Bird Report - July 2017
Pied Wagtails and a few Wheatears are now being seen in the parish along with lots of Meadow Pipits which appear to have had a successful breeding season. Here at Sunnybank the House Sparrows and Starlings have also notched up breeding success as I don't recall seeing so many young of these species before. Our Wren must have found pastures new for, in spite of the male building a splendid nest, this has not been deemed suitable.
Nancy Scott reports Swallows and House Martins once again and there is a family of Swallows next door to us in Phil Longley's garage at Eastbank.
We had a pile of feathers underneath the wall, a sure sign of a Sparrowhawk devouring its catch. One less baby sparrow I am afraid!
Another raptor, this time a male Hen Harrier, keeps paying us a visit; I have seen him on three occasions the last of which saw him being chased off by one of Phil's Swallows!
I had a walk to the Brough of Deerness on July 11th, spotting Swallows in the Gloup, an Arctic Skua flying over the Gloup car park and a Snipe perched on a fencepost - chicks nearby. Further along my walk I heard one of my favourite sounds - a Snipe drumming. There were Meadow Brown butterflies and lovely small Blue Butterflies and the Grass of Parnassus was in flower – lovely.
Another walk, this time to the Coventanters Memorial then around the coast and back up to the car park.
(Photo showing Covenanters Memorial in distance by Pauline Wilson)
Along the way I counted no less than 22 flower species - Tormentil, Angelica, Meadowsweet, Sorrel, Hawkweed, Clover, Forget-me Not, Willowherb, Buttercup, late-flowering Marsh Orchid, Marsh Cinquefoil, Sneezewort, Purple and Yellow Vetch, Bell Heather, Ragged Robin, Ragwort, Lousewort, Mayweed, Self Heal, Bright Eyes, Mimulus. What a tally!
(photo of Angelica, with Tormentil and Meadowsweet in the background).
Once again there were Meadow Brown & Blue Butterflies and Seals were hauled out down by the shore. Not too many birds around but an unusual sighting was a male Chaffinch, lots of Meadow Pipits, two Arctic Terns, many sounds of Curlews, and a lot of Oystercatchers. There were Shags & Razorbills down on the rocks.
I had a final walk of July on the 30th, this time to the Point of Ayre which is a lovely spot that escapes the tourists on a fine sunny day! On reaching my destination I enjoyed a cup of coffee while watching Cormorants, Shags and two mystery birds which I eventually identified as juvenile Black Guillemots, the giveaway clue being their bright red/orange legs.
We are lucky in Deerness that there are so many beautiful places to explore.
Bird Report - June 2017
Nobody can fail to see the yellow vista all around the parish at this time of year as Buttercups stand proudly in bloom - not the favourite of farmers I am sure!
There was exciting news on June 2nd when Marie Fotheringham rang to say a Corncrake was calling in the field between Lynegar and Esnaphy. The male bird called for a number of nights before disappearing, probably due to a night of wind and heavy rain.
Another calling bird, but this time a sweeter song, was heard and seen at Sunnybank when a bonny male Linnet perched on the fence singing away, while in our small wooded area a Greenfinch male made its unmistakeable call.
Unfortunately the Wren nest in our byre is still unoccupied but I still hear a male singing so maybe there is time yet for a female to move in.
Harsher calls were heard on the 16th when I took a walk from Hacco down to the shore and it was impossible not to notice Oystercatchers fussing and flying around, no doubt with the intention of protecting young birds. Also on the walk I saw a Skylark with feed in its beak, obviously heading for a family close by.
Photo of Skylark by Gerry Cannon.
It's all about breeding at this time of year - it's a delight to look out of the window and see two or three baby Sparrows following a parent and begging for food, likewise Starlings who are trying to learn to fend for themselves as parents get on with a second brood.
Photo of Starling with nesting material by Gerry Cannon.
A wader perched on a fencepost is a sure sign that a brood it not too far away.
Photo of Redshank by Gerry Cannon.
Bird Report - May 2017
It was a nice start to the month when, on the 1st, I had news of a couple of interesting birds down the track to Sandside Bay. I was lucky that the birds were still showing so first the Black Redstart appeared.
(Black Redstart photo by Gerry Cannon)
I was then delighted to see the Whitethroat almost at the top of the track and posing very well so I had a lovely view of it. These birds were 'firsts' for me. Also flying around were Swallows and a handful of Sand Martins. A Robin and a Wren completed the picture.
Also on the 1st 2 Chiffchaffs and 3 Wheatears were seen in the Lighthouse Quarry Garden.
Quite a lot of Swallows are displaying now, looking for likely nest sites. Nancy Scott reported a couple investigating the byre and is delighted that House Martins have arrived back from their long journey after wintering in Africa. Soon they will start the task of nest-building under the eaves. (I notice House Martins are also present again at the new houses in Toab).
On May 12th during my beached birds survey at Newark I counted at least 100 Ringed Plovers on the beach, then driving down the Oback road I spotted 2 Jackdaws also the inevitable Swallows.
I was at Sandside Bay on the 13th when the rough seas attracted a host of waders - Turnstone, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sanderling then as I reached the end of the bay near the fish farm there were 8 Knot which was especially nice to see as these birds do not seem to be so common. I also saw my first Bonxie of the season though not, I suspect, the last! As I walked back up the track 2 Linnets flew into one of the bushes, the red breast of the male showing up well.
On a walk down the track from Hacco early in the month I saw a Skylark rising singing its unmistakable tune. Two Wheatears, 5 Hares and 1 Rabbit completed my tally this evening.
I had a most enjoyable - though very windy - walk later in the month down the track to Gritley then up the Geo Road and back home via the main road. Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlews & Lapwings were very vocal and a few Rabbits entertained me. Just a few Arctic Terns were on the wing and it was lovely to see 2 of the bigger Sandwich Terns overhead. As I neared the bottom of the track there was a small group of young cattle in the field getting much attention from 8 Swallows which were flying round and round. Two landed on the fence post and what a gorgeous close view I had of them.
I wondered if the birds do this as they require mud for nest-building and perhaps associate cattle with mud? Coming back along the main road there was a Wheatear in the field and a Skylark was perched on a wall with a tasty morsel in its beak so obviously youngsters around.
The migrants seem to be a little late arriving this year, maybe due to the cold spring, but keep an eye out as there could be something worth seeing any time soon!
Bird Report - April 2017
It was a nice start to the month when a Siskin took the opportunity to feed on peanuts in the back garden. Better still, another Siskin was pecking at seed right in front of the back door and obligingly posed for my camera.
Photo of Siskin taken by Pauline Wilson.
Bramblings have also brightened up my day with two separate birds visiting Sunnybank.
Mary Wylie reported another colourful bird - a Goldfinch was on her sunflower seed feeder.
Also vying for most colourful bird of the month was the Robin which paid a visit to us on the 3rd.
I was walking along the main road near home on the 18th when I saw 2 Linnets landing on the fence. Always nice to see these little birds, the males of this species can also be very colourful.
I was alerted by a familiar sound on the 27th and looked skywards to see about 50 Golden Plovers flying over, calling as they went.
Bird watcher Ian Cunningham was at Sandside Bay on the 14th and, after seeing a few Redwings, he was rewarded by the sight of a Ring Ouzel in the field. I was at Sandside on the same day but missed this bird unfortunately.
Nest Building/breeding is now going on in earnest. We have Starlings, House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Blackbirds and the Wren seems to be making progress on moving a partner into the elaborate nest he has built in our byre.
Soon the Swallows and House Martins will be arriving and seeking somewhere to raise their families. Nancy Scott will be hoping to see the House Martins back again as they are very entertaining to watch as they fly back and forth to the nest prior to the youngsters also taking to the wing. Waders, too, will probably have young by now and it is lovely to see the Lapwings calling and diving as they protect their young. We have an Oystercatcher back in our field but I fear the dead bird I found last year (ringed near Morecambe) may have been the mate to this one so I hope it is able to pair up again.
We took a short walk at Dingieshowe recently and admired the Primroses and Bluebells which lined our path.
It was a shock to wake up to snow near the end of April! I presume it was a shock for the birds also.
Gerry Cannon caught a surprised Oystercatcher trying to feed amongst the white stuff! Luckily a thaw quickly set in so it was a crisis averted!
Photo of Oystercatcher by Gerry Cannon.
Ian Cunningham again ventured into Deerness on the 30th and was thrilled to see a group of Sandwich Terns. Less common in Orkney than the Arctic Terns which are being seen now, the Sandwich Tern has longer feathers on its topknot and has a yellow tip to its black bill resembling butter (hence Sandwich Tern).
Photo of Sandwich Tern by Ian Cunningham
Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Wheatears should be easy to see now but May heralds the arrival of migrants as they pass through the county en route to their breeding grounds.
Plenty to tempt us out and about!