Bird Report - April 2020

Lots of yellow flowers around just now so I thought I would brighten up this report with photos of a few of them. Gerry Cannon captured this lovely photo of Coltsfoot which of course blooms well before the leaves; they appear quite a bit later.


I came across the lovely Primroses growing opposite Misker and the gorgeous Celandine is blooming in my own garden in great profusion.


marsh marigolds

I imagined I would be struggling for bird reports during lockdown but not so. On the 3rd I noticed there is Curlew activity near the end of Halley Road - in fact all the waders will be busy at breeding time with Lapwings fending off marauding crows, Oystercatchers seeking nesting sites as are Redshanks, Snipe, etc. Speaking of Snipe Isobel Gardener reported hearing one at the beginning of the month (I have yet to hear one).

A Hen Harrier has been including Deerness in its rounds - on the 3rd it was hunting over my small plantation before flying round the back of Little Halley then heading towards Halley Road. It repeated this itinerary on the 7th.

A pleasant walk with binoculars on the 4th produced Oystercatchers, Curlew, Redshank, 3 Twite which landed on the fence, while a Meadow Pipit was displaying. Also on view were Skylark, Hooded Crow, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a Starling.

Mic Hamer reports a Collared Dove on April 7th. At this time also you can't fail to see House Sparrows, Starlings, etc. etc. busy collecting nesting material.

Bees are also beginning to make their appearances; my flowering currant bush has been a great early source of feeding for the Bumble Bees.

Kathryn and Jonathan Southerington reported their first Swallow and Wheatear during a walk on the 8th, then the following day saw 2 more Wheatears and 2 Bonxies while on the shore 20 Purple Sandpipers were feeding - these will be moving on soon. When they reached home the couple were delighted to see a Sandwich Tern flying around opposite the Rocket Hoose.

Reports of Swallows began to come in - Marilyn Gowland saw one plus a flock of Golden Plovers in a field across from Halley Road then 2 more Swallows at New Horries the following day. Marilyn has also been enjoying watching 2 Gannets diving for fish off Halley Beach. More Swallow reports from Jill Sutcliffe while I saw my first of the year flying over Soligeo on the Geo Road.

Another morning walk on the 26th produced a Greenfinch on a fence up Halley Road and a Linnet on the fence above Gritley.

There was also a report of Shelducks on Ernie Skea's pond at Aikerskaill.

Finally the last - and undoubtedly my very  best - bird so far this year was a Pied Flycatcher which flew out of the little plantation and obligingly landed on the ornamental plough to give me a ringside view!

May will be a busy month as more birds will be nesting and rearing young so there should be plenty of birds to watch!

Bird Report - March 2020

Spring is sprung, the grass is ris

I wonder where the birdies is ?

The bird is on the wing

That's absurd 

I always thought the wing was on the bird!

Well at least the birds are on the wing which is more than can be said for most of us in these uncertain times. However March provided plenty of opportunities to see our feathered friends.

I have had a Redwing in my little tree plantation all winter. It was there at the beginning of March and was still out feeding on the 30th but will be saying goodbye soon.

During a walk at Newark Bay on the 8th I saw quite a lot of waders including Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers. Meanwhile at sea there were 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Shag.

On the 10th a Kestrel was at the bottom of Little Halley's field flying northwards. Later that day Mark Wick spotted a juvenile White-tailed Sea Eagle in a field adjacent to the DeernessDistillery - quite a sight which I wish I had been party to.

A few Robins have been feeding in my back garden, obviously singly as this species is not very neighbourly!

As I drove on the road around St. Peter's Pool on the 12th it was lovely to see a Short-eared Owl hunting in the nearby field.

Spring is in the air and, each time I walk down the lane from home,I hear a couple of Wrenscalling so maybe a family there before too long. They had a nest in the vicinity of Gritley last year. 

Skylark sounds are now accompanying walks. I heard the first of the season down the track from Halley Road. Since then, of course, they are to be heard in all parts of the parish and certainly brighten up a day. 

On March 12th Gerry Cannon visited Mull Head and reported a few varieties including a male Blackcap, a lot of Pink-footed and Greylag Geese, and 3 Redwings which would have been heading north for the summer.

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(Photo of Redwing by Gerry Cannon)

he also spotted 8 Hares which were too far away to ascertain if a boxing match was taking place! On the cliffs at Mull Head Gerry spotted a Raven (which was sporting a leg ring) also its mate was sat on the nest.

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(Photo of Raven by Gerry Cannon).

I was pleased to see an Oystercatcher back in my field. There are one or two there every year and I am presuming this is the same bird and hope a mate will arrive before too long.

Back also are Lesser Black-backed Gulls which introduce their presence with raucous cries! Another noisy species are the Black-headed Gulls which, as their name implies, are easy to identify.

A first sighting for me this year was on a sunny morning when my attention was distracted from the Skylarks to watch a Meadow Pipit putting on an impressive display for a potential mate. 

Yes breeding time is here again and Starlings will be searching for ever more inventive nest sites so please make sure to look under car bonnets before driving off first thing in the morning!

Bird spotting might be more challenging from now on for quite a while so I would appreciate it if people can report their sightings to me on 741382. Thanks.

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - February 2020

It's not surprising that there were fewer birds to be seen during this month of gales and rain but raptors have featured quite strongly, starting off at the beginning of the month when I spotted a Kestrel hovering above Clarke Ross's house at Newark. A lovely sighting of an unmistakable bird.

Kestrel hover

photo of kestrel hovering by Ian Cunningham

On the 5th a Kestrelflew over Groenvin and up the field. I presumed this would have been the same bird. 

On the 6th I had a report from Kathryn and Jonathan Southerington at the Rocket Hoose of a female Merlin plucking then eating a late lunch just a few yards from their window. What a sight!

Merlin F

photo of Merlin by Ian Cunningham

The very next day I had a glimpse of a Hen Harrier as it flew around a corner of the house before flying off.

To round things off Annalene Delday reported not one but TWO Short-eared Owls perched on nearby fence posts in the Mirkady area. A lovely sight indeed. It's likely they found a good food source! 

(For those interested there is a 'Short-eared owls in Orkney' site on Facebook which posts stunning photos of the birds, so please take a look).

Not a lot more to report - you didn't have far to look to find Geese. On the 24th there were about 70 in one of the fields leading down to Skaill. It was about half-and-half Greylags and Pinkfooteds.

During a walk at Sandside Bay there were no birds to report but heartening to see Celandines in bud by the babbling burn so spring is surely not too far away!

There are quite a number of Pheasants to be seen just now in fields and gardens. Quite a number in the fields by the road leading to Mirkady.

Birds in the garden during February have been my 3 pals the Blackbirds still coming by for grapes; Robins have regularly been investigating the back garden. Of course there has been no shortage of Starlings and House Sparrows not to mention the pesky Rock Doves!

I have had a Dunnock for quite a while now, watching it when I throw feed onto the ground. I was thrilled the other day to see 2 Dunnocks which were sticking closely together so I am hopeful they are a pair. Watch this space!

On the very last day of this short month - though longer this year - I was driving past the Rocket Hoose when I saw a flock of Lapwings in the field. Their distinctive wings quickly identify this species. Yes I think spring is just around the corner!

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - December 2019

There is not too much to report this month but I had nice sightings at Sunnybank on the first day of December with a Dunnock feeding on the lawn and a Robin hopping around. It is always nice to see these particular two and, in fact, I was treated to more viewings as I saw a Robin on the 8th, 9th, 12th and 21st while the Dunnock made more appearances on the 16th and 22nd.

During a walk from Newark to the Barns of Ayre on December 1st I could not fail to see a group of Wigeon near the bridge over the burn. These are easily distinguished by their whistling call.

Encouraged by this I repeated the walk the following day. There were approximately 60 waders on the sands, mostly a mixture of Sanderling and Ringed Plovers with a handful of Oystercatchers further along the beach. Travelling on the path the Wigeon were still near the burn whistling away and a small gathering of Greater Black Backed Gulls were on the rocks at the water's edge. A screech announced a Grey Heron which was patrolling the area looking for prey and a few Rock Pipits were, unsurprisingly, bobbing around the rocks.

Looking inland I counted around 150 Greylag Gulls in the field.

There have been noticeable numbers of Starlings around recently, I suspect numbers have been swelled by birds wintering in Orkney. Flocks have been wheeling around - a great sight - before landing and weighing down the Hydro wires.

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(Photo of flock of Starlings at Newark by Gerry Cannon).

There were strong gales on the 11th when my bird feeder blew over trapping a House sparrow. I lifted the feeder to remove the body and was amazed when the little bird flew off! What a lucky escape.

Back to the garden and 2 Collared Doves paid a visit on the 12th. A nice change from the many Rock Doves which are always on the lookout for an easy feed.

On December 15th I happened to glance out of the front window to see a line of 8 Whooper Swans flying by. I rushed to the door to hear the magical 'whooping' sound but they had quickly vanished!

There are still Blackbirds and Redwings sheltering in my small plantation and emerging into the field to feed. On the 22nd there were 6 Blackbirds and 2 Redwing.

Marlene Rorie alerted me to a dead Skate at the Geo which is an unusual sight. Isobel Gardner saw this also, estimating it to be around 3ft. across so quite a size.

IMG 3501

(The photo was taken by Tracy Davies)

I hope folk are continuing to give feed and water to the birds during the winter. Surely spring cannot be far behind as I notice my Snowdrops and Daffodils are poking their heads through - lovely.

Pauline Wilson