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.
(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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Photo of Guillemot and Chick by Henry Reitzug).
Also on Copinsay and the Holms Shags, Cormorants, Fulmars and Puffins were plentiful.
(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.
Bird Report - June 2016
The birds are all busy with the important job of raising young just now. Our Wrens have fledged and we have been hearing the sounds of mum (or dad maybe) rounding up the youngsters at the end of the day. I was surprised that the family returned to the byre each evening for a while after fledging. Our House Sparrows, Starlings and Greenfinches all have young at the moment and it's nice to see the youngsters' whirring wings when they beg for food.
Another youngster causing interest is an Oystercatcher which hangs around Daisy Aitken's garden with its parent which was seen throwing a worm onto the ground for the young bird to eat.
I have seen one or two Ringed Plovers on Deerness beaches employing diverting tactics to dissuade me from straying too close to a nest or fledglings.
I had a walk at Newark on June 20th and saw a small group of Linnets, at least one of which was a male showing off his handsome red breast that he sports at breeding time.
Nancy Scott tells me her House Martins are going along well with three nests attached to her house. Similar to martins are, of course, Swallows and these can be seen in various parts of the parish and youngsters are now on the wing - spotted by having a shorter tail. These birds usually have two, or even three, broods before embarking on their long journey back to Africa.
I had a nice walk at Mull Head on the 18th and was rewarded with sightings of both birds and flowers.
Flowers included Silverweed (flowers are very sparse), Tormentil, Bog Cotton, Marsh Marigold, the ubiquitous Buttercup, Clover, gorgeous Sea Pinks, Sorrel, Plantain, Early Marsh Orchid looking stunning with its purple blooms, Sea Campion, Cocks & Hens (or Ham & Eggs as I know them from Yorkshire), the delicate Lady's Smock and Scurvy Grass. Soon the Grass of Parnassus will be in bloom which is a good excuse for a walk at Mull Head; these also flower at Sandside.
Early Marsh Orchid, Cocks & Hens, Plantain, Clover and leaves of the Coltsfoot plant, the flowers having been in blooms a few months earlier. Photo taken at Sandside by Pauline Wilson.
Birds included: Swallows, Rock Doves and Starlings at the Gloup, Guillemots and Razorbills (both in the sea and on nests), Fulmars, Kittiwakes flying past, Shags (in the sea and lots on nests), two Pied Wagtails at the Brough - I suspect a nest; I saw lots of Meadow Pipits, one in particular giving a splendid breeding display, flying up into the sky then coming down again head first - sure to attract a mate! I saw two Bonxies (Great Skuas) and Oystercatchers were plentiful with their unmistakeable call. Whaups (Curlews) too, have a distinctive call and these were present, probably keeping a close eye on youngsters. The Black-headed gull and the Greater black-backed gull are both handsome birds despite them preying on other species and I saw both at Mull Head.
I hope the breeding season in Orkney is a successful one in 2016.