Birdlife in Deerness - February 2014

This unusual bird was spotted locally this month - read Pauline Wilson's regular monthly bird report to find out its identity!

Photo of Blackbird by Pauline Wilson Photo of Blackbird by Pauline Wilson

Making themselves conspicuous just now are Blackbirds, many of which will be seeking out suitable nesting sites. In addition there are migrant Blackbirds travelling back through Orkney to their breeding grounds in Northern Europe. Accompanying these may be Redwings and Fieldfares also heading back east. Just today in the front field at Sunnybank I spied 6 Blackbirds, 2 Redwings and a solitary Fieldfare. They have been around for a day or two so obviously finding something tasty to eat before their long journey.

Another species I have noticed in quite large flocks are Rock Doves (the pigeon with a white rump) perhaps searching for rich pickings from flooded fields.

There are still plenty of Greylag Geese around as the time is not yet right for their departure from our isles. Earlier in the month a flock of around 150 was hanging around Staye for a day or two. On the 14th a huge gathering of several hundred rose in spectacular fashion from land behind Gritley.

On the 5th I was alerted to a large bird hunting in the back garden here at Sunnybank and, sure enough, it was a Hen Harrier doing the rounds but leaving empty-clawed!

Keith Hague regularly watches for birds in Deerness and he recently reported as follows: a Pale-bellied Brent Goose (1stwinter), Keigar, Deerness, 3rd Feb; 4 adult Little Gulls together, 1km SW of Halley, on 4th Feb.

I was at Newark on the 14th doing a Beached Birds Survey and it was good to hear the sounds of Rock Pipits as they explored the enormous piles of tangles stretching right across the beach.

Looking out to sea I was rewarded with a nice array of birds - 2 Goldeneye, 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Long-tailed Ducks in their smart plumage and 6 Eiders. On the shore it was nice to see that Oystercatchers have returned with 2 searching for food. In the distance I spotted Fulmars soaring just off the cliffs - these birds always seem to be the first seabird to find a nesting site and are the last to leave at the end of the breeding season.

(I found two dead Shags showing no apparent cause for their demise; more fatalities of this species have been found in other areas around the Orkney shores).

Finally, a more unusual sight this month. James and Netta Wylie contacted RSPB Orkney to say an unusual bird had been hanging around Thorden for a day or two. I was lucky that the bird was still there when I went along and it turned out to be a Blackbird with lots of white markings as my photo shows. This was leucistic which is a result of variations in pigmentation affecting the coloration of the feathers. Nice to see something a little different! 


Pauline Wilson

February 2014