Sunday 28 November 2010


The Friday evening snowfall prevented me going to the Rory McLeod gig, serious blizzard early evening followed up by two more. Musically I was only cheered up by the arrival of Slapp Happy albums two and three on a CD reissue. Casablanca Moon (2nd) is IMHO a masterwork and reacquaintence with its genius was somewhat over due.

Short-eared Owl by The Shunan

Birds, oh there were a few of them. Getting to Finstown was not really an option as the track was dodgy and the main road worse, so no Bullfinch hunting. Saturday was enlivened by a Woodcock in the ditch above the house. Sunday produced a Redpoll briefly in the garden and great views of both Short-eared Owl and male Hen Harrier around the Shunan. there were 7 Whooper Swans and a Goldeneye on Loch of Bosquoy.

Friday 26 November 2010

Toot, toot! (Not)

Local opinion is that these birds are non-tooting Northern Bullfinch, apparently pileata has never been recorded with any certainty in Orkney.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Toot, toot!

The Bullfinch flock in Finstown is growing and having seen a pic of one of their number I think there is a possibility they may be of the northern race. No calls appear to have been heard and no one is pronouncing an ID but, they're certainly of interest. Have a look at the piccture here.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Glaucous Gulls

One of the two, right hand bird

Two first winters were on the low tide rocks and it was a very low tide, off the Birsay Links beach. Both flew off toward The Brough with the other large gulls presumably to the Northside roost. The first of these two birds was very dark below, the second was quite dark. I was very surprised just how dark they were and can't remember noting this feature in the past. (I'll nip upstairs and grab the gull book in a moment.)

In the Birsay gardens there were two Robin, two Redwing, two Blackbirds, three Song Thrush and a Stonechat, so some evidence of a small drop.


Yesterday at the junction to the Stromness road in Twatt there was a small flock of finches that I reckon were redpoll, seen from inside the car. There is a somewhat inaccessible plantation not far away and these would no doubt repay further investigation if I had the time and fancied birding around the main road :-(

Not much else to report, much of the weekend spent fixing door handles and doing house stuff though. I really should get down to Finstown to look at the Bullfinch flock and assorted redpolls at some point but that will have to wait until next weekend.

I drove around to Skaill after my wander at Birsay. Three or four Slavonian Grebes but only 32 Whooper Swans.

Down the Brogdar road to look for gulls but I was too late, none showing, I presume they had all gone to roost.

However the full moon and the sky showed rather well at the loch side and around the Ring.

Monday 15 November 2010

Birding Sunday

View Loch of Harray

Grey Plover Birsay

Purple Sandpipers, Birsay

Common Redpolls, West Mainland

A day touring around West Mainland produced highlights of these Common Redpolls at the quarry above Happy Valley. There were four together and most likely another one too. They were feeding in and under Fuschia bushes and were at times highly elusive. They were good to see, it's a good while since I've seen this form, or at least seen them well.

At Birsay the Grey Plover was on the beach and there was a Woodcock and a Chiffy in the Links gardens. Also a noticable increase in big gulls Great Black-backed Gulls and argentatus Herring Gulls, at least 300 of each but they were jumpy and rapidly disappeared when I came over the brow.

Loch of Skaill was busy with birders as well as with birds 52 Whooper Swans, 20 Barnacle Geese and a merlin being the best, lots more gulls here as well.

At home four Whooper Swans just missed the "in the garden" list, by about 20 metres in the late afternoon and a Chaffinch went over the Shunan with 9 Fieldfare there and a Blackbird increase in the morning.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Aurora again

The web indicates that the aurora should be showing tonight, the cloud indicates that it might not.

Work stuff

Nice view of a Waxwing on Friday afternoon from a colleague's office. Meeting paused; Waxwing admired; meeting continued.

One of my weekly treats at work is to take a small group of children (8 year olds) birding. We spend about 40 minutes or so around the school grounds and then enter the data on to BirdTrack. We then have a look at some of the species we've seen via BirdGuides' rather good photo library. When we were wandering around last week one of the children pointed out her gran's house and then gave quite a good description of the Waxwing flock that had been feeding on the berry bushes whilst she was there the previous week, flock duly entered onto BirdTrack. This week the same pupil mentioned that she didn't think she had ever seen a Robin (quite uncommon here). On cue a familiar call was heard and we trotted over towards the grass compost heap. A very cooperative Robin hopped up onto the nearest fence post and then spent 5 minutes showing off in front of us. The children were suitably impressed and I felt rather pleased that I might have shown someone their first Robin.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Northern lights

The Auroura showed pretty well this evening at about 10.50 in the northern sky. Unfortunately I hadn't practised any night photography, this is the best I could do.

We'd missed a good showing in the summer and only seen it not very well once in the spring. The brightness in the sky was very impressive and the speed with which it changed was surprising. Locally it's called the merry dancers - because the light dances in the sky presumably, quite an apt name nonetheless.

Sunday 7 November 2010

More Great Northerns

Saw at least 25 Great Northerns today, many in the remnants of summer plumage. These were all in the Rerwick Head area, a nice distraction from counting fat grey birds in a field (4880 Greylags and 639 Pinkies).

The most impressive count of the day though was the flock of 626 Shags all flying into Inganess Bay.

Oh, I've finally changed the tunes at the bottom of the panel - an especially good CftPA, "White Jetta"; nice one Owen.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Not a Waxwing to be seen...

However, these excellent Great Northerns were lazing about by No1 Barrier as we were rushing, late to the seal pup event on South Ron' ... clearly we stopped. Indeed this was the second delay as a few moments earlier Louise had glimpsed an Otter in Ham, we hadn't stopped for that, slightly regreting that now although the seal event was pretty good.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Garden Waxwing

...and another Waxwing in the garden on Tuesday morning, briefly feeding on rose hips on a climbing rose on the house.