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.