Bird Report - May 2018

As part of the Orkney Nature Festival the RSPB Local Group organised two trips into the Deerness Gloup courtesy of Sidney Foubister's boat Verona. This was greatly enjoyed by all who were lucky enough to get on the outing as the boat takes only seven people. The local group is to run further trips in June, also visiting the Holms of Copinsay to see puffins, other seabirds and seals.


Puffins in the water at the Holms taken by Henry Reitzug.

Back on dry land, quite a number of species are starting to reappear. Nice to see several Swallows exploring possible nesting sites at the Gloup while nearby Arctic Terns were flying about after their long journey back to our Northern Isles.

I had a walk down the track from Hacco to St. Peter's Pool and was fascinated to watch 4 Red-Breasted Mergansers in the sea comprising 3 females being hotly pursued by a displaying male. He certainly had plenty of choice!

Wheatears were noticeable as they looked for likely breeding places. Two were evident at Newark Bay on the 13th. Also present were lots of Gulls including many juveniles. I was fascinated to watch one in particular which had picked up a piece of detritus which it kept dropping then swooping to catch it again - it did this lots of times! I enquired about this behaviour but apparently the reason is unknown but they just might enjoy doing it!

The sounds of Skylarks has been particularly abundant this year; there is no finer sound of spring/early summer and it has been particularly poignant for me this year. Another sound that I particularly like is the drumming of a Snipe and I was lucky enough to hear one at the Knowes on the 13th and spotted the bird in the sky. The unusual sound is caused by wind rushing through the wings as the bird dives downward in display.

Another pleasing sight in Deerness has been Sand Martins which are breeding in the parish and I notice the House Martins are back at Nancy Scott's house.

Taking a walk on the 24th I came across a Guillemot sat on the shore at Newark. Recent windy conditions had caused the bird to overshoot its landing so it was stranded as the bird cannot take off from land. I was able to launch the bird into the water and hope it managed to swim out to sea safely.

Still at Newark walks are always accompanied by the loud piping sound of Ringed Plovers as they distract visitors from their young.

There has been a Red-Backed Shrike in the bushes at Sandside reported by Alan Leitch. When I was walking at Sandside I noticed quite a number of Green-veined White Butterflies.

At the Geo on the 27th it was nice to see Eider Chicks swimming with their 'aunties'. More were visible a few days later.

Of course I have to mention Meadow Pipits which are everywhere just now having arrived from their winter quarters in North Africa and busy rearing young in Orkney.

I haven't heard of many rarities but there was a Lesser Whitethroat at the East Denwick Plantation.

The more mundane species are breeding in good numbers here at Sunnybank. Starlings are making numerous journeys to young birds in the nest, beaks crammed with cranefly larva and other such goodies. Young Sparrows are already hatched and standing around begging for food with their wings whirring and mouths open.

If you are interested in plant-life a trip to Newark Beach is a good idea as the Oyster Plants are just beginning to open their gorgeous blue flowers. This year sees a good number of the pale green fleshy plants and it's certainly worth a trip to Newark to take a look.

Pauline Wilson