover hanging around the village, 200 or so. House Martins may have fledged as a family party or two were hunting over the houses. During the day 30 or so Swallows flew through, buzzing around work for about 5 minutes.

The wind is now a healthy SE, surely a good bird must be here somewhere....

Sunday 16 August 2009

Seawatching traumas

It blew from the north yesterday late afternoon so my thinking, based
on Yorkshire experience, was to go seawatching this morning, that
might have been a mistake as skuas were pouring south past Costa into
Eynehallow Sound yesterday pm - rats.

Now this morning a good old westerly was blowing so I thought I'd try
the north side of Marwick Head; bad plan. Too high and too near The
Brough of Birsay which was deflecting some considerable numbers of
birds that were cutting in but not soon enough, nonetheless 1800
Fulmars an hour were heading south.Having marched up and down the head
I marched back down again and drove south to the bay. Found myself a
nice spot south of the car park and braved the elements. I was
rewarded with a Sooty, 7 Manx (one of which tickled my toes) huge
numbers of Fulmars ( or two hundred very frantic ones flying in
circles) c1700 hour south and c600 hour north. A steady trickle of
kittiwakes south (60 an hour, half juvs, juvs flying closer inshore
than ads interestigly) Bonxies every which way and two likely
phalaropes which were just too far away to be sure of. At least next
time I'll know where to watch from and when the north wind blows I'll
go seawatching immediately (work and family permitting).

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Saturday 15 August 2009


So I couldn't find the Pec Sand, 3 attempts; couldn't find the 2
barred xbills, 20 minutes too late; missed the Snow Goose and too late
for the Little Stint - I'm rubbish at twitching, tendancy to
insufficient perseverence. Did have a good day though, both godwits,
Knot, Sanderling, Greenshank, Hen Harrier, SEO and a mystery bunting
at Hestily (probably Reed Bunting, odd call though). The north wind
doth blow so a look at the sea will be called for tomorrow.

Listening to the Woodstock anniversary programme on 2, 40 years ago,
now that makes me feel old. Jimi still sounds amazing (The Band were
wonderful too).

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Thursday 13 August 2009

Marwick Bay and the Loons

The earlier post for today, Deerness, refers to yesterday as the enail
refused to work until this evening, until I'd rebooted the BBerry.

Minke Whales were still present this evening off Marwick Bay (I saw
6-8 on Monday evening). But no Manxies this time. Fulmars were going
south at 540 an hour and 38 Bonxies went south in the same time, this
was very different from Monday when any movement appeared to be
northward. At The Loons there were two Hen Harriers ( a juv & an adult
female) a Short-eared Owl and a huge flock of Swallows, conservatively
estimated at about 1500. This morning there had been Meadow Pipits
around the house for the first time and there have been at least 10
House Martins around and about with more seen across Mainland as I
drove too and fro to Kirkwall for a meeting.

One of those strange people things happened today as I found one of
the six people on the same table in the meeting as me knows one of my
oldest friends. I always find that kind of thing slightly odd.

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Nipped down to Deerness after a meeting in Kirkwall this afternoon.
Sandside Bay held a small group of adult and juvenile Arctic Terns.
Adult terns were freely catching small fish. A juvenile Arctic Skua
went north through the bay as did an adult and a couple of Bonxies.
Flurries of Kittiwakes (all adults) and Common Gulls were also going
north close inshore. A surprise was a juvenile Little Gull which also
went north. Plenty of moaning Grey Seals at tbis site too.

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Tuesday 4 August 2009

Man on Wire

This film was on BBC2 the other evening. Years ago BBC2 and Channel 4 used to show good numbers of non-English language movies but these days they are a rare thing indeed. Most of this movie was in English in any case but it had a very French flavour. Certainly a 9/10 movie, staggeringly good. Click here if you missed it.

Thursday 30 July 2009


We went to mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) today. I quickly grabbed an opportunity to add a picture to my Birds and Galleries series by snapping this Moorhen on the pond outside the gallery. The Moorhens had bred and had one chick. Other species present were House Sparrow and many and various assorted Mallard type quackers + the ubiquitous Herring Gull (in my experience always present at art galleries) which I narrowly missed snapping.

Some very impressive art including "Possibilities and Losses: transitions in clay" a multi-artist installation which was scary and thought provocking (click here). Firstly a huge, precipitous mountain of crockery and secondly a dual video installation documenting the skill of those working in the pot industry paralleled with the destruction of the factory where they had worked. If you are near the Tees well worth a visit.

The fountain outside is spectacular fun as well.

Wednesday 22 July 2009


I've removed restrictions on comments, apologies Nick, if you weren't signed in to Blogger or Open ID when you made comment it went to moderation and I hadn't set up the email alert on this. Fixed now but may have to review if I get spammed.