Bird Report - December 2014

Well another year ends and, bird-wise, there is not much to report, mainly because of the awful weather we have been having recently.

The Rooks I mentioned last time are still moving around the parish. I have seen them in our field on several occasions. Greylag Geese are to be seen also but there doesn't seem quite so many as usual.

Also still around (on the 14th) is the Grey Phalarope which is reported to be still at the Geo slip. I haven't seen this myself but will take a look next time I am there.

Another species still flitting about at the Geo end of Newark is a small group of Twite which must be finding something interesting to feed on as they investigate the plants along the shore.

Driving down the Newhouse Road on December 4th it was nice to see a Hen Harrier out hunting in the field above the Links. Another raptor - this time a Kestrel - was hard to mistake as it hovered above Moira Eunson's top field right at the side of the road.

We had an unusual sighting on the 11th of 2 Skylarks on the lawn in front of our house. I think the atrocious weather had brought them out of their usual habitat as they searched for food. 


Skylark by Ian Cunningham.

We have had a lot of Blackbirds in the field at the front of the house - one day I counted ten, along with a Redwing. These will have been migrant birds.

In the garden our great number of House Sparrows and, to a lesser extent, Starlings have been joined by a host of Greenfinches eager to get at the sunflower seeds I scatter on the lawn each day. I am also feeding currants, bread, porridge oats, peanuts and dried meal worms just now, as well as apples which attract the Blackbirds. A male Chaffinch seems to have joined the flock also as I have noticed this for several days now and, of course, a Robin is adding a nice Christmas touch!

While out spotting birds at Sandside Bay on the 21st one birdwatcher was lucky enough to see at least 4 Orca Whales before they headed off to the north.

That's all to report this time. Remember to feed the birds and help them through the winter months - there's a long way to go yet before spring!

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - November 2014

Before we make a start on November's birds, Isobel Gardner rang me to say it had slipped her mind to report a Grey Phalarope at the Geo, Newark. In December 2007 there was a Grey Phalarope which remained at the Geo for several days and had a succession of admirers coming to see it - I even managed to record a short film of the little bird.

Nov bird picture

Photo of Grey Phalarope by Pauline Wilson.

November's main theme has been 'flocks'. When I did my beached birds survey at Sandside there were hundreds of Starlings feeding among the tangles and lots more were perched on the hydro wires. Just below Creya 120 Greylag Geese were feeding in the field.

On the beach I watched 12 Turnstones and a single Purple Sandpiper resting on the rocks while - ever busy - a Wren was investigating tussocks at the back of the beach.

On November 16th a group of 16 Fieldfares flew over Deerness Stores making their 'chuckling' sound as they went. Reaching home I found 80 Rooks in the field at Sunnybank. A lot of juveniles were among them; they haven't yet acquired the distinctive grey colouring around the beak. These corvids have been hanging around various locations in the parish for a few weeks.

November 4th saw 100 Rock Doves in our paddock while, the field down from the Deerness shop held a huge flock of Starlings and a big group of Greylags. As I took Daisy a drive round Deerness we spotted yet another big flock of birds, this time Common Gulls enjoying the flooded conditions in the field opposite Braemar.

A drive down the road to Newark produced 6 Snipe flying off, 20 Rooks were in the field with a flock of Geese flying over Newark. By their high-pitched sound they included Pinkfooted Geese among their numbers.

On November 18th a small bird flew out of the bushes at Daisy Aitken's. This turned out to be a tiny Goldcrest. Isobel Gardner also reported a male Goldcrest in her garden so keep an eye out for these charismatic visitors.

As usual at this time of year several rarer birds have been reported in Deerness:

There was a Redstart at Newark Bay on November 4th;

A Mistle Thrush was at Diamonds;

A Jack Snipe was seen near the Covenanters Memorial with another at Deer Sound along with 47 Snipe; 13 Snow Buntings were near here also;

3 Whooper Swans near Diamonds;

10 Redwing by Halley Farm with lots of Blackbirds;

Finally, a few Waxwings are now being reported so it's time to put out the apples and have binoculars close to hand to view these stunning winter visitors.

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - October 2014

Migrants are the main news at this time of year and Deerness has had its fair share of these.

Here at Sunnybank our garden has hosted several - a female Chaffinch was pecking at seed on the lawn; 6 Siskins flew up the lane in front of the car flashing their yellow rumps as they went; 3 Redwing were in the back garden which was unusual as they are normally seen in fields; a Goldcrest stunned itself by flying into our window but this story has a happy ending as, after being put in a fishbox to recover, the tiny bird flew away.

I was lucky to have been invited on two bird ringing sessions at the East Denwick Plantation near the Mull Head Visitor Centre. First was early evening so not much time before dusk set in. However, a nice variety of species were ringed: Robin, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Linnet, Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock and Lesser Whitethroat - a bird new to me.

On October 8th it was back to East Denwick where 38 birds were ringed:

18 Backcaps,


  • (photo of Blackcap by Pauline Wilson)
  • 5 Goldcrests,
  • 4 Blackbirds,
  • 2 Redwings,
  • 2 Song thrush,
  • 1 Chiffchaf,
  • 1 Wood Pigeon - a surprise catch! -
  • 1 Robin,
  • a colourful Brambling,
  • 1 Reed Warbler, and
  • 2 Yellow-browed Warblers which were the stars of the show!

yellow browed warbler

(photo of Yellow-browed Warbler by Pauline Wilson)

So you never know what's hiding in the bushes!

Many other species are now either wintering here in Orkney or passing through and there are a number of reports from our parish.

Julian Branscombe was lucky to have a trip to Copinsay where quite a number of birds were to be seen, mostly in the crop planted especially to attract them: 8 Brambling, 40 Twite, 30 Linnet, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Siskin, 5 Chaffinch, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Blackcap, 2 Goldcrest, 4 Blackbird, 5 Redwing, 25 Song thrush, 5 Robin, 2 Wren, 1 Dunnock, 1 Water Rail, 1 Jack Snipe. There were also 3 bonxies over the island, 1 Peregrine flying north, 1 Hen Harrier hunting over the bird crop, 1 Golden Plover, 15 Skylark, 25 Rock Pipits, 4 Meadow Pipits. Quite an afternoon!

At the Mull Head Visitor Centre a 2 Whinchats  and a Stonechat were spotted,

Mull Head is a fine place for a walk, also to spot birds. 7 Snow Buntings and a Hen Harrier were seen on October 22nd. Earlier in the month a female Merlin was hunting over the rough ground while 2 Knots  were among a small flock of Turnstones below the cliffs; 3 Bonxies and a Wheatear were also to be seen.

It's always worth a peek into the Lighthouse Quarry. On October 19th the trees held 2 Blackcap, 4 Goldcrest and 3 Chiffchaff. I hope they were alert as a male Sparrowhawk was also in the vicinity!

The road down to Sandside Bay revealed 1 Stonechat, 1 Blackcap and a small amount of Thrushes.

Watch out also for Greylag Geese, Pinkfooted Geese and Barnacle Geese if you are lucky. Also arriving just now are the handsome Whooper Swans - it's a great sight and sound to see these flying past, trumpeting as they go.

What a lot of migrants are around. Many, of course, are leaving our shores. I saw my last Swallow at Sunnybank on October 2nd. This will by now be well on its way to South Africa.

Closer to home, there has been a little Wren poking aboutthe garden for a while now and I see the occasional Robin to add a bit of colour to our usual flock, but even more colourful was a male Pheasant looking most handsome before disappearing over the wall.

There's lots to see at this time of year so enjoy!

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - September 2014

St Ninian's Bird Report - September 2014

One of our most common birds gives us a pointer to the fact that the year is wearing on, namely the Starling, as they are now acquiring their winter coats and this year's juveniles are shedding their brown plumage for the more familiar spotted garb. Speaking of juveniles, we have quite a number of young Blackbirds around at Sunnybank so they must have had a successful breeding season.

As I made my way down to Newark early in the month I noted a Wheatear on the fencepost, and several more were to follow as the month wore on as they get ready to leave our shores for the winter.

On reaching Newark 3 Pied Wagtails and 2 Rock Pipits were on the beach while 6 Swallows were swooping overhead. 6 Sanderling were at the water's edge. Walking back along the path a Red Admiral Butterfly was flitting amongst the vegetation. Lovely to see around 20 Twite feeding on sow thistles at the top of the shore.

The following day I was at Sandside Bay for a beached birds survey and, once again, 3 Pied Wagtails were in evidence. Also on the beach were 2 Oystercatchers (which will probably spend the winter further south) a single Bar-Tailed Godwit and a Redshank keeping each other company. Further along yet another Wheatear posed on Sidney's boat slip

I have seen a variety of raptors during the month starting with a Hen Harrier which was out and about at Sunnybank on the 1st; on the 15th I watched a Merlin darting past Little Halley and the day after a Kestrel hovered in the sky near Ashley Rosie's.

Swallows have been very much in evidence. Quite a number have been flying around Keith Eunson's oat crop - the sight and sounds of Swallows seem to abound as they feed so as to be ready for the long journey ahead of them.

A Walk down the track from Hacco to the shore was quite productive, starting with a flock of 150 Curlew, then 12 Golden Plover flew by. Once again, lots of Swallows, a notable number of Meadow Pipits, 2 Pied Wagtails and a couple of Wheatear - I had a lovely view as one landed on a fencepost just a few feet away from me.


Deerness is a magnet for serious birdwatchers during the migrants season and recently several rarer birds have been reported in our parish:

A Pectoral Sandpiper opposite the pool at the Barns of Ayre;

A Red-breasted Flycatcher at the East Denwick Plantation;

At Halley several migrants - Yellow-browed Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, 2 Blackcaps, 1 Siskin;

2 Whinchat in the bushes in front of the Mull Head visitor centre;

An eagle-eyed birder managed to spot an American Golden Plover amongst a flock of 400 in a field below Creya.

Finally . . . .

Watch out for Fieldfare coming in from Scandinavia and Siberia, Redwing arriving from Northern and Easter Europe and Golden Plover flocks which are here already.

Pauline Wilson