Bird Report - October 2106

In my last report I said that the wind would be turning to the east soon and, when it did, to get out the binoculars. Well my prophesy was right and we did indeed have strong easterly winds bringing in the migrants so I hope Deerness folk were lucky enough to see some of these rarities.

There were three main stars, beginning with a phone call from Jean Ward telling me she had a Lapland Bunting at Ploverhall. This species had also been seen at the Mull Head Visitor Centre earlier in the day so perhaps it was the same bird. Jean managed to grab her camera and take this photo of the little bird through the window.

Lapland Bunting

Sandside often hosts rarities but it surpassed itself on the 24th when Morris Rendall spotted a Siberian Accentor - a first for Orkney! Not surprisingly, many bird watchers beat a path to Deerness in the hope of seeing the bird (which is small and related to the dunnock family). It has distinctive head markings making it unmistakeable. I was lucky to have a good view of the bird as it pecked around on the ground.

Siberian Accentor

This photo of the Siberian Accentor is by Tim Wootton.

Also on show at Sandside on the same day was a Bluethroat (a bird on my wish list and one that I missed but will be searching for at Sandside during the next few days).

Here at Sunnybank we have our own rarity which has been feeding on apples in the back garden for the past week. This is a juvenile Barred Warbler which is giving us a bit of entertainment.

Barred Warbler 1

Morris Rendall took this photo of the Barred Warbler.

I had another special visitor on the 14th when a female Hawfinch paid a visit but only stayed a short time. With its huge beak this bird is easy to identify.

Other notable birds during October started off on the 1st with 6 Whooper Swans on stubble at Newark - reported by Isobel Gardner.

On the 6th I had a fleeting view of a Ring Ouzel in the back garden before the bird (which resembles a blackbird but with a white band around its neck) flew off. The very same day there was a colourful male Brambling under the bird feeder while a tiny Goldcrest flitted around in the whitebeam tree. There were actually Goldcrests aplenty around the parish with a number of people reporting these - I noted them at Sunnybank on the 18th the 23rd also.

Another species easily seen just now if you skewer apples on bushes or trees are Blackcaps - the male has a distinctive black cap while females and juveniles have brown caps. Since I put out apples I have had the species around all the time. A very small bird, they will also feed on apples on the ground. Of course, Waxwings love apples so worth putting some out to see if they include Deerness in their travels this year.

I expect, like me, people have been seeing Robins as they pass through on their way to their winter quarters - always a bird to bring a smile to the face.

Young Swallows were still around on the 9th - I saw six on the wing (identified as juveniles by their short tails). Hopefully they will be on their way to Africa now if not already there.

During a walk at Newark I had a very small bird in my sights and this turned out to be a juvenile Stonechat which was tricky for me to identify at first as it was minus its white neck marking.

On the same day I saw a Pied Wagtail straggler along the beach also a few Turnstones.

On the 29th I was just quick enough to see a Snipe fly off at the front of the house. It will be a while before we hear this bird's drumming call in the spring.

Other birds to look out for just now are Redwings, Fieldfares, Golden Plovers and, of course, Greylag and Pink-footed Geese.

Reports from bird watchers in Deerness:

RSPB Warden Alan Leitch says:

A nice morning at Deerness produced a nice variety of species and good numbers of thrushes (especially; Blackbird, Redwing and Fieldfare). The highlight was a confiding Lapland Bunting at the Mull Head car park. A couple of Woodcock spooked at East Denwick, while a few Brambling, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Robin and Goldcrests knocked about the plantation. In the Rosa rugosa next to the centre 16 Blackbirds came out! Sandside had a Siskin, a few goldcrests and a couple of Blackcaps. Langskaill plantation had many Goldcrests, Chiffchaff 3, Blackcap 3, Sparrowhawk 2.

Morris Rendall reports:

East Denwick Plantation Yellow-browed Warbler. Sandside there are now 2 Siskins. Lighthouse Quarry Garden produced a few Goldcrest and Robins. Halley a Flock of about 10 Brambling and a few Blackcaps, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Robins.

There are still plenty of migrants around so I will repeat my advice from last month to don the binoculars and start searching in the bushes!

Pauline Wilson







Bird Report - September 2106

I was just about to set off on a holiday on September 4th when Isobel Gardner rang me with news of a Grey Phalarope at the Geo. I was unable to take a look at this so it was a while before Keith Hague was able to visit by which time the bird had moved on. It was in 2007 when excitement was caused by a Grey Phalarope which took up residence at the Geo for a few days, attracting a few visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the bird. This latest one has paid just a fleeting visit though.

September is the month when many of our favourite birds leave our shores to spend the winter elsewhere. Noticeable this year has been the number of Pied Wagtails to be seen either at the side of the road, in fields, gardens or at the shore where they will have been making plans to move on to their winter quarters in the Middle East and North Africa.

Likewise, Wheatears have been visible at the shore, also planning to take their leave until next year.

At Sunnybank on the 12th a Pied Wagtail and a Wheatear were in the garden, while on the 17th it was nice to see a Song Thrush in the back garden before a Robin landed on a post there also.

There was plenty to see at Sandside Bay on the 16th - a Rock Pipit first then 3 Pied Wagtails animatedly chasing food. There was an Eider at sea while on the shore two noisy Redshanks and four Turnstones were visible. Eight Oystercatchers were passing time but most of these will be heading further south for the winter, though some remain in Orkney. As I walked further along the shore it was nice to see three smart female Wheatears while a Raven was soaring overhead, calling as it went.

The following day I visited Newark Bay and no less than 12 Pied Wagtails were jumping around chasing small flies or insects. On the shoreline 8 Turnstones, and a group of 16 Ringed Plovers included adults and juveniles. As I walked back along the path I saw that the thistles in Russell's field had attracted a group of Twite.

Dingieshowe was my destination on the 19th and, once more, Pied Wagtails were making plans to move on.

Newark bay

(photo of Dingieshowe by Pauline Wilson)

Lots of Swallows have been noticeable during September as they join ranks in preparation for their long journey to Africa. Most will have now left. Isobel Gardner was on the spot to take this lovely photo of young Swallows being fed by a parent


(photo of Swallows by Isobel Gardner).

Nancy Scott's House Martins will also be thinking about a move, if they haven't already done so.

Watch out for Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds which will be coming in, also Golden Plovers which are normally seen in big flocks in the fields, along with Curlews and Lapwing. Starling numbers will increase as their cousins arrive for the winter. Of course, Greylag Geese have arrived and there are reports of Pink-footed Geese elsewhere in Orkney so no doubt these will soon be seen here in Deerness.

Not too much news on the migrant front just yet owing to the westerly winds but once the wind turns to the east get out the binoculars to try and spot that rarity!

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - August 2016

The first day of the month found me at Newark Bay with quite a few birds on the wing - 2 Arctic Terns were diving for sand eels and a few Swallows were to be seen. Close into the shore 3 Eider Ducks were busy searching for titbits in the sea. As I walked back along the path I admired the yellow Lady's Bedstraw growing alongside the hedge and spotted a juvenile Pied Wagtail and several Meadow Pipits. There were quite a number of Meadow Brown Butterflies and a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly along the path.

Newark Bay

Photo of Newark Bay by Pauline Wilson.

Arriving back home I was just in time to see a Heron flying over the house - no doubt wondering if we had restocked the fishpond after its last visit!

There was a rarer bird sighted at Lighthouse Corner, namely a Tree Sparrow which are not seen very often in Orkney.

I was driving down our lane on the 5th when 5 Linnets flew ahead of the car. My destination was Newark Bay where I made an approximate count of 200 Common Gulls, also there were 3 Turnstones and a Redshank which was noisily making its presence felt. From Newark I walked on to the picnic table and, on the way back, a Short-eared Owl was perched on a fencepost and I was able to get excellent views of the bird before it flew off.

On the 18th there was a small group of Black-tailed Godwits flying over Deerness and Ian Cunningham managed to get a stunning photograph of the group.

Black tailed Godwit flight 2

Photo of Black-tailed Godwits by Ian Cunningham.

Pied Wagtails seem to be almost everywhere - I saw a group at Newark on the 19th but they are to be easily seen as you drive along in the car. I suspect a lot of these are juveniles and I presume they will be heading off to their winter quarters.

An unusual find at Newark on the 19th was a Sea Urchin washed up on the shore.

sea urchin

Photo of Sea Urchin by Pauline Wilson.

Also August seems to be the month for Jellyfish and there were plenty to be found on this occasion.

At Sunnybank on August 23rd I was pleased to see a Song Thrush at the water drinker. Later that day a male Hen Harrier was chancing his luck in our little plantation but came away with nothing, thankfully for the House Sparrows which roost there.

There are a few migrants to be seen now so I am keeping a keen eye out and was rewarded on the 24th by the sight of a Willow Warbler on a willow bush of all places!

August 30th saw Daisy Aitken and myself taking a run around the parish and how lucky we were to spot a Short-Eared Owl on a fencepost at Seatter. We stopped the car very close to the bird and watched until it decided to fly off into the field. On reaching Halley Road there was a noticeable number of Wheatears flitting along the fence. I would imagine juveniles would be included. This is another species that will be heading off to winter quarters.

One of the regular bird watchers - Morris Rendall - reports recent sightings of migrants in Deerness: 22nd August Pied Flycatcher down the track to Sandside bay and 4 Stonechats along the beach at Halley Willow warblers at East Denwick . 23rd, 2 Pied Flycatchers also Willow Warblers at East Denwick Plantation and about 30 black-tailed Godwits flew over and landed at the ponds at the back of the plantation. Pied Flycatcher at the Lighthouse Quarry Garden

The sound of Greylag Geese has been noticeable recently so 2016 is certainly wearing on.

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - July 2016

There are lots of young birds to admire just now so I expect lots of people have been watching their antics as they beg for food and learn how to search for this themselves.

A lot of young Starlings are resident with us; these are unmistakeable with their brown plumage. The adult birds are already going into their winter plumage and look attractive with their white spots.

Nancy Scott reports that the House Martins are chalking up a success with breeding this year with 4 nests attached to the house and Nancy having great interest in watching the birds come and go as they feed their broods.

Similar to the Martins, but much more plentiful, are Swallows which are easily seen along with their offspring as they are on the wing searching for insects.

Another success this year seems to be Artic Terns which are finding the sand eels so vital to raise their young. I have regularly seen terns flying across the front of the house carrying sand eels from Newark, I would guess, to an unknown nest site.

Daisy Aitken and I were driving near Watermoss when we spotted a field awash with Common Gulls and I noticed that many of these were this year's young birds.

There was plenty of evidence of breeding over on Copinsay and the Horse recently when we - along with our neighbours - enjoyed a boat trip around the area with Sidney Foubister. It was good to see Kittiwakes on their nests, Razorbills and Guillemots likewise. In fact, we were thrilled to see a Guillemot chick with its parent, having made a leap of faith from the breeding ledge into the water. It's very loud chirping alerted us to the birds.

Guillemot and Chick by Henry Reitzug

(Photo of Guillemot and Chick by Henry Reitzug).

Also on Copinsay and the Holms Shags, Cormorants, Fulmars and Puffins were plentiful.

Puffins with Fulmars in foreground by Henry Reitzug

(Photo of Puffins with Fulmars in foreground by Henry Reitzug).

It was lovely to see Arctic Terns being very active and flying past with sand eels. I was thrilled to see several juveniles which were obvious by their very short tails so these birds are already on the wing.

Back to the mainland - I counted 300 Curlews as they flew over Jean Corsie's house at The Links; big numbers also for Lapwings which were in a field near Gritley, along with a sprinkling of Curlews.

There are plenty of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits to be seen just now. These will have been busy breeding. I saw a pair of Pied Wagtails at Mary Wylie's house at Lighthouse Corner and there was a juvenile bird at Newark on the 29th.

While at Newark I counted 3 Dunlin on the beach while a familiar sound alerted me to a few Arctic Terns which were diving for food. Two Ringed Plovers were making their warning sounds as I progressed along the beach.

Wheatears will now become more obvious as the breeding season comes to an end. One was perched on the fence of our front field on the 26th.

On a sad note, Daisy Aitken had noticed an Oystercatcher which appeared to have some wool wrapped around its feet but it was impossible to find and catch the bird. A few days later I came across it at the side of the road outside Stuart Wylie's house. The bird had a leg ring so I was able to report this to the BTO who quickly let me know that it had been ringed in Heysham by the Morecambe Bay Ringing Group in 2010. The bird was approximately 9 years old and so had enjoyed a fairly long life.

Pauline Wilson