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.
New Light for the Kirk
This rather lovely new outside light in now in place outside the entrance into the Kirk.....it will provide a guiding light in the darkness!
Bird Report - May 2019
First birds on the list in May were 3 Bonxies at Newark Bay where Phil Longley spied 2 Arctic Terns on this day also. More reports from Newark include 6 Dunlin and 2 Sanderling at the slip, I saw a tiny Willow Warbler fly out of the Rosa Rugosa near the car park. There are Eider chicks at the Geo - seven at last count but it's a hazardous life for them with many predators around.
It's worth a visit to Newark Bay just now as the rare Oyster Plant is making a particularly good showing this year and the blue flowers are beginning to appear. A walk along the beach will reveal a number of clumps to be admired.
We have an assortment of hirondelles in Deerness! Firstly Swallows are making themselves at home in barns and other buildings throughout the area. Once again the Deerness shop building is host to a family of Swallows. Nancy Scott tells me that House Martins have returned from their travels and are nesting at two spots under the eaves once more. Finally Sand Martins are back in the area near the old chapel just below Marlene and Ivor Rorie's house at Newark. More Sand Martin news from Jonathan and Kathryn Southerington that birds have made homes in a sand bank kindly provided by John Petrie due to excavations.
Here at Sunnybank I was watching 3 Jackdaws trying to use the bird feeder on May 24th; a nice colourful male Linnet on the front fence; the Starling and Sparrow nestboxes are all occupied and the garden wall echoes with chirps! A Blackbird has chosen a shelf in the greenhouse to call home for her brood. A particularly nice sighting - if only a fleeting look - was a trio of Siskins on the peanut feeder. Two were striking males together with a female.
One bird you cannot fail to see is the Meadow Pipit which seems to be everywhere just now and can often be seen carrying food for chicks in the nest. Quite a number at Newark this year. Of course the Skylark cannot be ignored as it soars skywards in loud song. They too will have chicks just now as will most breeds. Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Redshank can all be seen and heard defending their families from predators. Last month I said I was disappointed not to have heard a Snipe drumming but I was pleased to at last hear Snipe in the East Denwick and Sandside areas. Such an unforgettable sound as the wind rushes through the tail as the bird descends!
There have been quite a number of migrant birds around - Ian Cunningham reports Chiff Chaff and Willow Warbler at Lighthouse Quarry gardens; Alan Leitch heard a Cuckoo at East Denwick. A ringing session at this location produced a nice Spotted Flycatcher, a Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest. The dog and I had a walk at Sandside and was thrilled to watch a Pied Flycatcher flying up the burn area; Isobel Gardner rang to say she had been watching a female Whitethroat dive bombing into Lady's Mantle just outside the window! I would have liked to have seen this!
During a walk up by East Denwick an Arctic Skua flew overhead. I understand this species is not faring too well so it was a nice sighting.
However, the star of the month must surely be the BEE EATER which was spotted by Stuart and Mary Wylie at Lighthouse Corner. Stuart kindly rang me and the bird obligingly posed for a photograph. As a bonus, Stuart actually saw the bird eating a bee - apparently they are able to remove the sting before they do so! Stuart was happy for people to see this rarity so a number of folk turned up to catch a glimpse of the colourful bird.
(Photo of Bee Eater by Pauline Wilson - Photo of flying Bee Eater by Christine Hall.)
Well I can't really follow that. When the month of May started the verges were bright yellow with Dandelions providing a welcome early feed for bees. It will be a different story for June as wildflowers really get into their stride!