Bird Report - February 2015

Early February saw me doing beach bird surveys, firstly at Newark Bay on the 5th, but, not only were there no dead birds, there were very few live ones either. Two Curlews were wheeling in the air above me while a few Rock Pipits pecked around on the beach and a Hooded Crow investigated the tangles.

Two days later I was at Sandside Bay and noticed 8 Curlews in the field as I walked down the track. A sizeable group of Pheasants - I suspect last year's youngsters - scattered in all directions, disturbing a hare as they went. The only birds on the shore were 3 Greater Black-backed Gulls. A few days later, though, a Little Gull was reported at Sandside which was a nice find for somebody.

Penny Russell told me about a white Goose among the flock of Greylags at the Barns of Ayre. I later saw this bird myself when the flock moved to Aikerskaill road. I suspect this is the same bird which has been coming to Orkney for a few years with the greylags and is either an albino or perhaps a domestic goose which has joined the flock.

Another stranger amongst a flock of Greylags was a Barnacle Goose which Ann Mitchell reported at Park House.

There are certainly a lot of Greylags about just now; I saw 200 at 'Staye' and in the field across the road; a flock was in the field above 'Ploverhall' along with the white goose; yet more were further along the road towards Aikerskaill; Annalene Delday reports Greylags making life difficult for her in one of her sheep fields at the peat road.

Another numerous species just now is the Starling as migrant birds join our locals. I was out looking for birds one day and a huge flock swooped right over the car. Quite a number of Hooded Crows are around also but mostly in twos and threes. These birds will be thinking about breeding soon and I suspect the Ravens will be well on the way as, to my knowledge, they are the first to breed.

I had another trip along the road towards Aikerskaill and two (separate) Hares were at the side of the road, both running into the field. Going down the Barns of Ayre road I counted 30 Oystercatchers (nice to see these back again) and 40 Curlews in the field at the bottom right. The field opposite held a small flock of Common Gulls but I was delighted to see an Iceland Gull feeding amongst them. The Iceland and Glaucous Gulls are difficult to differentiate between, both being all white, but I thought this particular bird was slightly smaller so plumped for it being an Iceland.

Mabel Eunson told me about a flock of about 40 Fieldfares in a field near Quoys so I popped round to take a look. From there I continued to the Barns of Ayre to look for the Iceland Gull but this had moved on unless it was amongst the huge flock of assorted Gulls feeding amongst the waves of the very high tide. Nearby were a few Teal and Wigeon and a pair of colourful Teal flew up from the pond in the nearby field.

Driving out of Deerness on the 20th there was a handsome male Hen Harrier on the hunt - it's always nice to see a raptor.

Here at Sunnybank we seem to have a resident group of Blackbirds - I counted 8 on the 16th. Meanwhile, in the back garden a bonny Dunnock made a brief appearance under the feeder. On the 24th a Cock Pheasant was in our front field harassing the Blackbirds before they chased him away!

Finally, I was hanging washing out on February 25th - a rare sunny morning - when I heard my first SKYLARK of the year so spring can't be all that far away!

Pauline Wilson