Bird Report - February 2018
It's always nice to see a Robin in the garden so February was a bonus for me as I saw one on many occasions. On the 16th two were under the feeder - you rarely see two Robins together apart from the breeding season as they are feisty little birds and don't like competition! Mealworms are a favourite so it's a good idea to throw a few on the ground; today I saw a one feeding on an apple.
Photo of Robin by Ian Cunningham.
I threw out food on the front path on February 3rd and it wasn't long before 3 Hooded Crows located it - I am always amazed where the birds come from as soon as a morsel is thrown out, particularly Gulls which seem to have a sixth sense!
A walk at Newark Bay on the 3rd saw a large group of Wigeon and Mallards out at sea. A lot of Oystercatchers were in the adjacent field, obviously back from their winter quarters (although in view of the weather at the end of the month they would have been better delaying their return as the ground was frozen and no beaks would have been able to penetrate it). As I walked back to the car I spotted a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in the bay.
I was walking up the road from Newark on the 4th - a lovely day with blue skies - when I was amazed to hear a Skylark singing from high up in the air. This is very early but my ears did not deceive me as only a few days later a group of the species was in Russell's field and once again singing was taking place - lovely to hear.
Around Sunnybank on the 13th and 16th we had the inevitable Robin, 2 Redwings were in the field and 6 Greenfinches added a splash of colour.
I took another walk at Newark with my dog on the 18th and was treated to fine views of a variety of waders - Oystercatchers, Purple Sandpipers, Sanderling, Turnstones and 15 Knot. Also included in the tally were Wigeon, Mallard and a Glaucous Gull feeding on a dead seal. Glaucous Gulls are identified by being pure white apart from pale grey wings (no black).
It's always a pleasure to see a Dunnock so I smiled when I spotted one pecking around under a tree in the garden - this is a typical scenario for them.
There was a nice end to the month when I was lucky to catch a quick look at a Goldfinch as it flew past the house the landed on the gate before flying off again. A lovely colourful bird as our photo shows.
Photo of Goldfinch on teasel plants by Alan Cooper.
The extreme weather at the end of the month and into March caused great difficulties for our birds so it's even more important to give them a helping hand until the bad weather eases. In addition to bird feed and peanuts cooked rice and soaked bread are both good as are apples, pears, grapes, sultanas, oats. I put out fat balls but notice that these were untouched, probably because these had become frozen in the extremely low temperatures. Equally important is water and this should be renewed each morning or more frequently if this is freezing during the day.
Let's hope things will have warmed up significantly by the time I write my next report.
Bird Report - November 2017
I am starting this month's report with an omission from October, accompanied by this photo taken by Henry Reitzug. I had a phone call from my neighbour Anne Reitzug to say a bird had landed on their patio at Little Halley but she wasn't sure what was looking in the window at her dogs! It turned out to be a young Shag which had been blown off course, hence the unscheduled landing. Anne and I managed to capture the bird, take it to the Geo and release it. It was nice to see the Shag happily swim off, none the worse for it's experience.
On a walk down the track towards Lower Gritley on November 1st I startled a Snipe which flew off I have seen a number of these birds during the month - they make themselves obvious as they take sudden flight with a loud cry.
A nice sight down the same track was a group of 10 Whooper Swans calling as they went - lovely.
Another Whooper Swan didn't have such luck though. Richard Falconer found a dead bird on Newark Beach and it was sporting a leg ring. It turns out the Swan was ringed in Dumfries and Galloway in 2013 when it was aged at least 2 years.
Not too much else to report. I had a Black Cap on apples on November 4th.
There was a big flock of Wigeon at St. Peter's Pool on the 19th - they are easily identified by their distinctive whistle. The males have a bright yellow head stripe.
I walked the dog down the Geo Road, along the short and back up Newark Road but there was not a lot about until I reached Jean Corsie's house at The Links. Two Twite were busying themselves among plants in the dyke; a Robin was in the garden and 2 Snipe made haste in the opposite field.
Speaking of Robins there seem to be quite a number about this winter; nice to see in the festive season. A Happy Christmas to you all!
Bird Report - October 2017
There has been plenty to see for the serious birders in Deerness during October but first for the more mundane!
To carry on from September, early in the month still saw Wheatears, Pied Wagtails and straggler Swallows thinking about making their exit from Orkney.
A walk at Newark on the 6th saw 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, also a Heron as well as Sanderling on the beach. Another walk from Newark to the Barns saw 1 Black-tailed Godwit and 3 Herons making their presence felt.
On the 8th there was a solitary Goldcrest in the rosa rugosa at Sunnybank. It's always nice to catch a glimpse of Britain's smallest bird as it flits about making its quiet but distinctive call.
There have been two visits from Dunnock in the back garden, on the 13th and the 22nd.
It was nice to see a Songthrush in Daisy Aitken's garden on the 19th while Redwing were present at Sunnybank on the same day.
Barely a day has gone by without a Robin pecking around our back garden and, during a recent walk, it was evident there had been an influx of these feisty birds.
I had a nice walk at Newark on the 20th and was treated to a stunning display of Gannets diving (adults and juveniles which are dark).An unconcerned Seal swam lazily on this pleasant day..
A mixed flock of birds near Glenavon was disturbed when a male Hen Harrier flew amongst them and they were quickly dispersed!
Driving down the Geo road I was alerted to a flock of visiting Fieldfares while Golden Plovers and Lapwings were in Keith Eunson's field at the bottom of Halley Road.
On to the rarities . . .
I was lucky on the 29th to see a Firecrest which had been spending a little time in the Lighthouse Quarry - a colourful little bird (bigger and brighter than its Goldcrest cousin) this was a first for me.
Morris Rendall took this splendid photo of the bird.
Another rarity was seen at the Lighthouse Quarry, namely a Tree Creeper.
Once again Morris Rendall was ready with his camera to take this photo.
More sightings at the quarry were: Yellow- browed warbler and 2 Goldcrests.
Sandside Bay has seen its share of migrant birds in October - on the 22nd Morris Rendall reported as follows: 2 Stonechat, 3 Goldcrest, Blackcap, Redwings, and Snow Bunting on the beach. Birder Ian Cunningham visited Sandside Bay and spotted a Buzzard with red wing tags.
Moving on to East Denwick, species reported there by Alan Leitch include Red-backed Shrike, Woodcock and a French-ringed Blackbird which added interest. Completing the picture at East Denwick were Brambling, Robin, Goldcrests, about 65 Redwing and two Thrushes.
So October proved to be a busy month for our feathered friends!
Bird Report - September 2017
You couldn't fail to notice Swallows during September as they fed voraciously to build up their strength in readiness for their long journey ahead. I imagine some delayed leaving until their broods were sufficiently grown to undertake this which would account for some being spotted well into October. I look forward to their return in the spring.
Two other species you couldn't fail to notice have been Pied Wagtails and Wheatears - once again both were around during the first week of October and I suspect they will be around a bit longer so look out for the unmistakeable long wagging tail of the former and the white rump of the latter.
I was cheered on the 4th to see and hear a Robin singing in our whitebeam tree - one of the few birds that sings during this time of year.
Alison Petrie reported a Cuckoo in her garden at Stonehall.
I was walking our little dog from the Gloup to the Brough of Deerness when a sizeable flock of Twite landed on the fence.
Walking along the path at Newark Bay a hovering Kestrel was a fine sight on the 26th. This species is easy to identify as, to my knowledge, it is the only one to hover.
A few Golden Plovers are around just now. So far I have seen these in small groups but watch out for the big flocks which are often accompanied by Lapwings.
During a very windy walk at Newark on the 28th a Snow Bunting swept past along the beach. Also visible were a female Wheatear, 1 Oystercatcher, 8 Sanderling.
Heading along the path from Newark car park to the Barns a Grey Heron was giving its harsh cry as it flitted from vantage point to vantage point in its quest for food. There was a big flock of Curlew on the shore and a flock of ducks were in the sea, mostly Wigeon.
Ian Cunningham has been out in Deerness and reports a flock of 28 Ruff near Greenhall also 6 Black-tailed Godwits. There was a solitary Knot at St. Peter's Pool.
At Lighthouse Quarry Gardens Ian reported the following: 8 Redwings, Siskin, Brambling, Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Goldcrests, female Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaffs.
At East Denwick there was a Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher and a Ring Ouzel.
Those visiting the slip at the Geo might have noticed 2 Grey Plovers (afraid these passed me by in spite of my being in the area. So plenty was seen in September and I expect October to just as exciting!
Spotted Flycatcher at Lighthouse Quarry.
Yellow-browed Warbler at Quarry.
Ring Ouzel at East Denwick.
Peregrine on Halley Road. All photos by Ian Cunningham.