Bird Report - October 2019
During a walk down the Geo Road on the 3rd of the month I was attracted by a sizeable flock of birds, and found these to be c.300 Golden Plovers accompanied by a number of Lapwings as they so often are. This scenario was repeated the very next day, this time in a field opposite Sandside - were these the same birds? No way of telling, for me at least.
During a walk near home on the 5th I saw a flash of colour and realised a tiny Goldcrest had landed in the middle of the road before quickly flying off, perhaps to my garden as a Goldcrest was bobbing around the bushes there later in the day. I heard the bird while I was mowing the lawn and a search revealed its whereabouts.
Redwings and Fieldfares are to be seen at this time of year. I saw my first Redwing on the front lawn.
Robins are easily seen just now - such a handsome bird and one of the very few which sing during the winter. (I was at the Pickaquoy Centre car park recently and heard a loud, melodic birdsong and there atop a tall tree was a Robin!)
I have been having several views of a male Hen Harrier as it checks the bushes for a likely supper.
On the 9th I had a report from Marlene Rorie of Newark that 60 Curlews flew along the shore and past her house. She reported that Gannets are still active nearby (in fact I have watched these very same birds from Sandside). A stunning male Brambling was on the feeder and Marlene also mentions that she too has regular visits from a Hen Harrier. Marlene and Ivor regularly clean the beach and this often results in interesting finds, one such being a Triggerfish which is a summer visitor to Orkney waters. There have been 12 records in Orkney since 1995.
Photo of Triggerfish by Marlene Rorie.
A number of people have reported Swallows being around well into October and I assume these will have been a third brood which had to mature before they could make the long journey to Africa.
During a walk in the Geo Road area on the 13th I could not fail to notice a significant number of Meadow Pipits either at the Geo or making their way down the fields heading in that direction. I presumed I was witnessing migration in action and was thrilled to see this.
During a visit to Sandside Bay on the 14th I saw, and heard, 6 Fieldfares flying over. Not too much bird action in the bushes there, just a Willow Warbler and a few Goldcrests. Three days later in this location a Blackcap and two late Swallows were reported.
It was nice to see 3 Greenfinches flying onto plants at the Geo on the 17th and I noticed that Turnstones are still finding the seaweed a good place to search for food. I don't see many Herons on my travels so one taking off from the Geo caught my eye on October 20th. In the sea were 4 Red-breasted Mergansers.
Back home towards the end of the month I spotted a Dunnock on the floor near the feeder. This small bird is similar to a house sparrow but has a grey throat and is usually seen pecking for food on the ground. Other birds to report are a Snipe at Gritley and a Pheasant in my field.
I joined friends who were ringing birds at East Denwick on the 28th where a number of Reed Buntings were caught and ringed. The photo shows a Reed Bunting sporting a newly-fitted leg ring which can clearly be seen.
Photo of Reed Bunting by Gerry Cannon.
Well the nights are drawing in now and the weather is deteriorating so please don't forget to put out food and water for our feathered friends.
Bird Report - August 2019
The first entry in my August report was not a bird, but a Mouse! The tiny creature was on the path at
Newark on August 2nd, happily nibbling at a plant. It seemed unperturbed by my presence.
Still at Newark, there have been quite a number of Twite and a few Linnets feeding on all the seed
heads in the field and along the path.
I heard from Jill Sutcliffe that she had a lovely moment on the 4th when 12 fledgling Swallows
perched on the conservatory guttering, taking turns to launch themselves off to swoop down and
catch insects in the flower border.
Driving past St. Peter's Pool I noticed a pair of Mute Swans with Cygnets.
Keen birder Gerry Cannon was in the parish on the 17th, taking a walk in the Covenanters Memorial
area during which he spotted a Kestrel and a Common Swift - I love seeing these birds which are
always on the wing.
I occasionally walk at Sandside and my walk is usually accompanied by agitated calls from breeding
waders such as Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Curlews etc. It was a different story on the 23rd when
silence reigned. In their place though were flock of Curlews, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks
and Blackbirds. I suspect these would have been preparing to leave Orkney's shores in the not-too-
I have been seeing quite a number of Curlews in fact. A flock of c.200 was in the long field below
Newhouse on the 15th. Three days later 30 were at Lower Gritley and about 60 were at Sandside.
RSPB's Alan Leitch informs me that some Curlews go south-west to Scotland or Ireland while Orkney
welcomes birds from Scandinavia - what a fascinating subject migration is!
Anybody walking or driving around the highways and byways of Deerness recently could not fail to
notice big numbers of Wheatears, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Swallows all marking time until
they leave for the winter. A lot of these will be young birds. Apparently the adult Swallows will
already be on their way to Africa.
I happened to look out of the front window in the evening of the 24th just in time to observe a visit
from the male Hen Harrier which was investigating the bushes a little too late as all the alarmed
birds were airborne and safe from his clutches!
I started this report with a non-bird species and I am going to end with one also. Some staff from
RSPB Orkney were on the island of Copinsay recently completing a survey of Great Yellow
Bumblebees. Despite the weather not being ideal for surveying, the team recorded a total of 73
Great Yellow Bumblebees and 579 Carder Bees. I must look a little more closely at my wildflowers!
Photos of Great Yellow Bumblebee Queen and Carder Bee by Alan Leitch.
Photos of Great Yellow Bumblebee Queen & Carder Bee by Alan Leitch.
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.