Bird Report - January 2016

For a few days I have enjoyed watching a Blackbird which has a good number of white feathers amongst the black. This is known as leucistic which is a type of faulty gene I believe. The bird suddenly arrived with us and seems to be sticking around for the apples, etc. I put out each day, adding a bit of colour to the normal garden birds. 
Other winter species include the usual Blackbirds, Starlings, House Sparrows and Greenfinches. Also recently we have seen three or four Collared Doves hanging around the feeder. Other sightings this month have been a Wren and a Robin in the back garden. A Meadow Pipit flew down the lane as I drove down from Sunnybank. 
A more unusual sighting was a Woodcock which paid us a visit on January 16th, crouching in a clump of grass at the top of our field. It stayed long enough for me to take a photo - which is not too clear but recognisable - before flying off. The Woodcock is very similar to the Snipe but bigger and chunkier. 
The Short-eared Owl has been round and about Deerness again with several sightings. It was in the field at Little Halley on the 16th, then at Grind the following day. Two days later I was on the phone when I saw it once more in the field at Little Halley obviously hunting as it kept flopping down then taking off. Lovely to see this raptor so often. I am presuming it is the same bird but not necessarily.
There is still a presence of Greylag Geese with a large flock in the field opposite Billy Stove's and I noticed a smaller group at Staye.
I visited Newark on the 24th to do a beached birds survey. There were huge piles of tangles adorning the beach and, taking advantage of the food therein, were a massive flock of Starlings which made quite a sight as they flew off when I approached the beach. Just a handful of waders were feeding at the water's edge - Turnstones, 1 Purple Sandpiper and 1 Rock Pipit. Sadly, the stormy seas had depleted the seal colony with five lying dead on the beach. 
Travelling back up the road, heading for home, my head was turned by a Sparrowhawk which took off from a fencepost and flew over Russell's field. I wondered if this was the same bird that flew over Grind the very next day.
As I write, storms are lashing Orkney and Shetland. Let's hope the birds are keeping their heads down until the weather abates.

Birdlife in Deerness - December 2015

There are rarely any surprises in December but still plenty of birds around even though they are the

more common ones such as Starlings, House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Blackbirds. The large flock of

Rooks can still be seen around the parish and, of course, Gulls of assorted types are always obvious,

as are Hooded Crows.

I miss Oystercatchers during the winter as most of them are away visiting warmer climes in the


I was alerted by two unmistakable cries early in the month at Quoybelloch as 2 Snipe rose up and

flew off. A bit bigger but similar to a snipe, a Woodcock was reported at the Lighthouse Corner

Quarry Gardens on the 19th.

On the 16th Anne Reitzug spotted a Short-eared Owl sitting on a fencepost at Little Halley. The very

next day one (likely to be the same bird) flew across our back garden here at Sunnybank. To score a

triple it was nice to see a Short-eared Owl rising from a fencepost on the road down to Newark Bay

while further down a Hooded Crow rested on a post.

On December 27th my visit to Sandside Bay to do a beached bird report was rewarded by lots of

sightings. Along to road there were Greylag Geese in the field below Creya; just across quite a

number of Rock Doves were searching for food in Jim Foubister's field. Yet more Greylags (300-plus)

were in the field adjacent to the Gloup.

Walking down the track to Sandside 20 Common Gulls pecked around the field on the left. A handful

of Curlews were calling and I saw a single Lapwing.

A favourite bird which inhabits the burn area going down the path is the Wren and I wasn't

disappointed on this occasion as one flew by before disappearing into the undergrowth.

Not surprisingly, due to the high winds of late and the imminent high tide, there was a spectacular

sea of white foam and crashing waves. Riding these with confidence was a huge flock of ducks -

mostly Wigeon but also Mallards.

On the shore itself were Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers and Redshank following the tide in and out

and no doubt finding plenty to eat. Completing the picture were a variety of Gulls, lots of Starlings, a

few Rock Doves and a Rock Pipit.

Well worth donning the warm clothing on a cool but fine day.

Jan16 Bird 1

Rough seas at Sandside with Copinsay in the background.

Jan16 Bird 2

 Wader dodging the waves at Sandside.

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - November 2015

Here is the latest Bird Report from Pauline Wilson..................... we must say a very big and special THANK YOU to Pauline for her efforts every month in providing us with such interesting and informative articles, and all the bonny pictutes! It is greatly appreciated, Pauline!


After the excitement of all the migrant birds during October, November has been just the opposite with not much for me to report from the parish.

Early in the month I was driving up from The Links when a Merlin darted right past the front of the car. This is the smallest of our raptors.

On the same day I visited Skaill and once again saw a small flock of Linnets along the road - this species can often be found in this area and it is nice to see them, particularly the males with their red breasts.

I went down to Sandside beach to do my beached birds report and was quite surprised to see a late Wheatear moving along the shoreline. A friend was also at Sandside and he reported a Jack Snipe which is the rarer cousin of the more common Snipe. I love to see snipe with their ridiculously long beaks and I look forward to hearing their distinctive 'drumming' when spring comes around.

On November 14th I spotted two Whooper Swans in a field when I was on my way to the Deerness Hall. Quite a lot of Whoopers have been seen this autumn/winter.

Looking out of our back window on November 20th I was rewarded with the sight of a Dunnock pecking around under the feeder. This is the second we have had in just a few weeks. Of course, Robins are now to be seen in gardens and I am happy to report that we have had one for several weeks now but this is possibly not the same bird as I would imagine they will be moving around. A Wren has also graced us with its presence - such a tough little bird with a loud voice!

It was great to see a Short-eared Owl flying past the house, up the garden and heading in the direction of Quoybelloch. I have not seen so many owls recently so this one was a bonus.

Rooks are back in Deerness again this winter. I regularly see a big flock flying back and forth and they are particularly fond of Keith Eunson's field at the bottom of Halley Road.

As usual the birdwatchers have been out and about in Deerness. Ian Cunningham reports the following: St Peter's Pool on ebbing tide: 12 black tailed Godwits, 36 knot, 40 dunlin, 55 oystercatchers, 23 ringed plovers, 2 whoopers. Newark Slip: 26 turnstones, 3 sanderling, 6 purple sandpipers. Sandside Bay: 2 sanderling 6 snipe, 40 gannets headed South.

Morris Rendall: Still a good few Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds about. Other birds were: the bush at the Mull Head visitor centre 1 Garden Warbler, 2 Stonechats. East Denwick Plantation 2 Goldcrest 1 Chiffchaff. Barns of Ayre 1 Snow Bunting. Grind 1 Short-eared Owl.

Pauline Wilson

Bird Report - October 2015

There has been plenty to see in the parish during October. I didn't even have to stray from home earlier in the month as there was a Song Thrush on the back lawn on the 4th, followed a couple of days later by a Garden Warbler. I skewered apples onto the bushes on the 10th and in no time at all they attracted Black Caps - 1 male and 1 juvenile/female (the latter have brown caps). I had a number of this species over the next week or so. October 11th saw two Bramblings (a handsome male and a female) pecking about for seed on the back lawn. There has been a flurry of sightings of Goldcrests (our country's smallest bird and colourful too with the gold crest on its head) and, sure enough, they arrived at Sunnybank where quite a number were in the bushes making their distinctive sound as they flitted through the branches. We had 3 Redwing - a type of thrush - in our small plantation, scoffing the Rose Rugosa hips. A male Brambling was back on the 15th and later in the day it was lovely to see a Dunnock pecking around the floor below the feeder - typical behaviour.

So, as you can see, the binoculars have been out a lot in our corner of Deerness.

Earlier in the month I visited the East Denwick plantation near Mull Head Visitor Centre where a friend was ringing birds. A fairly quiet session but 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Wren were nice to see. Near the Visitor Centre 2 Stonechats were on the fencing wire while several Linnets and a Wheatear flew past.

Some residents of our parish couldn't have failed to see the Black Swan which was present at St. Peter's Pool for quite a while. It seemed to be accompanying a Mute Swan. Henry Reitzug of Little Halley took a photograph of this bird.

black swan

The main excitement in Deerness in October was on the 11th when a Hoopoe was spotted down the track at Sandside, then - hard on its heels - a Red-Flanked Bluetail­ appeared on the fence quite near the top of the track. I was lucky to be informed of this bird and taken to see it so it was a great thrill. It was quite small and very rare for Orkney as I believe it was only the fifth sighting. While viewing this little bird I couldn't fail to notice the huge number of Goldcrests which seemed to be everywhere - in the bushes; among the wilting umbellifers. (A total of 61 Goldcrests had been ringed at East Denwick earlier in the day) A Chiffchaff was also joining in the party.

Jonathan & Kathryn Southerington of the Rocket Hoose reported 34 Whooper Swans at St. Peter's Pool on October 20th - a very striking sight I would imagine.

I was out with Daisy Aitken for a short run on the 16th and we saw a big flock of Golden Plovers, along with Lapwings, in the field opposite Seatter. Now is the time of year for these plovers to pay Orkney a visit. As we reached the junction of the Kitchens/Halley Roads there were lots more Lapwings in the field.

Several local bird watchers regularly visit Deerness and one of them reported as follows:

Lots of Blackbirds, Fieldfares, Redwings about. Other birds a few Goldcrest and 2 Robins at East Denwick Plantation. Short-eared Owl at the Barns of Ayre. Brambling in stubble field along road to Halley.

Another report: East Denwick - Barred Warbler, 1 Redstart, 5 Goldcrest, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Yellow-Browed Warbler.

An East Lothian visitor to Orkney reported as follows: Sandside - Little Bunting, Yellow-browed Warbler. Brough of Deerness Great Grey Shrike.

RSPB Warden Alan Leitch was at Sandside and saw a Yellow-browed Warbler, the Hoopoe and a Rustic Bunting.

Watch out for Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares moving through Deerness. They all belong to the Thrush family and can be seen in good numbers at this time of year. Also, I have already seen my first Robin - a sign surely that Christmas is just around the corner!

All in all quite an exciting time in Deerness during the month of October.

Pauline Wilson

 (Photo of Black Swan by Henry Reitzug)