Bird Report - January 2020
January 2020 Report
There is not a great deal to report for the start of the new year.
My first bird of note was a Hen Harrier methodically checking willow trees in the garden before before leaving empty-clawed.
I enjoyed a walk from Newark on the 1st and noticed, once again, quite a number of Rock Pipits hopping around the shore near the wooden bridge over the burn. I was not surprised, therefore, to see a photo on Facebook of a Rock Pipit perched on the very same bridge.
The photo was taken by Brian Thomson.
In response to my query about the bird Malcolm Russell said it is quite a pale Rock Pipit and could be a Scandinavian sub-species. The bird certainly looks different in this pose than our usual view of it pecking around the rocks on the shore.
Repeating this walk on the 9th I found quite a bit more to see - 15 Mallards, 3 Long-tailed Ducks diving, 3 Rock Pipits. The cacophony from a big flock of Greylag Geese accompanied me along the track.
It was a day of gales on the 15th, nevertheless 3 Greenfinches found their way to the garden feeder.
My first singing Wren of the year was on the 20th when I spotted the bird on the garage roof at Upper Gritley. Since then my garden has been visited a couple of times by a Wren.
It was another very windy day on the 30th but birds were out and about. As I drove down the road towards Newark I spotted a lot of Greylag Geese then further down about 40 Curlews and a big flock of Starlings. Reaching the bottom of the road 4 Mallards rose from the small pool.
During January I have had periodic appearances from a Robin but of course the bird was missing on the day of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch!
I did my count on January 26th accompanied by David Delday from Radio Orkney so that was certainly a new experience!
I counted as follows: Blackbirds 4; Starlings 92; House Sparrows 35; Rock Doves 11; Dunnock 1; Redwing 2.
Just to finish I thought I would mention the 3 Blackbirds whose party piece is to hang around the back door every day waiting for me to throw grapes out for them. This causes me great amusement during the dark winter days!
Bird Report - September 2019
To quote RSPB's Reserves Manager Alan Leitch "Swallows departing, Pink-footed Geese arriving - changing seasons for Orkney".
I was away early September but when I got back I noticed there were still a lot of Swallows on the wing, there was a Wheatear on the garden fence and Pied Wagtails were still around.
In fact, at the end of the month all three species were easily seen.
This is the time of year for migrants passing through Orkney and on the 11th there were a number of reports . . . . Pied Flycatcher in the Lighthouse Quarry Garden, also two Willow Warblers. Four Wheatears were just along the road. Moving on to Sandside two Stonechats were spotted while two Whinchats were at the Mull Head Visitor Centre. Alan Leitch was in the East Denwick Plantation but merely a Blackcap and a juvenile Whinchat were to be seen.
After my holiday I reacquainted myself with the Geo area where a mixture of Turnstones and Starlings were enjoying the bounties washed up among the tangles. Three Hooded Crows were at the water's edge obviously finding something to their liking. Nearby 3 Eiders were in the water.
As Alan Leitch observed, Pink-footed Geese are arriving in the parish and I counted 30 in a field down the Newark road.
As I passed Cellardyke on the 20th there was a Hen Harrier hunting in the field, then moving on to fields further down the Geo Road. Always nice to see a Hen Harrier. I suspect this was a juvenile.
Back to migrants - a Red-breasted Flycatcher was spotted at Sandside (I always seem to miss the goodies this location can offer).
A report from the East Denwick Plantation on the 24th included Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 2 Redstarts, 2 Willow Warblers and a Lesser Whitethroat. Earlier 3 large flocks of Barnacle Geese went over Sandside Bay and 3 Jack Snipe were flying around.
I had a nice sighting of a Song Thrush in the back garden on the 27th.
Marlene & Ivor Rorie from Newark contacted me after enjoying some notable species. Marlene remarks that there was the largest number of Seals she has seen in the bay in one go. On the 23rd and 24th Gannets were diving - what a spectacular sight they make. Earlier in the month Dolphins were seen out past the point, across from Marlene's house.
On the 27th - calm after bad weather the previous two days - I was lucky enough to be at East Denwick for a bird ringing session when a number of species were caught and ringed including Robin, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Goldcrest, Wren, Chaffinch. It just shows what birds are around!
Photo of Goldcrest by Pauline Wilson.
By contrast, it was quiet when I had a walk at Sandside Bay on the 29th but I was able to enjoy watching Gannets - adults and juveniles - diving.
Photo of Gannet by Gerry Cannon.
Watch out for more migrants in the next few weeks!
Bird Report - August 2019
The first entry in my August report was not a bird, but a Mouse! The tiny creature was on the path at
Newark on August 2nd, happily nibbling at a plant. It seemed unperturbed by my presence.
Still at Newark, there have been quite a number of Twite and a few Linnets feeding on all the seed
heads in the field and along the path.
I heard from Jill Sutcliffe that she had a lovely moment on the 4th when 12 fledgling Swallows
perched on the conservatory guttering, taking turns to launch themselves off to swoop down and
catch insects in the flower border.
Driving past St. Peter's Pool I noticed a pair of Mute Swans with Cygnets.
Keen birder Gerry Cannon was in the parish on the 17th, taking a walk in the Covenanters Memorial
area during which he spotted a Kestrel and a Common Swift - I love seeing these birds which are
always on the wing.
I occasionally walk at Sandside and my walk is usually accompanied by agitated calls from breeding
waders such as Oystercatchers, Lapwings, Curlews etc. It was a different story on the 23rd when
silence reigned. In their place though were flock of Curlews, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks
and Blackbirds. I suspect these would have been preparing to leave Orkney's shores in the not-too-
I have been seeing quite a number of Curlews in fact. A flock of c.200 was in the long field below
Newhouse on the 15th. Three days later 30 were at Lower Gritley and about 60 were at Sandside.
RSPB's Alan Leitch informs me that some Curlews go south-west to Scotland or Ireland while Orkney
welcomes birds from Scandinavia - what a fascinating subject migration is!
Anybody walking or driving around the highways and byways of Deerness recently could not fail to
notice big numbers of Wheatears, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Swallows all marking time until
they leave for the winter. A lot of these will be young birds. Apparently the adult Swallows will
already be on their way to Africa.
I happened to look out of the front window in the evening of the 24th just in time to observe a visit
from the male Hen Harrier which was investigating the bushes a little too late as all the alarmed
birds were airborne and safe from his clutches!
I started this report with a non-bird species and I am going to end with one also. Some staff from
RSPB Orkney were on the island of Copinsay recently completing a survey of Great Yellow
Bumblebees. Despite the weather not being ideal for surveying, the team recorded a total of 73
Great Yellow Bumblebees and 579 Carder Bees. I must look a little more closely at my wildflowers!
Photos of Great Yellow Bumblebee Queen and Carder Bee by Alan Leitch.
Photos of Great Yellow Bumblebee Queen & Carder Bee by Alan Leitch.