Friday 29 December 2017

Merry Christmas

Christmas day, presents, a lovely walk at Yesnaby, cooking, eating, conking out.

Tropical jimjams contrasting with freezing Orkney, fortunately the conked out heating was fixed pronto a few days previously - thanks Davy.

 Harray kirk on the way to the ponies.

 I have swum / walked through that arch previously, I didn't fancy a go at it today...

Yesnaby as spectacular as ever.

No sign of the 350 Snow Bunts previously reported but an Iceland Gull was a seasonal gift.

Christmas pressies included a kick net and sorting tray, watch out aquatic beasties I'm going to be recording you too.

On Boxing Day we walked up to the trig on Birsay Moor. The hail let rip a few times and the path was tricky. The hound had a lovely time.

 Bog Asphodel stems

I don't think we saw a single bird.

Horsey duties at Howaback, a large flock of Linnets, 2-300 and some nice light.

 Buzzard P in the next door garden again.

Not the greatest photo of a Chaffinch but to illustrate a change perhaps caused by a different feeding strategy. The last few years we've had one female Chaffinch all winter, joined by a male in the spring, but then leaving. I've started putting food in under the trees and the Rosa and the pair of Chaffinch that have been here for a couple of weeks or so has quickly increased in number day by day until today we're at 7. Not a huge number but I think the first time except for the occasional autumn day when Chaffinch outnumber Greenfinch. Our Greenfinch numbers are still much reduced after what was likely a Trichomoniasis infection, causing quite a few to die. This resulted in no feeding for a while, but the numbers have not recovered, generally there are four or five, in the past there used to be thirty or more.

This morning there was a horse food emergency, somehow we'd pretty much run out of Easibeet. But a lovely calm, bright day and I was keen to volunteer, the ideal conditions for Surfie hunting. On the way in to Kirkwall I found the Velvet Scoter flock but they were distant and I couldn't find anything other than Velves. A quick count of the Great Northerns got to 25 or so but there were undoubtedly more. A smart 1cy Glaucous Gull was sat on the fish cages. There were quite a few Slav Grebes and the usual few hundred Long-tailed Ducks. Eider were in short supply close in but there were piles of things sitting on the water in the distant haze. Easibeet (and new wellies) purchased, a few late presents which we'd forgotten in the bag, and I tried the other viewpoint on the way home. Better angle, a bit closer to the birds and in amongst the Velves were two drake Surfies.

Great digiscoped photo.

I got home and all were heading or had already headed on to the moor. Finishing the sag aloo as a kind of brunch I headed for the hills.

A hen Merlin was having a ding-dong with a Hoodie and ended up over our garden and rattling through the trees. (A Merlin day is always a good day.)

The light was grand and I took a few pix as I followed up the Kame of Corrigall (well I didn't actually get that far, meeting younger daughter on the lower slopes in retreat and walking back down with her).

Home from the north.

These are the shapes in the snow and frost where the sheep were lying.

...and here are the sheep.

Snow over Hoy.

The sun came out for a last look on the day.

Redwing and there was a pair of Stonechat.

Clouds over Hoy as we came down the last fields.

Sunday 17 December 2017

A walk at Palace and other stories

A lovely morning, if cold, with occasional hail showers pushing through. Not knowing about the flock of Arctic Redpolls in Stromness the previous day was probably a good thing as I wasn't distracted and so went straight out to the coast.

At the start, as I got out of the car, the male Hen Harrier went by, probably the same individual which has been here in winter for the last two. Then as I walked north, having started at the cemetery, two Peregrines circled high, back and forth for a good few minutes. On size I would have said these were a pair. The usual Wigeon flock with a few Teal a Mallard were present, seven Cormorant a good count, a Grey Heron. The Common Seal dormitory held 35 and there were a few Greys about as well. Then as I approach Mount of Misery a scan revealed a gull of interest, distantly, the other side of the burn.

Mount of Misery

Crossing the angry burn seemed like a bad plan.

The Brough from the burn.

Fortunately the suspect flew over to the south side of the burn and with a bit of stealth I got within photo range. It was a 1 cy and spent a lot of time bathing, much of that with a Geeb, slightly naive in my view as the Geeb was eyeing it up dinner-wise.

The hound and I then headed back to the car, via a rainbow and a burst of hail.


On the way home I stopped off at the Loch of Boardhouse where there were good numbers of diving duck but nothing too special, the most remarkable record being of a flock of 106 Geebs, a very good  count.

It wasn't until late in the evening (after enjoying a famous, and rather rare 3-0 victory lifting us out of the relegation zone and into lower, mid-table respectability) that I became aware of the finchy goings on in Stromness, a flock of four Coue's and then a Rosefinch. So it goes. 

The weather this morn was extra grim, not enticing me to go out, wind rain, dark, generally unpleasant. I stayed in trying to catch up entering insect records to iRecord, I am well behind. Eventually early afternoon things brightened up and I debated heading for Stromness but in the end went to Northside. Good decision, a blustery walk with the hound and Louise produced four Iceland Gulls heading east, two 1cy and two adults. No pictures as they shot by in the blustery, showery, poorly lit afternoon.

At home a Woodpigeon (unwell), a Goldfinch and four Chaffinch were of note with a juv Mute Swan on The Shunanaith a pile of Wigeon and Teal and a very early Coot.

This is a very lovely album, lots of (accurate) bird references as well, highly recommended.

A Pocket Of Wind Resistance

Sunday 10 December 2017

Swimming things and that storm

Rat swimming

(Vimeo link - )

Beside our track is a very tiny burn, more of a ditch really, but surprisingly rich in wildlife. This rat was panicking after Cora scared it and it leapt.

Today I was off to do the WeBS counts. I walk from home for most of it, I have three places to count. The Shunan and Loch of Bosquoy are about a 90 minute or so walk depending on how distracted I get. It was cold but still at first and there were showers of hail and sleet pushing through from the west, mostly brief. However, down by Bosquoy the sky darkened and a heavy shower cam through. I sheltered, hunkered down with the scope just behind a gorse clump beside the Burn of Layane, again little more than a glorified ditch. I'd been sitting for a few minutes and the dog was off doing dog stuff when there was a water sound and out of the corner of my eye I saw a swell on the burn's surface. The gorse has long been suspected of being an Otter holt, nothing showed and I went on counting duck. A scan with a scope a minute or so later and a view full of Otter. I watched him fishing for quite a while before going on with the count, he would have been (distantly) visible from our kitchen.

Dog Otter fishing

Storm Caroline came through on Thursday, quite fierce although it didn't seem too bad, perhaps because it was the day time. Louise battled to save the big shed alone as I was at work. The wind blew the end window in and then ripped the side door off, it had a good go at the end doors too. So yesterday was mend the shed day, accomplished in a fashion. Snow followed it with the usual scary road conditions, Louise and younger daughter enjoyed tobogganing down the new road.

Little Auk

This was found on Friday on the pavement at the entrance to work. As there were no pupils in I scooted of to Palace to let it go. Put on the beach it just sat there, a nice snack for a passing Geeb, so it being lively I chucked it in the air and it flew off strongly to the south, hopefully to regain the ocean at some point.

Bosquoy, WeBS day

Not much to report from the WeBS, Pintail drake at Loch of Sabiston and Shoveler at Bosquoy and at The Shunan. 

I do enjoy a beer and our local Lidl (other supermarkets also sell beer) often has a surprise. There are plenty of Scottish breweries now brewing some excellent drinking (what a change from the not so distant past when it was hard to get a drinkable beer in Scotland). This Yippie IPA does not look or taste much like an IPA though, good as it is, bitter I would call it. A bit strong for me too at 6.5%. I mostly buy Scottish beer but Tesco here regularly stocks Heart and Soul and Pride and Joy, both excellent and brewed in Cragg Vale where we used to live. More beers may shortly be featured... As  may be deduced beer is usually consumed whilst I cook.