Tuesday 31 August 2010

Seawatch and stuff

Back at work has curtailed my activities somewhat and we've had house guests for the last four nights too.

The Sunday seawatch was really interesting with birds heading into the north-easterly at Birsay and getting shoved into the Skibi Geo bay as they rounded the Brough or cut across the causeway. A European Storm petrel was neat but this was shortly followed by brief but good views of a Balearic. Unfortunately this species is very uncommon here and the views were not good enough to claim the species for the record. I can't remember seeing so many Gannets here before, counting them was next to impossible however.

This evening a brief look at The Shunan revealed 10 Black-tailed Godwits.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Bonxie terror

A Bonxie has been hanging out on The Shunan feeding on a goose carcass. This is not altogether good news as every time it flies almost all the other species fly off. The Bonx spent all yesterday on The Shunan and I only heard Wood Sand briefly in the morning and it couldn't be found in the evening. However, got down there this morning in perfect bright, still viewing conditions and there were two. The Bonxie has eaten the goose now so it's shoved off. The still conditions brought the predicted Black-tailed Godwits this afternoon with four juveniles feeding energetically, no sign of Wood Sands then though.

Yesterday did produce the first Peregrine of the autumn, a juvenile which sat on a gate post whilst the Common Gulls harrassed it and as a super male Hen Harrier flew beside the car as I drove up the track.

Monday 23 August 2010

Another Wood sand (not a Lesser 'legs)

The adrenalin was going for a bit on Sunday afternoon when a wader with long yellow legs and lacking a supercilium with a straight bill was on the Shunan. Then it woke up and turned into another Wood Sandpiper, I've a touch of Autumn Fever methinks.

Seawatching for a bit on Saturday from the whalebone at Birsay produced a very nice Euro Stormie, a couple of Manx and nearly 5k Fulmar in 90 mins, impressive.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper on The Shunan when I returned from work was a nice surprise, I could see it from the garden too, very nice. Also two Greenshank, a Ringed Plover, 4 Wigeon and a large female Sparrowhawk which had been hanging around the garden half the day apparently.

The "from the garden list" on Bubo Listing needs updating but the Wood Sandpiper brings the list to 91 for the year. Still no Whimbrel, the Little Stint the other day hid under the wall so was never visible from the garden but I reckon 100 for the year might be possible. Gannet has still evaded me, a clear day with no heat haze and the loan of a Questar might do the trick.

Sunday 15 August 2010

Rare moth maybe

I'm not sure what this is but if it is either large or Feathered Ranunculus or Black Banded it would be a first for Orkney. I'm probably making an elementary mistake but .... and I was, the orange dots as Stewart has pointed out are mites, still trying to ID this.

Also this which all I can think is that it is some strangely coloured July Highflyer? Help please. Manchester Treble-bar - thanks Stewart.+

Viewing The Shunan from the garden I didn't actually go down there as it looked rather quiet and I had a raised bed to construct. The midges made a meal of me but the morning was enlivend by the moths. Willow Warbler called briefly, and was glimpsed and there was a little mepit vismig with a Reed Bunting brought down by late morning rain.

In the afternoon we went to Yesnaby where I had a brief but clear view of a Minke Whale quite close inshore and I photographed a Bonxie.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Birds today

Blackwits leaving to the east

So far Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and 5 Blackwits on the Shunan with a new max of 24 Redshank.

By afternoon everything had left bar one Blackwit and a couple of Dunlin.

Rosy Rustic - autumn's here

I'm pretty sure this is Setaceous Hebrew Character but it looks not a lot like the pix in the book; that's because it's Autumnal Rustic, oops

Moth numbers were not especially high today with just 149 Large Yellow Underwings and 85 Common Rustics. A perfect evening tonight so the trap's out again.

The Rooks and Jackdaws have just come in to roost, something like 2,000 birds in the roost of which a significant proportion are Jackdaws, unfortunately they all came in together so uncountable.

Seaweeds from yesterday's coastal expedition

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Hoy again

Yesterday's good weather initiated a trip to Hoy. The main mission was to visit the Berriedale Wood, the most northerly natural woodland in UK. Once inside the wood is magical, but care is needed as it ascends steeply and the path crosses and recrosses the burn.

A significant problem were the midges, very persistent and a real irritant.

On the way we saw Golden-ring Dragonfly, an interesting very bright blue (it must have been) Common Hawker and this Common Hawker was found in the wood. Also what I think were Arctic Char in the burn.

Common Hawker

At Sandy Loch there was a lot of Bonxie action, 80 were counted on the water at one time but birds were constantly coming and going and well over 100 were seen in 30 minutes or so.

Bonxies and a Red-throated Diver

Below the dam there was this plume moth.

Also just down the track was Middle-barred Minor.

An hour spent in Hoy Lodge Plantation found one or maybe two juvenile Coal Tits, juvenile Willow Warblers, a pile of Goldcrest, a Chaffinch and a few Robins. Coal Tit has only recently been proven to breed on Hoy, in another plantation, previously a rare bird on Orkney it now appears to be present in suitable habitat on Hoy.

On the way home we were treated to some great views.

Once back at the ranch a quick check of The Shunan found Little Stint, excellent, also 2 Ruff and 6 Black-tailed Godwits. So maybe the spell of not finding any decnet birds is coming to an end, purged by midge instead of the hair shirt.

Tuesday 10 August 2010


Yesterday began with a pile of moths and a dark phase Arctic Skua low through the garden. The previous evening whilst fetling the moth trap a Grey Heron was found in the corvid roost and it conveniently swung into airspace before heading off.

Moths included Barred Yellow amongst 352 Large Yellow Underwing and 142 Lesser/Common Rustic.

Barred Yellow

The trip to Queenamidda produced an intermittently calling Greenish Warbler, frustratingly it remained hidden and persistence was discouraged by some serious midge action.

Sunday 8 August 2010


Shark, in Birsay Bay was the highlight of the day. It cruised around he surface feeding for the whole time we were there, sometime quite close. I reckoned it was about 16-17 ft, or 8 Great Black-backed Gull lengths, a mighty beast in any case.

Earlier I'd gone east to see some moth traps opened and got a bit of advice on ID from the county recorder, saw a few species I'd not so far encountered like July Highflyer and Haworths Minor, also learnt to distinguish Flame from Red Carpet and got a bit of advice first hand on brown Noctuids.

Looked for the swift and failed, surprise, surprise.

Back at the ranch the Black-tailed Godwit situation got complex with 13 leaving early on, leaving five. When I got back from mothing there was one but later there were six. Of the earlier five one was colour ringed, of the later six none were, so perhaps 24 different birds today. Clearly quite a passage from Iceland through here at the moment.

Here's a blast from the past, recently played at high volume on the new kitchen stereo ... front seats at The Brighton Dome in (I think) 1971 were 60p.

Thursday 5 August 2010


...when the measurements in the instructions are incorrect. However, the supposedly finished foundations were fixed by late afternoon, hopefully job done.

The Shunan has been entertaining all day with 19 Black-tailed Godwits arriving at 9ish, one colour ringed, presumably as last year with Icelandic colour rings. Dunlin were up to 5 and I could have sworn I heard Ringed Plover a few times. Late afternoon two Ruff appeared and showed from the garden eventually, after making me sweat a little that they'd flown. With two Semi-Ps present in England my fingers are crossed.

I resisted the urge to tear off to South Ron for the Alpine Swift, nice as they are I'd much rather find a decent wader.

Wednesday 4 August 2010

Boarding and foundations

I finally finished the foundations to the greenhouse today, well hopefully anyway. Getting the levels right has been a bit of a challenge, hopefully the greenhouse will fit on it.

Once the concrete was poured this morning it started to rain, quite hard for a while but then the sun shone. The wind's been blowing the last 24 hours so a bit of a diversion was called for and we headed for Skaill in wet suits and with boards. Considerable fun was had by all.

There were 13 Black-tailed Godwits on The Shunan yesterday with 5 Dunlin. A 2nd summer male Hen Harrier went through the garden, hunting through the Rosebay Willowherb and an Arctic Skua scythed through the rookery. The Jackdaw numbers are now quite significant. I counted 183 the other day but many more thanthat are in the roost, counting them though is tricky as they tend to come in in a large flock. i think the largest recorded flock of Jackdaws in the county is about 300, there are surely considerably more than that.

The moth trapping has been rather hurried, or at least the ID time has been limited. The most interesting moth is this Crescent which I think is a bit of a rarity (hopefully I've got the ID correct).

The Crescent maybe

Red Carpet