Bird Report - August 2015

I had a walk at Sandside Bay at the very start of August and was rewarded with a juvenile Ringed Plover whose parent was doing its best to distract my attention away from the youngster. Later on the same day it was nice to see a Short-eared Owl fly past Sunnybank.

On August 5th I was delighted to see a Song Thrush on the back lawn. We still have the Collared Doves coming to the feeder so I think these are going to be a fixture now. I heard a commotion high up in the sky and saw two small birds harassing a raptor which was too far away to identify.

There are a few Pied Wagtails around now and one was wagging away in the front garden on the 9th. The following day a flock of Curlews were flying around in the sky at the front of the house.

Passing The Links on an evening walk on August 11th, there was a Pied Wagtail, with a juvenile and both were unfazed by horses grazing nearby. As I reached the beach area I counted 13 Sanderling wheeling along the beach, sporting their summer plumage. There were Swallows a-plenty and, as I passed Cellardyke, 4 Twite perched on the wire were part of a larger group, most having flown down into the long grass.

A repeat of my walk the following evening saw 24 Linnets on the Hydro wire below Jean Corsie's. On the beach were a mixed flock of Sanderlings and Turnstones while a juvenile Greater Black-back looked on.

I had a walk down to the shore from Hacco on the 14th and noticed 2 Ravens were busying themselves on the path ahead. Once again Swallows accompanied my walk and, as I reached the bottom of the path, I could see a lone Whooper Swan in the water of Deer Sound.

I was lucky to have a trip to Copinsay on August 16th, sadly a little too late for the majority of birds. However, we did see one Puffin also two Black Guillemots, both these birds flying off carrying fish.

There were plenty of Shags and Cormorants which seemed to have had a successful breeding season.

Peter and I had a run out on the 24th looking for migrants but we had limited luck. I had a quick view of a Red-backed Shrike on the wire near the track going down to Sandside Bay. There was a large flock of Lapwings in a field near the Mull Head Visitor Centre car park. Driving up from Skaill a Wheatear was unmistakeable with its white rump, while a Meadow Pipit was on the fence and two Pied Wagtails flew alongside us in the field.

Early morning on the 25th I saw a different bird flitting about the lawn, then flying up into the trees, and identified it as a bonny Willow Warbler but the bird didn't stay for long, disappearing when our 'gang' of Greenfinches and House Sparrows arrived. Later in the morning I was taking Daisy Aitken to the Deerness shop when a Merlin was dashing around. This is the smallest of our raptors so easy to identify.

There was a particularly exciting migrant down at Sandside Bay on August 23rd, namely, a Wryneck.

There have been a number of reports of migrants around our parish:

Keith Hague says: A juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper was feeding with Dunlin on pools at Braebuster Ness, Deerness yesterday, but flew off as I was changing batteries on the camera!  There were 22 Black-tailed Godwits at Newark on the 16th. A single Greenshank was seen in Deerness on the 1st, 17th and 21st.

Morris Rendall was in Deerness on the 22nd and saw a Red-backed Shrike down the road to Sandside Bay. 2 Whinchat at the Mull Head visitor centre. Spotted flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike at Aikerskaill down the road to the Barns of Ayre. The previous day he saw 2 Ruff in the pools at the Barns of Ayre. Morris returned to Deerness on the 24th to find the Red-Backed Shrike was still down the Sandside track. He saw a Pied Flycatcher and a Lesser Whitethroat at the East Denwick plantation. There was a Whinchat at the visitor centre, 2 Greenshank on the pool at the Barns of Ayre and no less than 11 Whinchat along the road that runs from the Barns of Ayre road to Newark Bay road.

The easterly winds have brought us plenty to see in Deerness just now!

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - July 2015

We had a nice sighting at the beginning of the month when on a walk down the track to Sandside Bay; no less than 5 Wrens crossed the path and flew into the bushes - obviously a family group. It is very rare to visit Sandside and not hear or see a Wren, either down by the burn which runs alongside the track or on the beach. It's a tough little cookie and seems unfazed by exposed situations. On the same day there was a Snipe on a fencepost which indicates chicks nearby. It's a pleasure to walk down the track to Sandside just now as there are lots of Wild flowers in bloom and worth the walk just to see them.

(Photo of Early Marsh Orchid at Sandside by Pauline Wilson)

I had a walk down to Dingieshowe and passed the field near the bottom of the hill which had recently been cut for silage. I counted 100 Oystercatchers, several Lapwings, Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls with Starlings also joining in the frantic dig for food. Just before the car park three small birds flew into view which turned out to be 2 Meadow Pipits and a male Linnet which was sporting a lovely red breast. There were no birds on the beach at Dingieshowe but quite a number of Fulmars were sat on the cliffs in the far distance. I believe they are the last species to leave the breeding cliffs.

Of course, it has been a disastrous year for farmers so a lot of fields remain uncut making bird-spotting more difficult than normal.

No problem on our front lawn though as 3 Oystercatchers were pecking about and a look through the binoculars confirmed that one was a juvenile bird hatched this year. A new species for us at Sunnybank is the Collared Dove and we now regularly have two of these visiting our feeder.

Easily seen just now are Meadow Pipits and Swallows; both species will be feeding young.

On July 19th I had a run to the Gloup Car Park and immediately saw a pair of Linnets, the male's red breast being hard to miss. Two Hooded Crows were on the road and these were being angrily harassed by a Lapwing who obviously had chicks in the nearby field.

Once again, plenty of Meadow Pipits were flying about. I had a sighting of a Pied Wagtail while a Curlew was perched on a fence-post, obviously keeping an eye on a family of chicks.

I had a nice trip with RSPB Orkney to the Holms of Copinsay and Sidney Foubister steered the boat to the best spots to see wildlife. There were Seals a-plenty, posing nicely for our cameras. Quite a number of Puffins came close to our boat and we saw Guillemots, Razorbills, Tysties, Shags, Bonxies, and a few Arctic Terns. It was a fine way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

(Photo of Puffins by Pauline Wilson)

I must say I have not seen one juvenile Blackbird so far this year. I wonder why? Could it be cats? I just don't know. Blackbirds do seem to nest in vulnerable places. Plenty of young Starlings, Sparrows, Greenfinches though so we still have plenty to see when we look out of the back window.

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - June 2015

On a visit to Newark Bay on June 7th I noticed the unusual sight of 3 Sanderlings in summer plumage. This bird is usually a winter visitor and these birds looked very different from the pale grey ones we normally see. They scurried off down to the water's edge on my approach. There was a Pied Wagtail on the beach and, as I walked back along the top path a pair of Meadow Pipits flew from what I assumed was a nest.

I then went to Sandside and was accompanied by the sound of a singing Skylark as I walked down the path - what a lot of Skylarks there have been this year. This skylark song blended into the noisy call of Oystercatchers as I reached the shore. Two Ravens flew side-by-side while a pair of Meadow Pipits danced in the air together. There were 40 Oystercatchers on the shore, also 20 Common Gulls while a notable number of Greater black-backed Gulls flew overhead. More Sanderling in summer plumage - a total of 5 this time and 2 Swallows were in the air. As I walked along the shore 2 Grey Seals watched me closely. When I reached the far end of the beach (towards the fish farm) there were two Ringed Plovers making a great fuss and trying to lead my astray - obviously young somewhere nearby.

On June 5th 2 Spotted Flycatchers were seen in the Lighthouse Quarry Gardens, then another was seen at the same location on the 16th.

I hadn't seen a Short-eared Owl for quite a while so it was nice to see one on a fencepost just past Dingieshowe at the beginning of the month.

On the 12th a Sparrowhawk landed in the garden here at Sunnybank before flying off, frightening the resident birds in the process! The next day, however, I spotted the bird flying past the window with a small creature dangling from its claws - not so lucky this time. We have had another visit from this raptor so are obviously part of its daily rounds.

I had a walk to the shore from Halley Road on June 15th and caught sight of two Shelducks down by the water's edge. On my walk back up 2 Meadow Pipits were perched on fence posts patiently holding insects in their beaks to feed to nearby youngsters.

While I was at the Mull Head Visitor Centre on the 23rd I heard a Snipe making its distinctive drumming sound.

June is a particularly busy time of year as birds are busy breeding and youngsters can now be seen just about anywhere. Just out of our back window I can readily see young Starlings, Sparrows (just watch the whirring wings as they beg for food), Blackbirds. Today I noticed several juvenile Greenfinches patiently following their dad around.

We have had a Wren flying out of the goat house with great regularity and I guessed there was a nest but a search revealed nothing. It was only when the youngsters were ready to fledge that I was in the building when a wren flew in with insects and it perched in front of a hole in the wall to feed the brood. I was so lucky to see this as the nest was so well-hidden.

Nancy & Alan Scott have three nests on the outside of their house which will be House Martins so that's an excellent sighting. Swallows have always nested inside their buildings but House Martins are much rarer in Orkney so you never know what birds will stop and spend a little time in Deerness!

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - May 2015

Watch out for Wheatears, Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Swallows - all easily seen just now. Black-headed Gulls are also noticeable with their smart dark chocolate-coloured heads.

I was watching a Wheatear at Quoybelloch on May 8th as it poked around for some considerable time.

Breeding is in full swing just now. A Wren is making its presence felt here at Sunnybank and I heard one at Sandside Bay just today.

Starlings are being particularly difficult this year. We have two nest boxes on the garage wall and already there are young in one of them. However, nesting sites must be at a premium this year for, whenever the garage door is opened, in flies a Starling!

There is a Blackbird on a nest in the goat-house so we are being careful not to disturb her.

Oystercatchers are to be seen in pairs and, just today, I spotted a Lapwing with a juvenile which was trying to hide from my gaze!

I visited the Gloup today and noticed lots of Linnets flying around and landing on the fence as I drove along the road. I was able to admire the red breasts of the males of the species. I have rarely seen so many Linnets where they weren't part of a flock. Also noticeable were the many Swallows dipping and diving. They will be looking for nesting places in the barns and buildings. Just over the fence it was nice to see a Skylark on the ground rather than serenading us from the air.

As I approached the Gloup a dozen Rock Doves flew out. I wonder if they have nests in there?

A Black Guillemot (or Tystie) flew the length of the Gloup and landed just below where I was stood so I could clearly see the bird's red gape as it opened its beak. These birds breed in the Gloup, along with Shags. Sidney Foubister took a boatload of people into the Gloup then up the coast to Mull Head and they saw Guillemots, Razorbills - and the bird everyone wants to see - Puffins.

A friend took a walk at Mull Head early in May and was surprised to see 6 Jackdaws close to the trig point. He was disappointed to see only a few Auks (Guillemots, Razorbills, etc) and only 2 Kittiwakes. A couple of Bonxies were on patrol and plenty of Meadow Pipits were to be seen.

There should be rarer birds passing through Deerness so keep a look out.

Pauline Wilson