Wednesday 31 December 2014

Last glimmer

Trying very hard over the last few days to add to my Patchwork Challenge total, December so far being the only month where I have not added additional species. A mid-month dip in the shape of Mistle Thrush on the lawn was the closest I had come. And then this morning, doing the ponies, a small gaggle of geese went over, 21 flew right by but two turned away and headed south, one of those two was not a Pinkie (which all the others were), neither was it a Greylag, but I just couldn't nail it due to the light and the direction of flight, I'm thinking whitefront but....

Here are some photos of an interesting crow at the PDC yesterday. It just shows how easy it is to pass hybrids off as Hoodies. This is quite a subtle hybrid.

 Looks like a Hoodie (however, the central streak on that feather above the near leg is too broad)

 Now its true identity is revealed, but these feather were very hard to see from other views

A good clue is the way the black and grey "join" at the nape. It should present as a very distinct, clear demarcation, unlike this. A rider to this is that in July Hoodie juveniles are similarly marked.

Patch round-up
2014 was the fifth complete year on the patch, the actual starting date was October 2009. The patch total of species for the year was 117 (plus tristis Chiffchaff), Patchwork Challenge points 169. New species added to the patch list this year: Garganey, Blue-winged Teal (twice), Common Scoter, Water Rail, Red-footed Falcon, Great Grey Shrike, Blue Tit, Lapland Bunting and subspecies Redpoll, C.f.islandica. Also seen this year and worth mentioning, Marsh Harrier, Corncrake, Curlew Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Jack Snipe, Kittiwake, Iceland Gull, an unclaimed Glaucous Gull (seen whilst having a bath, that's me not the gull), Waxwing, Ring Ouzel, Stonechat and  Grey Wagtail. Dips I'm aware of were Snow Goose (of German provenance most likely) and Mistle Thrush. Since October 2009 I've seen 146 species from the patch (includes Gannet and Shag which are viewable with persistence by scanning Clestrain Sound 8km away - not included in this year's total). To my knowledge 153 species have occurred during that time (I've excluded the Snow Geese).

The last of the day, New Year's Eve

Sunday 28 December 2014

A over T

Ouch!! Just not careful enough on the very icy track this morn, fortunately none of me or of my gear broken, ****** hurt though.

It was worth going out. I had to approach Bosquoy from across the fields as the track down there was just ice. This route gives a nice elevated view over the loch and having checked and counted the wildfowl I noticed a bit of a splash to my left. Watched the dog otter for about an hour. Managed to walk closer, he was quite aware that Cora and I were there but just ignored us.

Video quality a bit naff as I'm not used to using it.

 The photos aren't much better to be honest

Also down there a Jack Snipe.

On to Palace after lunch, and the Snow Bunting flock had grown. Other suspicious looking characters down there that will require further checking, a few bits and bods bombing about that I failed to get on to.

Then to Stromness where the adult Iceland Gull showed briefly before flying off to roost.

Friday 26 December 2014

Boxing Day

A Woodcock was star bird of the day, flushed from the garden. Also nine Brambling, a Hen Harrier that tried to join us in the kitchen and the three Whoopers, two ads and a juv were still on The Shunan. It's very, very cold.

And here's another pic from the GoPro yesterday....

Thursday 25 December 2014

Christmas skies


Here are a couple of stills taken with my new toy (basic GoPro Hero).

Wednesday 24 December 2014


A bit of an aurora Sunday night, then last night we dipped, as the cloud came in by the time we were on the case. Hopes for tonight as it is supposed to clear, we'll see.

Still a lot of Blackbirds about, 14 at Howaback yesterday with Redwings and the occasional Fieldfare. Flock of 16 Fieldfares today up the track in Mirbister. Best birds today were 24 Snow Buntings on The Links, it would be nice if they stayed for the New Year.

Patchwork Challenge is drawing to a close and it may be that this will be the first month of the year that I don't add to my patch total. Louise did find a Mistle Thrush in the garden earlier in the month but I was too slow responding to her text.... Still a few days to go, maybe Bosquoy will turn something more up. next year I've entered to cover two patches, the old Palace patch will receive more attention, 2013 was relatively disappointing there so I won't have a huge target to surmount. The home, Harray patch, has received much of my attention this year and it has been a record year with 118 species so far, plenty of new ones too.

ISS just sailed by plus two other satellites over just after, heading north those.

Howaback, yesterday p.m. hail coming

Sunday 14 December 2014


....has indeed arrived. Managed the WeBS yesterday, where Bosquoy produced three drake Goosander, two Jack Snipe and a Stonechat and Sabiston a nice flock of 40 Whoopers which included four small broods. It was windy today, at one point had a serious struggle with the car door, like a tug-o-war, happily I won. More lightening and intermittent electricity, snow, hail and by the sea massive waves. Progress with bathroom - quite good.

Thursday 11 December 2014


Mostly lightning (which closed work) the wind was not so fierce, however, the swell was mighty.

Perhaps not the best place to park....

Difficult to park in the lovely new car park by the sea.

Getting to the car park might be a tad challenging.

Waves, dusk, Skaill

Video to follow.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Bathroom redecorating?

Saturday was pretty grim, wet and breezy, but there were birds about and autumn continues with plenty of Blackbirds in the usual migrant places (Hawthorn Hedge and Loch of Bosquoy gardens). The Hawthorn Hedge also held two Goldcrest and one more was along the track ditch. It was under the hawthorns that the bird of the month skulked, unexpected in the flooded section was a calling (but unseen) Water Rail, not only a year patch tick but a new bird for the patch, excellent.

We'd gone to the West Mainland Farmers' Ball last night, so a bit of a late start. But a nice surprise as I made the morning tea was a Blackcap on the apples. Headed for the Stoneyhill Rd to check on the Red-breasted Goose, which was hiding, so down to Skaill where there were just piles of birds. Best were 28 Barnacle Geese, but there were Scaup, Whooper Swans and good numbers of waders.

 Still plenty of these moving through the garden

 Grey Seal

Slow progress on the bathroom though, just too nice a day today.

Monday 24 November 2014

Goose count day

I don't see Bean Geese very often, these were the first I've seen on Orkney. I can't remember having such good views in the past. They weren't on my count patch, well worth a brief, end-of-the-day detour to Deerness though. Fabialis race, looked like six adults and one juvenile.

 On the count patch there were 4,852 Greylags and  539 Pink-feet. One of the Greylags had a silver neck collar, I should get the history of this bird shortly.

Flodid, nr.Blondous, Austur-Hunavatns
Work, St.Ola, Orkney HY4713 27/11/2000
Blackhall, St.Ola, Orkney HY4712 10/01/2001
Work, St.Ola, Orkney HY4713 11/01/2001
Blackhall, St.Ola, Orkney HY4612 25/01/2001
Yintsay, Tankerness, Orkney HY5110 04/03/2001
Wester Watten, Caithness ND2355 18/10/2002
South of Asbrekka, Vatnsdal, Austur Hunavatnssysla 65;36N+20;22W 19/04/2003
Blackhall, Kirkwall, Orkney HY4712 01/03/2006
Flodid, Vatnsdalur, Hunafjordur, ICELAND 65;28N+20;21W 28/09/2006
Blackhill, St.Ola, Orkney HY4612 23/11/2007
Kirkwall, Orkney HY455117  23/11/2014    
Many of these everywhere today, and Blackbirds as well, autumn is still here.

Saturday 22 November 2014


It lashed it down last night and for much of the day, it has begun to feel a little more like winter and less like autumn but tonight there were a surprising number of insects on the wing, caught in the glare of the torch as Cora and I walked the stubble.

Various things have not got done today, like decorating the bathroom, which now has new floor, new ceiling and new bath panel, but no thanks to me (well other than paying for it I guess). Newly purchased bathroom tiles are still in their boxes, undercoat still in its tin.

The notable bird of the day was a Merlin, a male glimpsed through the trees as I ventured out briefly once the rain had ceased. No time to explore further as ponies require feeding and we were out of hay. The trailer hitched up and bounced down the track, which continues in an unrepaired state due to the water.

The month has not been without its moments, a great Fieldfare day with them pouring through all one morning, the Red-breasted Goose which I finally caught up with, and Goosander and Jack Snipe at Bosquoy on a couple of occasions.

 Loch of Bosquoy

 Eynhallow evening

 The first Stonechat since winter of 2010/11 which wiped them out

 Jack Snipe away!

Wednesday 22 October 2014


Great three days on Papay.

Our transport awaits

Once we'd got ourselves sorted, out in the field by 10 and the action commenced. A tristis Chiff in the school garden was a great start. Flocks of Redwings were coming south and with them things of interest, two Lapland Buntings were amongst one of the early flocks. A Blue Tit in the Fuschia of a garden, a Hawfinch with another flock (landed on the dyke but I missed getting pics).

There were very tame Goldcrests at Holland.

In the Quarry Garden, the same or another Hawfinch and there were Blackcaps dotted about.

AL and I headed up the north end where the Redwings and Song Thrushes were streaming in. Ring Ouzels, Jack Snipe, Snow Bunting were added.

I searched the east side and the palette garden as AL sorted the north.


Also a couple of Blackcaps, an elusive and confusing (for me) Willow Warbler, a very elusive bunting sp.

Our transport arrived, the lure of Y-bW perhaps

Time for a boat.

and some washing...

The Holm of Papay

Not much movement on Sunday, a few species were added, but we carelessly lost a crew member as AL flew back.

This colour marked Sanderling has an interesting history, ringed on Sanday in 2011, controlled on North Ron in 2012 and sighted twice in Iceland, back in Sanday and found now on Papay in 2014.

Monday started for me with a seawatch, a Great Northern Diver, an Iceland Gull and troublsome skuas were the highlight. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I'd made a mess of the ID of a pale phase skua that past reasonably close, quite possibly a Pom, but that a dark phase more distant and right at the end of the watch was indeed a Pom (dark phase Poms are uncommon about 8% of the population). I'm out of practice with skuas these days which shows how infrequent they are here other than during the summer, I mostly see them flying around The Shunan.

 Grey Plover

 Hybrid crow

Time for a last bird, rare on Orkney.

All too soon it was time to go, via the shortest, timetabled flight in the UK, around a minute to Westray.