Sunday 29 May 2011

Chicks and Ringed Plovers and other stuff

Shelduck with 8 chicks on The Shunan on Friday and Curlew with four there yesterday. Two Ringed Plovers today but not much else to report locally.

Reports of Black Kites and Red-backed Shrikes sent me skuttling over to the East mainland this afternoon for a brief sortie. To no avail, but I had too little time really. I did find the largest flock of Ringed Plover I've ever seen though, 406 with another 14 nearby. I am guessing these are Greenland birds delayed by the strong south-westerly winds we've been having. Interestingly lots of them are feeding on stubble fields.

Someone found my notebook and took it south but I have their email address so hopefully it will be returned shortly...

Really enjoyed Southern Tenant Folk Union and the Halton Quartet over at The Hope on Thursday, thanks for the ticket JB (I still owe you for the raffle). Emily Smith was excellent at Harray last night, just the set was far too short.

Sunday 22 May 2011

The Kame of Corrigall

This morning I went up the Kame of Corrigall, the moorland hill just behind our house. It was a beautiful morning. Not too many birds to report there but interesting enough.

 This is the peat road which cuts through the moor, the way folk used to go up to their peat cutting spots. It must have taken a fair effort to drive this through as it's cut quite deep into the moor in places.

 View from the top, Old Nisthouse is amongst the houses and buildings with the trees to the mid-right

There are good numbers of Oystercatchers breeding on the edge of the moor and the pasture

 Hares were playing in the fields as I got back to home

A Tree Sparrow reappeared in the garden at late lunch again, makes me believe they are having a go at breeding somewhere not too far away.

The forecast wind and rain appeared at lunchtime and it's blowing a hoolie now, sunny again at the moment, hopefully the greenhouse will survive.

Hard to believe that The Bob will be seventy on Tuesday, small tribute in the side panel.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Lost notebook

Annoyingly I seem to have lost my notebook last weekend. Fortunately most of the data will be in a spreadsheet, on this blog or in BirdTrack but I'm sure there'll be the odd thing that I've not transfered elsewhere. My last chance was the Birsay cafe but it wasn't there. EBay to the rescue and I've managed to locate a source of my favourite kind, I used to buy them in the newsagents in Filey. They're rather cheaper on eBay. A6 spiral bound artists sketch books. The spiral binding means I can keep a pen handy and the covers on these are pretty resilient.

Wader numbers are now starting to build up with a flock of 12 Dunlin arriving on Thursday to increase numbers on The Shunan to 18. There was a Black-tailed Godwit yesterday and today the expected Ringed Plovers with a flock of 6. The male Hen Harrier again floated through the garden.

Rather surprisingly a Tree Sparrow appeared in the garden again on Wednesday. I popped home for lunch following a training course in Kirkwall and one was feeding with House Sparrows under the feeders.

The weather wasn't great today. I mooched around at Birsay for a bit and spent too long looking for a Bonaparte's Gull amongst all the Black-headed Gulls feeding along the shore. There were a couple of hundred gulls, mostly Black-headed but a few Common and Herring as well. I think a Bony' would be quite hard to pick out in the circumstances. I spent a long time scrutinising a small first summer Bl-hG. The paddling method of feeding, rather storm-petrel like, is interesting I've taken a bit of video, I'll have to upload it later.

Test your skills - age and name these gulls

After a while I went to Skaill where there was still a Whooper Swan, a Goldeneye and a drake Scaup. I think the Whooper Swan has decided to stay, it was seen on the sea the other day apparently, perhaps not well enough to make the journey north.

Well enjoyed The Burns Unit on Jools last night. The Folk Festival begins on Thursday and I have tickets for a couple of dos. Also we have Euan Robertson, Gary Innes and Martin O'Neill playing at work which should be a bit of a treat. As well as being a demon accordian player Gary is also captain of Scotland's shinty team... hopefully he'll be one piece when he plays for us... Some of this stuff is now in the side panel (or will be soon).

Tuesday 17 May 2011


Starlings were feeding young in the boat house near Skiba Geo on Tuesday. Arctic Terns were on the rocks and some were certainly looking quite settled.

At home the Hawfinch was not seen today. There's a video of it in the side panel.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Birds to order - Hawfinch

When PH came round the other week to tick the Tree Sparrows for his Big Orkney Year List he asked me if I might be able to provide a Hawfinch next. Always happy to oblige, with apologies for the two week delivery time but Hawfinches were on back order...

Saturday 14 May 2011

Arctic Terns

I spent the morning and lunch time watching Arctic Terns. First of all three appeared on The Shunan and there were at least 17 at Loch of Bosquoy. Then later we went to Skipi Geo and they were finally back there. There seemed to be about 100. Let's hope there are some sand eels for them to eat this year.

Friday 13 May 2011

Angle Shades

I'd not caught this moth in this trap before, got it by sugaring last year.

Angle Shades

Here's some recent scenic pix from around home.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Big(ish) Green Day

The weather looks pretty good in this picture, for a short time before lunch it was almost sunny...

I did of course choose the worst day for weather that we've had for weeks, winds up to 40mph, poor visibility and from lunch time continuous rain, yuk. At least cycling out to the coast was easy enough, coming back was something of a struggle. The good thing about this activity was that I went birding at some different places and that I birded familiar places, like Palace and the Links in a different way.

Some migrants now appear to be established in some numbers, for example Sedge Warbler and Wheatear on the coast. Hirundines have arrived in the last few days with House Martin now at all its usual haunts and there were exceptional numbers of Sand Martins at Birsay, 30.

Waders provided the highlights of the day, showy summer plumage Knot, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwit.




It was such hard work coming back from the coast though that I abandonned plans to search Loch of Harray and the moor so the total of 71 is less than what could be achieved on a better day. The last three species were added from the comfort of the kitchen with tea and cakes and the nice warm Aga to make life somewhat more comfortable.

The ones that got away were a likely Siskin that emerged from a garden during the worst of the weather, a small wader, that just might have been an LRP, that flew inland from The Links and two sub-adult skuas that were too far out to sea but features I could make out were consistent with Long-tailed... so it goes.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Pebble Prominent

Pebble Prominent

It seems very early to be catching one of these but I'm not complaining, what a beautiful wee beastie.

Also in the trap: 3, Hebrew Character and 1, Common Quaker.

Two Tree Sparrows were again under the feeders, Oystercatcher on the lawn, Dunnock singing and a Chaffinch called.

Early evening there was an Arctic Tern feeding on Loch of Bosquoy and perhaps three House Martins there too; both species seen from the garden.

Friday 6 May 2011

Whimbrel in the garden

Yesterday as I lingered by The Shunan on the way home in the evening a familiar call was heard and after a minute or two a Whimbrel landed on the mud in front of me. Very surprisingly this is only the third time I have recorded this species in the home tetrad and only the second time on The Shunan. last year's bird hid under the wall and didn't call so it remained unrecorded from the garden. This individual was much more obliging. I drove up to the house, scanned with the scope but it was out of sight behind the wall but then it called, called again and took flight. It flew straight towards me, fairly low over the front garden and disappeared to the north. There were five summer plumage Dunlin as well.

Today, I dropped in at home for lunch on the way back to work from a meeting in Kirkwall and the Tree Sparrows were back, well there were two. They were still under the feeders when I returned at six. I'm tempted to purchase a nest box. There were nine Dunlin on The Shunan this evening.

It's warm tonight so I'll put the moth trap out.

This weekend is green birding weekend. I think tomorrow is the official day but I've jobs to do so I'll be listing by foot and by bike on Sunday. If I get to the coast I would think that 70 might be possible, we shall see.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Another beautiful day

A Sedge Warbler by The Shunan, a Goldfinch over at work (first record) and finally a brief glimpse of two Tree Sparrows flying east out of the garden this evening.

Yesterday there was a Red Admiral in the garden, amazingly early I think. A male Hen Harrier also paid us a visit cutting through the front garden as it headed down the hill to hunt.

Monday 2 May 2011

White-tailed Eagle

Just finishing a visit to Palace, Birsay with a seawatch at the Brough car park when by some miracle a text came through, eagle 15 minutes away. The seawatch (which had produced 22 Arctic Terns, 2 Puffins and an Arctic Skua) was quickly abandoned and I arrived just in time to get pretty good flight views of the perhaps 2nd summer White-tailed Eagle before it and its Greylag posse disappeared over the hill. Thanks to AL for the call.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Lapwing chicks

The Shunan, everything's gone yellow

Marsh Marigold

Not so much to report today except the first brood of Lapwing chicks were running around on Shunan mud this morning.

The Tree Sparrows did not reappear in the garden but were heard by The Shunan in the afternoon, perhaps migrants over or the same birds mooching around.

This pair of Pied Wagtails are prospecting by the burn

We went for a swim in the sea, not very warm. Scooting around on the boards was ok but when I tried snorkling I wished I hadn't, head got rather cold, rather quickly. Scooting around in the sea might not have been the best plan, this was filmed yesterday from just over the water near Thurso (movie taken though an SLR standard lens, the beasts were 20ft away at times apparently. - come my way soon.