Saturday 30 April 2011

Glazing and Tree Spugs

In goes the last bit of glass

A day spent in the garden, a beautiful sunny day and, at least here in Harray, very little wind. A Goldfinch was buzzing around. When I went inside to connect up the drill the Goldfinch was on the Nyjer and Tree Sparrow there when I came back. In the end I counted three and a quick call to PH added the species to his county year list attempt.

Brought in by one of the cats, I don't think he climbed up to the nest

A rare bird on Orkney and there were three on the feeders this afternoon, nice

Also today a Goldfinch, the Linnets again, two Swallows around the byre and Louise claimed two Siskin. PH texted to let me know a Sea Eagle was heading this way but it was most likely too high to see by the time it passed us dipped in any case.

Later in the afternoon 16 Pink-feet headed east over the house.

Here's The Shunan at dusk today

Thursday 28 April 2011

From the kitchen table

Sitting at the kitchen table after tea I noticed two Linnets feeding at the front, just by the window, they're not so common in the garden so we admired them for a few minutes before letting the dog out and they flew. However, a bit of a scan produced one then another Bonxie, nice. Oh look! Wheatear on the wall, more Linnets nearby as well. I started getting into this so focused carefully on The Shunan and there beside the Redshanks was the summer plumaged (well nearly) Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit. A Song Thrush then appeared on the lawn, quite infrequent of late. So along with the usual suspects, Oysercatcher, Curlew, a nice set of gulls etc quite a list was built up in just a few minutes.

Tuesday evening and at 9.53 p.m. we were all in the garden expectant, the ISS flew by and we waved but couldn't quite pick out the crew waving back from 200 miles or so away. if you are reading this from south it may be possible to see Endeavour chasing the ISS down in the next few days (if it launches successfully) sadly not in view from here. Check out the website for times and position - click here

Sunday 24 April 2011


View to the Graemsay Light and Clestrain Sound

A long held ambition has been to add Gannet to the "from the garden" list. It's about 7 miles to the sea that we can see from the garden, we can see the Graemsay light and just to the north is a thin strip of the Clestrain Sound that is visible. Because of the various water bodies that I'm looking across to this piece of sea (three, Loch of Bosquoy, Loch of Harray and Loch of Stenness) there is nearly always shimmer which makes identification of any birds in The Sound pretty much impossible. But today it was clear. Within five minutes of beginning the attempt a Gannet was clearly seen winging its way south through The Sound, result. Last year I did manage Shag, their small flocks are not too hard to identify in the right conditions (no shimmer) but so far this year none have been espied. I think seeing Tystie, which is common in the sound, may just be a step too far... or maybe not, the loan of a Questar may be called for however.


Hebrew Character (also caught Common Quaker)

Such a good start to the day was quickly added to with a Greenshank on The Shunan and a Sparrowhawk hunting the garden Starlings. Then it was off to Swanney and Keith's garden. The luck did not hold. After four hours, a good soaking and no Subalpine Warbler I called it a day, it was seen twice whilst I was there, somehow I was in the wrong place at the right time and dipped.

On to Birsay where there was a Blackcap, a Swallow, good numbers of Sand Martins and Wheatears, a nice bowl of soup, White Wagtails and a Common Sandpiper.


White Wagtail

White Wagtail

Mute Swans

Previous evening from home.


Holodyke trees

Saturday 23 April 2011


There were two Swallows at work yesterday when we got back from the sailing venture. A further Swallow flew through the garden today.

Sailing yesterday was excellent, plenty of wind and the boat fairly clipped along. In Kirkwall Bay was a superb summer plumage Great Northern Diver, Arctic Skua, 40 Long-tailed Ducks and 3 Bonxie.

This evening there were two Wrens singing at Holodyke, gradually creeping closer to home; Willow Warbler was singing there, it would be nice if one sang just a little way down the hill. There were still two Brambling in the garden - the photo is from yesterday when there were three.

There was a further attempt to see the Subalpine, dipped again but I'll attempt again tomorrow.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

To the tune of Jammin'

I'm dippin'... The Subalpine wouldn't show for me when I got there at 5.30 or so. Intend to try again tomorrow.

As I left for work today there were four Wheatears on the track and later at work a couple of hirundines (possibly Sand Martins) went distantly past the office window.

However, the Willow Warbler is still singing at work and a male Hen Harrier flew across the road by the Shunan as I headed for my meeting in Kirkwall.

Monday 18 April 2011

Sea fret

Harray and Dounby were sunny much of the day, it looked like much of Mainland was clagged in though. As I came back home in the late afternoon the fog was building and tonight it's pretty gloomy.

There was a Goldfinch on the Nyger when I got home and 5 Linnets along the track.

Yesterday I heard a Wren at Loch of Bosquoy, so one has finally made the tetrad but still no sign of any around the garden or The Shunan. They have been gradually creeping closer with records of them in the Mirbister tetrad (to the north and west) at the end of March. It's surprising to me that it has taken them so long to return here as they were a common garden bird previously, the BirdTrack data shows the absence neatly.

Sunday 17 April 2011

Sun and low, low tide

There was a Willow Warbler singing at work on Friday morning which is unusual. A careful look at The Shunan didn't turn anything up though. In the evening I went down to Loch of Harray, the hope was for an Otter but no joy there. I did find a Black-headed Gull colony that is either new or I missed last year and skulking amongst them were Pintail and Shoveler.

The house was surrounded by Pink-feet this morning I could hear them all the time and occasionally a few were visible. Then a neighbouring farmer scared them and there were Pinkies everywhere. probably 700 or so in all.

Loch of Bosquoy held 287 Tufted Duck today, I went down there this evening to check them out properly but they were just Tufties. There was a flock of 34 Redshank which was of interest as the local birds have been settled for a few weeks and interestingly North Ron reported an influx yesterday.

Loch of Bosquoy, dusk

The sea was very distant when we'd arrived earlier on Birsay Links where there were good numbers of Wheatear, perhaps 7 or 8, 3 White Wags amongst a good few yarrelli and 7 or so Sand Martins. We were "Bagging the Brock", joining the annual beach clean up, although no one else was doing The Links. We dragged two bag fulls back up to the village but it'll need another trip or three.

Louise and Ellen "Bag-the-Bruck"

Someone's nicked the sea

Pied Wagtail

Thursday 14 April 2011

No Laps

I went out before work yesterday to look for Lapland Buntings on Birsay Links, motivated by the numbers currently on North Ronaldsay but to no avail. However, the Sand Martins were in and a Chiffchaff was lurking near Palace Stores.

Following a meeting in Kirkwall a lunchtime visit to the PDC located the LRP and it was seen well in flight, heard and scoped on the deck. 7th Orkney record apparently, I would be surprised if the 8th, 9th and 10th don't follow fairly shortly.

An evening trip to Binsgarth Woods today found Willow Warbler singing.

There is a report of 15 Laps on East Mainland today so another visit to The Links at the weekend is called for I think, surely some will come back through there.

Sunday 10 April 2011

Black-tailed Godwit

One briefly on The Shunan in the afternoon. Golden Plover over a.m. and Snipe drumming. Louise had a flock of Pinkies over.

Finally managed to complete the pot-holing, 328 done at the final count.

Saturday 9 April 2011

More track work

Only a half day on the track today as other stuff to do. Help arrived in the shape of a loader...

unfortunately it was a bit small.

Male Hen Harrier and Buzzard were seen from The Shunan but unfortunately they were out of the tetrad. Also in the distance a flock of about 100 Golden Plover.

Two flocks of Pink-feet went north or north-west, a 10 and a 23. Best today though were the four Wheatears on the northern edge of the tetrad found as I drove in the back way, best of all a bit of a struggle through the undergrowth with the scope got them onto the "from the garden" list. The SE wind should have brought something rare I would have thought, finding it is the thing.

A sunny day today, the first for ages and just a gentle breeze, nice.

Friday 8 April 2011


209 filled 93 to go.

Once the rain stopped Mepits trickled west, 12 an hour probably. A few Linnets went over too. Bonxie again appeared over The Shunan followed by a Peregrine. Two drake Shoveler and a pair of Shelduck were on the water and a smart male Reed Bunting fed on the track.

Green Big Day

A green birding day on 7th May? For the rules have a look here.

I'm planning to give the home tetrad a serious doing on the day.

Thursday 7 April 2011


The day was spent by The Shunan mending the track. In the morning just a distant Hen Harrier was seen. In the afternoon in increasing WSW wind I took the car down so I had a place to shelter. Drinking my tea mid-afternoon I got on to four chunky passerines heading my way. As luck would have it they landed briefly in the near end of the hawthorn hedge, about 15m from the car. Crossbills, excellent! Two brilliant males, one seemed to show a fair bit of white in the wing (but I wasn't thinking 2Bxb). In a moment they were up and away again, battling the wind. A new tetrad tick and brilliant colour on a grey afternoon. Minutes later everything went up on The Shunan and a Bonxie was cruising for a bruising, scaring everything half to death.

Earlier on 79 Pink-feet had headed north, struggling against the wind initially and but giving in to it.

Progress on the potholes is good but there is still a huge mountain of stuff to clear, couple more days should do it though.

Wednesday 6 April 2011

New notebook

The notebook is full up so a rummage in the cupboard located, oh dear, a not very satisfactory notebook. It'll have to do for now.

Digging and wheelbarrowing for much of the day. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails are now common around The Shunan and the fields, briefly heard a Reed Bunting too.

There was a Siskin in the garden. late in the afternoon when the wind got up again it was clinging on to the wildly swinging Nyjer feeder, it must be hungry.

Track repairs

The track has become a tortuous, pot-holed hell to drive on - slight exageration but if I drive any closer to the verge I'll be in the ditch sooner rather than later. Time to fix it. 16 tons of stuff is about to arrive and armed with my trusty wheelbarrow I will try to sort it out.

86 Jackdaws came off the roost this morning, quite a surprise i didn't think there were that many in there, where do they go during the day?

A quick trip to Happy Valley first thing found a Siskin and Chaffinch singing.

Sunday 3 April 2011


The greenhouse kit has been cluttering up the garage and one of our sheds for a year now. It took me most of last summer to build the foundations and then it was too late to put it up. No longer! A greenhouse frame is now standing proud in the gardening plot. Of course it's blowing a hooley now, hopefully my handiwork will take the strain... Glazing may be put off 'til Tuesday, weather looks a bit shit for tomorrow.

Two pairs of Pintail and a Shoveler were on Loch of Bosquoy this morn, not sure they even attempted last year although both species showed plenty of interest, we'll see.

Mepits trickled over this morning, 6 in an hour went north and then another noted at 11.30 - that's powerful vis mig for Harray.

Lesser Celandine

Bad taste Kanye West - ah yes but he's good. Enjoyed the TOTP 1964 - 1975 on Friday, downloaded some stuff subsequently, Julie Driscoll / Brian Auger; The Stones; The Kinks - I am old, surely ancient.

Saturday 2 April 2011


Children's party in Kirkwall, so after present buying and delivery I was free for four hours hunting on East Mainland. Not much wind so a quick trip to Bay of Sandoyne for relatively little reward, 4 GNDs and a sum plum Slavonian Grebe, primroses were flowering here. Not too much at Ayre's Loch, a nice sum plum Red-throated Diver and same again and 2 GNDs at No1 Barrier. But trusty Redbanks layby delivered the goods again in the shape of a very smart male Surf Scoter, a good number of Velvets (9 or so) and one Common Scoter. The combined count of Great Northern Divers between these two sites was 37 ( a minimum). Good birding.

Back at the ranch, scrutiny of The Shunan produced a nice male Gadwall.