Bird Report - April 2017
It was a nice start to the month when a Siskin took the opportunity to feed on peanuts in the back garden. Better still, another Siskin was pecking at seed right in front of the back door and obligingly posed for my camera.
Photo of Siskin taken by Pauline Wilson.
Bramblings have also brightened up my day with two separate birds visiting Sunnybank.
Mary Wylie reported another colourful bird - a Goldfinch was on her sunflower seed feeder.
Also vying for most colourful bird of the month was the Robin which paid a visit to us on the 3rd.
I was walking along the main road near home on the 18th when I saw 2 Linnets landing on the fence. Always nice to see these little birds, the males of this species can also be very colourful.
I was alerted by a familiar sound on the 27th and looked skywards to see about 50 Golden Plovers flying over, calling as they went.
Bird watcher Ian Cunningham was at Sandside Bay on the 14th and, after seeing a few Redwings, he was rewarded by the sight of a Ring Ouzel in the field. I was at Sandside on the same day but missed this bird unfortunately.
Nest Building/breeding is now going on in earnest. We have Starlings, House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Blackbirds and the Wren seems to be making progress on moving a partner into the elaborate nest he has built in our byre.
Soon the Swallows and House Martins will be arriving and seeking somewhere to raise their families. Nancy Scott will be hoping to see the House Martins back again as they are very entertaining to watch as they fly back and forth to the nest prior to the youngsters also taking to the wing. Waders, too, will probably have young by now and it is lovely to see the Lapwings calling and diving as they protect their young. We have an Oystercatcher back in our field but I fear the dead bird I found last year (ringed near Morecambe) may have been the mate to this one so I hope it is able to pair up again.
We took a short walk at Dingieshowe recently and admired the Primroses and Bluebells which lined our path.
It was a shock to wake up to snow near the end of April! I presume it was a shock for the birds also.
Gerry Cannon caught a surprised Oystercatcher trying to feed amongst the white stuff! Luckily a thaw quickly set in so it was a crisis averted!
Photo of Oystercatcher by Gerry Cannon.
Ian Cunningham again ventured into Deerness on the 30th and was thrilled to see a group of Sandwich Terns. Less common in Orkney than the Arctic Terns which are being seen now, the Sandwich Tern has longer feathers on its topknot and has a yellow tip to its black bill resembling butter (hence Sandwich Tern).
Photo of Sandwich Tern by Ian Cunningham
Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits and Wheatears should be easy to see now but May heralds the arrival of migrants as they pass through the county en route to their breeding grounds.
Plenty to tempt us out and about!
Bird Report - March 2017
Spring has arrived and there are more birds to be seen - and heard. I have spotted Robins, Meadow Pipits (in two instances displaying males), Pied Wagtails, so there is plenty to see. Nice to hear Skylarks as they soar way up in the sky; we have a Greenfinch male which is calling regularly from the top of nearby bushes; Wrens are now making their loud sounds, in fact, I have been watching the progress of a wren's nest in our byre which started with a few strands of straw and is now a complete house awaiting an occupant. I heard the unmistakable sound of a cock Pheasant so obviously a mate is being sought here.
Photo of Robin courtesy of Ian Cunningham.
Here at Sunnybank our House Sparrows, Starlings and Blackbirds are preparing nesting sites. We are lucky to be able to garage the car at night but those whose cars live out often have a battle on when Starlings choose a cosy spot under a car to try to raise a family!
Quite a number of birds showed well during a drive to the Gloup car park, with 2 Jackdaws, 2 Greater Black-backed Gulls, 2 Hooded Crows and a flock of Rock Doves all in one field. Further along another big flock of birds, this time Lapwings, accompanied by Common Gulls, while Curlews were calling, and a Fieldfare made an appearance. There are still plenty of Greylag Gulls to be seen but it was nice to see c. 250 Pink-footed Geese as I drove up the road from Skaill on my way back.
Favourite wader Oystercatchers are now being seen in greater numbers as many return from their winter break down south and will be preparing to breed. Another wader already paired up is the Lapwing, spotted while displaying in the parish.
On a walk down to the shore from Hacco the sound of Skylark song accompanied me and 2 Hares were in the field. As I reached the shore I noted 3 Shelducks, 2 Redshanks, a few Wigeon and a flock of Curlew. A nice sight was a Merlin which alighted from a fencepost and flew across the field and out of sight towards St. Peter's Pool.
One of our regular bird watchers, Morris Rendall, was in the parish on March 18th and spotted a Stonechat at the Mull Head Visitor Centre, a Barnacle Goose near the car park while another 5 Barnacle Geese were at the Barns of Ayre, along with 7 White-fronted Geese.
I had a phone call from Isobel Gardner to report a dead Gannet on the beach at Newark and she pointed out that the bird was ringed. Sadly, the bird had been caught up in fishing net - an all too common problem I am afraid. I reported the ring number and very soon the British Trust for Ornithology informed me that the bird had been ringed on Sule Skerry on 22nd July 2015 aged at least 4 years. Interesting facts supplied by the BTO about ringed birds were:
Oldest bird - Manx Shearwater, 50 years 11 months
Furthest travelled - Arctic Tern from Wales to Australia 18,000 km
Strangest recovery - Osprey ring found in stomach of a crocodile in The Gambia!
The Annual Bag the Bruck beach cleanup takes place during April so, in light of the aforementioned Gannet's fate, I hope plenty of Deerness folk take part in this vital exercise.
Bird Report - February 2017
It was a nice start to February when, on the 1st day of the month, a Sparrowhawk was lurking in the bushes in our small plantation, eventually flying off for pastures new.
Two sightings of Robins have brightened up my day - one was pecking on the lawn on the 10th while another paid a visit on the very last day of February.
As I was walking through our goat paddock I startled a Snipe which flew off in its unmistakable fashion, giving a loud call as it went.
The shore at Newark on the 11th revealed just a small group of waders, mostly Ringed Plovers and Redshanks.
I had many more sightings the following day during my beached birds survey at Sandside Bay.
As I walked down the track I noticed Celandines were starting to show so by now their bright yellow flowers will be cheering us up.
A flock of small birds flew past me onto the beach. As I walked on I realised these were Twite. There were lots of tiny flies in the sand and seaweed and the birds were having a fine feast of these. Also joining in the meal were a handful of Rock Pipits. At the far end of the beach were 7 Redshanks along with 2 Common Gulls. As I walked back up the track 4 Hooded Crows came into view as they spent time in the field below Creya.
Passing Staye on my way back home I stopped the car to view approximately 300 Greylag Geese feeding in the field across the road. As I was watching, my attention was drawn to a male Hen Harrier which was working its way up the fence past the geese and made a play for a passing Starling which was lucky to escape. The raptor continued its way along the fence, followed the turn, crossed the road and eventually disappeared behind Staye. A lovely sighting!
On February 14th keen bird watcher Gerry Cannon paid a visit to Deerness when he walked from Lighthouse Corner to the Point of Ayre then to Newark Bay, the Geo and on the road to Dingieshowe. His bird tally was 2 Hen Harriers, 6 Ravens, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 20 Turnstones, 83 Golden Plovers and 3 Hares.
Our photo from Gerry Cannon shows Copinsay taken during his walk.
Many species will be thinking about breeding now so listen out for calling males. I heard by first Skylark on the 26th and on the very same day a handsome Greenfinch was singing away, showing off before the ladies!
Spring is definitely in the air!
Bird Report - January 2017
There is not too much to report for the start of 2017.
I had nice views of three raptors, beginning on January 9th with a male Hen Harrier which flew leisurely across our field and into Little Halley. Three days later a raptor flew over the house and, binoculars to hand, I saw that this was a Kestrel, easily identified when it hovered over the bottom field looking for likely prey. Another Hen Harrier was spotted on the 26th - this time a female - which was making its way past the front of the house.
The cold weather on the 14th attracted a Carrion Crow to the area below the bird feeder. This is quite a rare bird to see in Orkney.
There was another nice sighting on Jauary 28th when 2 Fieldfares were perched atop the bushes in our small plantation. These were accompanied by7 Greenfinches.
During my visits to Sandside Bay for the beached birds surveys (each full moon) I am always on the lookout for what birds are around. During my January survey there were 6 Rock Doves flying off when I walked down the track. They are easily identified as 'pigeons with white rumps'. There was a noisy Meadow Pipit chirping away on the shore and a Hooded Crow further along the beach. A flock of approximately 20 Turnstones were restless as they flew from one end of the beach to the other.
Driving back up the road from Skaill a handful of Greylag Geese were grazing in the field, while 2 Pheasants were together at the side of the road.
The last weekend in January traditionally sees the RSPB Great Garden Bird Watch and I hope plenty of people in Deerness took part in this, counting birds for just one hour and recording what they saw. The tally at Sunnybank was as follows: 70 Starlings, 23 House Sparrows, 4 Blackbirds, 3 Collared Doves, 8 Greenfinches, 1 Robin, 1 Jackdaw, the latter being an unexpected caller.
As I pointed out last month, Ravens will be nest-building any time now but other species will also be thinking about it in February. I spotted a pair of Lapwings in the air near the parish border so keep your eyes peeled!
Photograph of Lapwing, by Ian Cunningham.