Thursday 30 January 2014


The cunning plan worked.....

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Waxwing dip

I really thought that was it for FootIt but this afternoon there was a Waxwing in the garden, I didn't see it but there is every hope for first thing tomorrow morning. Nice record Ellen!

Saturday 25 January 2014

FootIt mania

The last weekend... for FootIt and being on the leader board I had to make a massive effort. However, first of all there was the Big Garden Birdwatch to deal with so it wasn't until 10:00 that hound and I headed off south to the lochs. The Birdwatch time provided a second FootIt Sproghawk seen from the kitchen window but nothing of significance. The Shunan held much the usual with the addition of two Whoopers and careful scrutiny of Bosquoy did not refind last weekend's star bird. Off to Loch of Harray then, and again good birds but nothing new. So despite athe afore mentioned Sproghawk, Whoopers, Slav Grebe, Goosander x2, Scaup x2, L-t Duck x7 and a good selection of the commoner things no gains.

Lunch (Cullen Skink) was taken outside to maximise the effort, lovely day here on the whloe sunny and fairly still, and then I headed north to the moor. The hope was that the sunshine might have encouraged an early Skylark and Red Grouse is still required. Four species were seen by the time I reached the moor, none of them new. A hare conveniently ran towards The Kame so the dog took off in hot pursuit and then quartered the ground most thoroughly, to no avail. With little hope left we headed west to cover the lower moorland slopes but other than a single Snipe nothing showed. A Hen Harrier was distantly quartering The Kame but it was not seen to flush the required grouse. There was then an episode of dog legging it to pursue a number of Brown Hares all of which scattered widely and required me to cut across a number of fields to keep her in sight, an unwanted detour, that also produced no birds.

Raven nest, an interesting find

Nearly 3.00pm and nothing to add to the list for a day in the field.

I reached the junction of the track, one last effort, the farm has once in my memory held a winter Pied Wag. Down the road, a ringtail is heading low straight towards me and as she turns she flushes six finches onto the nearby fence. Expecting Greenfinch I raise the bins, Linnets! They dropped into the field and I walked on to the gate where I found an interesting small field with 6 tups grazing. I scanned and found Skylark, not one but 27, probably the largest flock I've ever seen on the patch. At this point the Linnets flew from hiding under the dyke to join the feeding Skylarks and all were succcessfully scoped. I carried on down the hill to check for the absent Pied Wag, on the way back up the Linnet numbers had increased to 35, a good sized flock for Orkney in winter.


The walk home was a bit more cheery. Sitting out with tea in the late afternoon a male Hen Harrier circled and headed over. I made a last effort down to The Shunan in the hope of a further Short-eared Owl, I've seen just one so far this year, but no owl and nothing unexpected.

So that may be it for FootIt as the forecast for the morn is pretty grim 95%+ rain, wind 43 gusting to 67mph from SW. If I'm very lucky I may be able to take an early shot at the moor but I don't have great hopes.

Sunday 19 January 2014

About bloody time too.....

I've not found a decent bird since October 2012, well I have but not any sort of records committee thing and that was the last time I added anything to the life found list. But yesterday morning that changed, it went like this....

Set out with not too much optimism, not even sure where to go, north to the moor, south to the lochs. The dog turned for the lochs so that was decided then. It was grey and the wind was getting up. The Shunan held the usual selection of quackers so over the fields, along the road and check a garden or two then back down the track to Loch of Bosquoy. Usual dog/cat palaver at the last house then check another garden and settle myself down for the ducks. It was a WeBS day too so accurate counting was required. The teal flock requires scrutiny, just in case, 91, ah but what's this? Bright white splodge near its arse, by 'eck it's a Blue-winged Teal! (Patchwork Challenge find as well...)

Also an Oystercatcher flew in which was unseasonably early, the Woodpigeon flock increased to 9 and the Curlew count at Loch of Bosquoy was 773. Dip news, missed a Kittiwake at the Merkister, that'll be a hard one to recover.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Foot It total rising

Lapwings heading west

Yesterday was a bit of a right off for birding, horrible blow, heavy showers of nasty haily stuff but managed a quick look at the PDC and then to Work (the place, not where I...) where I've been seeing big flocks of Eider and Long-tailed Duck over the last couple of months. Had to go to Kirkwall for decorating supplies as I'd run out of bright orange paint. However, not much at either. Returning home, checked The Shunan, kipping Shelduck. This is very early and a real good Foot it species, but I was in the car. However hungry I was, drove home, put on suitable element protection gear, rallied hound, and back down the hill by shanks. Fortunately it was still there. Also around and about were 6 Meadow Pipits, a Fieldfare and 5 Redwing, all uncommon, awkward to get usually (but already on the list), these hiding in the neap field.


Today it was calm and grey early so out sharpish. Down to Bosquoy without seeing much but once there a hidden Shoveler was eventually revealed.

Pink-foot called nice and clearly, although I still could not see it, but I've ticked this one, and the usual selection of quackers. Bumped into another birder who told me that I'd dipped on Snow Goose as they'd flown behind me and then gone on to The Shunan before lifting off and continuing west, darn! Heading back up home checked the neaps field where there were 8 Meadow Pipits a single Redwing, a Song Thrush and I heard Fieldfare. I was watching a hunting ringtail when another raptor was flushed from the gorse below it, big female Sparrowhawk, nice. That brings me to 61 which was last year's total and I've still two more weekends... 100% When I started this year I thought I would get nowhere near last year's total as in December the birds just did not seem to be about. There are plenty of chances to improve on the total too, I still could get: Black-headed Gull, Gadwall, Pintail, Goldfinch, Linnet, a redpoll of some description, maybe even Snow Goose which would be a patch tick (not a very exciting one as these birds are almost certainly from the German feral/Orkney feral population.

Harray Kirk

Late this afternoon I decided to go crow hunting and head for the roost. Two ringtails went to roost but way up the valley so I drove up further and found crow city in a field. In the end I counted 73 likely Hoodies, 4 possible Carrions and 3 certain hybrids. I should have taken the other scope as I might have been able to sort out the more subtle hybrids in the fading light.

This photographed yesterday near Work. It was with two clear hybrids and if that is a black undertail covert and not a shadow or a feather looking dark because of the light, this too is a hybrid.

Sunday 5 January 2014

More FootIt

Lots of activity over the last two days, and including eldest daughter's birthday party which took a significant amount of energy.

First the bad news, in car, drive down track for party shopping and food for Sydney (our bearded dragon) in Kirkwall when a Sparrowhawk scoots along the hawthorn hedge, ok for Patchwork but no good for FootIt (and I still need it). On the way home I gave the Shunan a quick scan as usual and a Pink-foot flew over, same story (and I still need that too).

Just outside Kirkwall there was a 2cy Iceland Gull in a field, nice. Shopping done I rashly decided to have a quick look at Scapa but very high tide, driven by southerly swell, bad idea. Went to see the Glossy Ibis at Langskaill for a quick year tick. It was very tempting to do the Point of Liddle too but party duties beckoned and house points might be at risk....

Party stuff took not so long in the end, time for an afternoon walk down to Loch of Bosquoy. Bosquoy produced the goods, the hound flushed a Jack Snipe, Golden Plover were on show and careful scanning of favoured haunts on the way back up to the house successfully located a Short-eared Owl in the dusk, something I've not seen here for a while. So three added to the FootIt list, 52 of last year's 61.

Back in time to load the car etc and a quick look at the photos of the skua sp found at Deerness that afternoon. On the way out of the door grab the BB with the skua id paper, hmm, that skua is quite interesting. (It most likely is a Great Skua but not an entirely straightforward one. I'm slightly confused about the head marking feature as I find that difficult to see between the various photos in the paper.)

Today, out the door in a fairly leisurely manner with few expectations, lovely day though, still and sunny(ish). Head for Loch of Harray pronto as I'm still short of Slav Grebe and Long-tailed Duck. Perfect conditions and Slav Grebe (x2) was quickly found but L-tD took a tad longer until 9 distant ones were located, and they were heard calling. Further searching of the loch found a very distant diver, not expected on Harray in January.  At first I thought it was Black-throat but I could not see the flank patch. Eventually it adopted a more typical pose and the dark around the face seemed to disappear perhaps as it took better light. Nice one then as I didn't score a diver last year.

Now that is a naff photo - digiscoped

A Pink-foot or two called distantly but I couldn't locate them visually and elected not to tick them. A quick nip up the road to look at the Twite flock, a tad reduced compared to New Year's Eve, now just 130 or so.

Back to Loch of Bosquoy and a real surprise, my new tactic of scanning the hills to the north pays off, except the Buzzard is considerably closer and flaps onto a not too distant electric pole. Fourth time lucky and the drake Goosanders are on the loch.

Tramping the way home, further checks on the hills reveal two large hovering raptors. Some panic sets in, these things are way over on the east edge of the Kame of Corrigal. A fair sprint out of the boggy fields and when I get half a mile or so closer the things are still there, with a Kestrel. After much scrutiny at range I decide that these too are Common and not the much hoped for Rough-legged Buzzards, a record Buzzard count from the patch in any case and four Woodpigs on the powerlines are a record January count for that species too.

FootIt total 57 (and still no Black-headed Gull).

Loch of Harray from Merkister this morn

Friday 3 January 2014

Sunrise start (09:15)

Out at sunrise on a FootIt mission, heading for the north and east of the one mile circumference. The plan was to get Song Thrush in the gorse "up back" then head onto the edge of the moor with Red Grouse and Snipe in mind.

Heading up the path through the gorse with the dog on the lead we flushed a Woodcock from under our feet, that was a bonus. The predicted Song Thrush was then located. A few steps up through the gorse and a roost of 12 Blackbirds were flushed. Closer to the moor and another Meadow Pipit, an easy species this year. The last clump of gorse before the moor and something flushed, bit slow to get the bins up but it had flown by and into some gorse back down the way. Retrace steps, Redwing, a species that can be well tricky in January.

Next on to the moor. Let the dog off and hope. Tactic failed, all we flushed were two hares which came out from almost under the dog's feet and which she somehow managed not to see. Back on the lead and heading home and two Snipe flushed as we approached the moor gate. But no Red Grouse. Added to the Kestrel I'd seen through the bedroom window first thing, 49 and 80.3%.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Two more

Not really birding today but the elusive Woodpig was added to the list first thing and even found a friend to make a record January flock (of two). Also six Jackdaw in the upper fields. 44 which is 72.1%

New Moon and Venus in conjuction

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Foot It and Patchwork Challenge - the off

Lovely day, sunny, fairly calm, good conditions for patch birding. Late start as it is an offspring's birthday so attendance at parcel unwrapping and the requirement to produce fresh pancakes for breakfast delayed the start. However, soon enough, with faithful hound along for the "walk" (charge about like a maniac) we were off. (Well, actually, a good number of species had been recorded from the kitchen window whilst preparing pancakes.)

 The Shunan this morn


Meadow Pipit was the first quality recorded, a tricky species at this time of year. Down at Loch of Bosquoy Little Grebe was located by careful searching, often a very tricky species to find. Twite and Hen Harrier were also found soon enough but the commuting Goosander were absent, clearly hung over at Loch of Wasdale after a heavy night. Down to Harray and very careful searching in less than ideal conditions, there being glare from the sunshine and a bit of chop due to the breeze, eventually revealed a single drake Scaup, however, Slav Grebe and Long-tailed Duck were absent.

Whooper Swans were gratefully ticked

Then back to Bosquoy where a Peregrine put in a brief appearance and finally home. Searching the garden finally produced a Fieldfare, sometimes tricky. 42 was a decent outcome, just 19 to go to beat last year's total, 68.9%.

Here's a view of the patch from the garden later in the day, with The Shunan in the foreground, Loch of Bosquoy next and Loch of Harray beyond.  The island of Hoy and its hills are in the distance.