Bird Report - July 2019
July 2019 Report
On the 7th I noticed a pair of Ringed Plovers near the Geo End of the shore at Newark and presumed they had young as they were employing 'distracting' behaviour. At the end of the month these two birds were still agitated at passers-by so I presume young birds are still around.
More agitated birds later the same day, this time Oystercatchers, Lapwings and Curlews in the field as I walked down the track at Sandside Bay.
Finally the weather was decent on Monday 8th July for a trip into the Gloup organised by the RSPB Local Group. As well as seeing the usual array of seabirds - puffins, tysties, shags, kittiewakes, guillemots, razorbills, etc. - we called round at the skerries to take a look at the seals. Imagine our delight when an Otter made an appearance and proceeded to eat a flounder right in front of our eyes, unperturbed by the watchers in the boat!
Photo of Otter by Ann Stevenson.
After the talk by Anne Mitchell on the 10th at the St. Ninian's Kirk Jonathan and Kathryn Southerington were lucky enough to spot a rare Two-barred Crossbill on the nearby house wall eating fuchsia.
The dog and I were having a walk near Snippigar on the 13th when I was alerted to a Snipe drumming - an unmistakeable sound - lovely to see it in the air then diving as it spread its tail feathers.
Sand Martins are doing well at Newark Bay where there seems to be a large colony, obviously swelled by youngsters. Lots of Swallows around just now too, with young birds on the wing.
During the week of July 7th Gill Smee of Quoylanks reported a pair of Hen Harriers hunting between the Geo Road and the Mussaquoy Road. The male was causing quite a commotion in Gill's garden as it hunted likely prey! I wonder if this is the same male which put small birds to flight as he passed over my small plantation on the evening of July 28th?
The super photo of male hen harrier is by Ian Cunningham and was taken this year in Tankerness. Is there a possibility this might be the same bird? I am not sure of their range - I hope someone is able to tell me.
There was a group of Twite feeding on seed heads at Newark on the 27th.
What a lot of Butterflies to be seen just now - lots of Meadow Browns, Painted Ladies, Red Admirals and one Small Tortoiseshell. Flowers, too, are at their blooming best! To name just a few - Mayflower, Perennial Sow Thistle, Lady's Bedstraw, Yarrow, Yellow & Purple Vetch.
The Grass of Parnassus will be flowering at Mull Head just now so a good excuse to take a walk in this splendid area.
To round off July I was thrilled on the 29th to spot a juvenile Cuckoo on a fence near the Geo Road top. I was able to park the car then watch the bird for a short while as it flew into the field then back on the fence posts. Sadly I had no camera with me but I have a photo of a juvenile cuckoo in my file which shows exactly how the bird looked. Lucky me!
Bird Report - June 2019
I have not too much to report this time; a week away meant less opportunity for me to be out and about (although I did enjoy some nice birds in the Inverness area - tree creeper, goldfinch, chiffchaff, whinchat, dipper, baby wheatears just to mention a few).
Back at Sunnybank there is a Wren nesting in the back garden and a Blackbird successfully fledged 3 chicks on a shelf in the greenhouse. Greenfinches must have bred nearby as juveniles have visited the feeder along with adult birds. Of course the Starlings and House Sparrows have been entertaining me as their young families followed the adults around begging for food.
I am happy to report plenty of bees in the garden also thanks to wildflowers, many of which have moved in of their own accord - I have a particularly nice display of Pink and White Campion.
Quite a lot of Pied Wagtails are around. Marlene Rorie reported seeing light grey ones and, as I understand it, these will be juveniles so nice to know they are doing well. Marlene and Ivor have also enjoyed seeing the young Eiders down below their home while at the Geo I also have seen quite a number of young so it's good they have managed to survive when there are so many gulls and bonxies on the lookout for a meal!
Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins all seem to be doing well in the parish. I see young Swallows on the wing as the parent birds concentrate on rearing a second batch - in a good year sometimes even a third.
I often visit Sandside and had a particularly enjoyable evening walk on the 16th when the plaintive calls of Seals greeted me as I walked down the track - I could see quite a number on the skerries. Not too many birds to report - two Pied Wagtails, a few Linnets, a number of Meadow Pipits, an agitated pair of Oystercatchers, Starlings were in the bushes and a Wren was loudly singing. Flowers were a joy to behold including a lovely display of Sweet Rocket, bright yellow Rapeseed, blue Forget Me Not, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Northern Marsh Orchid, Rosa Rugosa. Butterflies were a bonus with quite a number of Painted Ladies to be seen, just one Red Admiral and several of the smaller Green-veined Whites.
photo of green-veined white butterfly by Gerry Cannon.
That's all this time. I hope the weather is a little warmer by the time I write the July report.
Bird Report December 2018
Robins made their presence felt in December and how appropriate with Christmas approaching. A Robin paid a visit to Sunnybank on the 2nd then on the 3rd another was present and, of course, there is no way of knowing if it was the same bird. It was not all good news though as later in the month I spotted something colourful lying in one of our outside shelters and, sure enough, it was a Robin which had met an untimely end. So sad.
The attached photograph of a Robin was taken by me at the East Denwick Plantation recently when I accompanied RSPB's Alan Leitch on a bird-ringing expedition. This little bird now sports a leg ring and can be identified should it be caught again.
Early in the month I spotted 2 Snow Buntings hopping along the path in front of me at Newark before they flew off into the field. Three days later the two birds were back in the same location but have since flown to pastures new.
On the 6th Ivor Rorie reported a Pied Wagtail on the road near Jean Corsie's house. Ivor had to stop the car to allow the bird to get airborne!
There were a number of Lapwings and Curlews in and around a pool which had formed at the bottom of the Links.
Ivor Rorie had his binoculars out on the 18th to confirm that a Great Skua (Bonxie) was among the Greater Black-backed Gulls feeding on a dead seal on the shore not far from his home. A nice early sighting of this species.
Common Gulls were out in force on the 19th feeding on the large amount of seaweed that had accumulated at the Geo. In fact there were a lot of Gulls of various species around that day. The stormy seas had unfortunately resulted in quite a number of casualties, mainly baby seals, providing a feast for Gulls and Ravens alike.
Speaking of Ravens, you cannot miss seeing these big black birds just now as breeding time
When I threw down bird feed on the ground on the 23rd I noticed a Dunnock pecking around which made a nice addition to the House Sparrows, Starlings and Greenfinches which are normally attracted.
An unusual sighting was reported just after Christmas when a Yellowhammer was in a field near the Gloup car park. I would like to have seen this.
Looking out of the front window on the 28th I saw a large bird perched on the fence. As the bird was a bit wet it wasn't obvious at first but it soon became clear that it was a Hen Harrier. By the time I had picked up the binoculars the bird was airborne and flew around for a short while then disappeared. No doubt the resident Sparrows and Starlings were breathing sighs of relief!
Bird Report - November 2108
First sighting of note for me was on the 2nd when a small bird flew onto the fence at Newark. Through the binoculars I saw this was a handsome male Stonechat a bird that always sits atop plants or fences.
Only a few days later and in virtually the same place it was a colourful scene as 6 Goldfinches were feeding on burdock seeds in Russell Aitken's field and just adjacent were 4 Greenfinches on the fence accompanied by yet another male Stonechat.
Two days earlier, still at Newark, the high winds resulted in spectacular seas and a number of Seals were swimming very close to the shore. A flock of Turnstones were investigating what gifts the waves were washing onto the beach.
Marlene Rorie from Newark contacted me on the 14th with a long-distance photo of a Buzzard perched on the roof of Isobel Gardner's barn. This was also present the morning after. I would have liked to have seen this as it is quite a size!
During the month there were plenty of opportunities to see waders in the fields - Curlew, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank and Snipe, the latter usually heard before they are seen as they rise from the ground with a startled cry.
Now the weather is turning cooler I have noticed Greenfinches returning to the garden bird feeder. I feed Sunflower Hearts and these certainly attract this species. Don't forget the House Sparrows and Starlings though. Keep those feeders topped up. Peanuts are great all year round but particularly in winter, as are fatballs (please do not feed in nets). I seem to have a number of Rock Doves and Collared Doves calling by now but I don't mind as I like to see birds of any species.
On November 23rd I was asked to take part in the National Goose Count so I went around the highways and byways of Deerness armed with binoculars and map! I know a lot of people will be dismayed to learn that I counted over 1700 Greylag Geese in the parish.
Photo of Greylag Goose by Ian Cunningham.
While on the count I had a nice view of a Fieldfare in a field near Oback.
Noticeable recently have been quite a high number of Ravens. This big black bird is about the first to breed, I believe nest-building as early as January.
Well, the storms have certainly washed in a lot of plastics and netting onto our beaches, notably Newark. While walking the dog I try to pick up stuff from the path and I was heartened to see Marlene and Ivor Rorie tackling the problem in their small tractor. Plenty of people walk at Newark and it would be nice if they could respond to the request to "Pick up 3 Pieces". It would make such a difference to our beautiful beaches.
Finally, it was special to be at the St. Ninian's Armistice Memorial on November 11th - such an important date as it was exactly one hundred years since the Armistice was signed. A lot of work went into researching the stories of the young men from Deerness who tragically never returned from the war. Although not a bird story I think it counts as it was a lovely morning with the sea and the birds accompanying the moving event.