Bird Report - April 2019
A Great Northern Diver has graced Deerness with its presence during April; I saw it at Newark on the 2nd and again on the 7th (still in winter plumage) then Ivor and Marlene Rorie spotted it a few days later. While I was admiring the Diver I was also listening to the sound of Skylarks singing while Lapwings displayed and called. A nice sighting was a lone Snow Bunting making its way along the path.
Gerry Cannon was in Deerness on the same day and reports a Jack Snipe, 200+Golden Plovers and no less than 15 Hares!
Around the parish I have noticed quite a number of Meadow Pipits displaying - they fly into the air then dive-bomb down again while singing. I have also seen several pairs of Meadow Pipits and I suspect breeding is well under way for this little bird which is very common in Orkney during the spring and summer.
Photo of Meadow Pipit by Ian Cunningham.
Others now back for the summer include Pied Wagtails and Wheatears which are easily seen.
I have enjoyed a nice array of birds at the feeder - Dunnock, Chaffinches - both male and female - Robin and twice have seen 2 Brambling. Greenfinch males are now in breeding plumage so look even more handsome .
Photo of Greenfinch by Ian Cunningham.
On the 5th I had a lovely walk towards East Denwick amongst a cacophony of bird-sound coming from Lapwings, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Oystercatchers, Curlews and Geese. There were 2 Shelducks in one of the small pools. The Coltsfoot flowers were putting on a show but it will be a while before the leaves are out. Driving back I noticed C.100 Oystercatchers in the field adjacent to the Gloup car park.
During my walk I bumped into Ian Cunningham who later reported a Lesser Whitethroat, a ChiffChaff and a Redwing in the East Denwick plantation. He also saw a Goldcrest at the Lighthouse Quarry garden.
No one will be surprised to learn that Swallows are back in Deerness! Early in the month I had reports from Alison and Ernie Skea at Aikerskaill then Marlene Rorie and Nancy Scott. Now, of course, they are busy building nests in which to raise families before their long trek back to Africa later in the year - what a hard life they have!
Good news also that the Sand Martins are back at Newark, building and reclaiming nests just below Ivor and Marlene's house. It's lovely to see them flying around, seemingly oblivious of folk having strolls along the path. Jill Sutcliffe was watching them catching insects one evening during a walk.
Another visitor to the parish - Gerry Cannon - was in the Quarry gardens and reported 4 Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff
Pairs of Eider Ducks have been seen a couple of times at the Geo so I wonder if we will be seeing ducklings there again soon?
I am still hoping to hear the sound of Snipe drumming but no luck so far but I am still hopeful that this little wader will put in a performance.
Bird Report - February 2019
One of the most unusual things to be washed up on Newark beach must surely be a Red Deer which I was alerted to by Marlene Rorie. This must have been washed over from Caithness.
There were quite a number of big flocks around during February. Nice to report that there are still good numbers of Curlew to be seen both on the ground and on the wing.
This super photos of a Curlew is by Christine Hall.
Lapwings often accompanied the Curlews.
Big numbers also of Starlings which caused delight by performing their swirling act in various localities - always nice to see.
The heavy seas have once again brought bounties for Gulls and there have been big numbers of varying varieties, but in particular Common Gulls which seem to favour feeding at the Geo.
More big numbers - on the 3rd a nice sighting of Pink-footed Geese in the field behind Delday and, of course, the Greylag Geese continue to find Deerness to their liking. Four days later the Pink-foots had moved to a field on the road down to Skaill. I counted around 100.
Another species which has been noticeable for being in groups is the Raven which I am sure many people will have seen hanging around in various locations.
It's nice to see more Oystercatchers as they return from their wintering grounds further south though some over-winter in Orkney. There has been a flock of around 40 Turnstones at Newark Bay for some time, busying themselves at the water's edge. Turnstones were also on view at Sandside Bay on the 25th and were joined by Purple Sandpipers. As I left Sandside a Pied Wagtail flew by and landed on the beach.
It is lovely to see some of Orkney's more common birds returning - Meadow Pipits and Rock Pipits are easily seen now.
Richard Falconer reported hearing a Skylark very early in February near Jean Corsie's house. It wasn't long before I too was lucky and now regularly hear Skylarks at Newark. In fact, one morning I observed two of the birds tussling in the air and singing before splitting and flying away.
A few Snipe have been surprised as I passed fields during my walks, the birds squawking and flying away into the sky. Rarer though is the Jack Snipe which I saw as it silently flew from the field's edge and was lower as it made its escape.
I was walking at Newark on the 11th and focused the binoculars on 3 Long-tailed Ducks swimming in the sea. It's always nice to see this attractive species.
Wrens are starting to be noticeable now as their unmistakeable sound is so loud it cannot fail to be heard.
I have a couple of raptors to report - a Short-eared Owl hunting down below Sunnybank.
A Hen Harrier landed on a fence up the Newark road before taking off once more.
After the heavy seas the beach at Newark (Sandside also I am afraid) was strewn with plastic, netting, etc. so I was pleasantly surprised to visit one day to see it immaculately clean thanks to the efforts of Ivor and Marlene Rorie. Great work. I hope more walkers respond to the request on the bin to Pick up 3 pieces.
Bird Report - January 2019
A nice start to the New Year with a flock of Lapwing on the Links. It's always nice to see these birds which I think are full of character and fierce protectors of their offspring when breeding time arrives. I love to see their swooping and calling.
Also on New Year's Day Ivor and Marlene Rorie reported 5 Herons in one of their fields.
Another flock of waders on the 3rd when a good number of Curlews were at Gritley. In fact I have noticed good numbers of Curlews around the parish during my walks.
January 6th was a nice day for a walk with the dog so I headed up the Halley Road disturbing 2 Snipe which rose from the ground at Snippigar. Heading down the track towards St. Peter's Pool I counted 300 Pink-footed Geese at the bottom of the field. These are noticeably different from the Greylag (there were also a few of these) as they have brown necks and shorter beak - and pink feet of course. Wigeon were whistling from the water below where I stood.
Pink-foots were also present down the Halley track later in the month but a smaller flock of about 30.
I was just feeding the birds on the 15th when a Hen Harrier glided over and set the birds up in the air. The sizeable group of Starlings eventually pursued the raptor as it flew off - safety in numbers?
For quite a while now I have noticed a Dunnock amongst the house sparrows and starlings.
A neat sparrow-sized little bird with grey throat and orange legs it hops under the feeders and bushes.
On the 16th I was fascinated to watch 2 Jackdaws making an attempt to reach the peanut feeder in the back garden in order to grab a meal. This happened on a few days without success.
On the 19th and 20th I saw groups of Twite at Newark Bay. These will be feeding on seeds in Russell Aitken's field.
Driving on the 21st a Merlin dashed in front of the car from Erlend Aitken's workshop disappearing behind his house across the road. Nice to see this bird - the smallest of our raptors, in fact scarcely bigger than a blackbird.
I had a phone call from Mary Wylie of Lighthouse Corner on the 30th to say there were 3 Chaffinches under her bird feeder during the cold weather. All three were females so paler than the colourful male.
However the star of the month was a Barn Owl at Halley Farm. Elaine Spence rang me to say the bird was in one of their buildings so I hastened round to take a look. I had to climb quite a high ladder to get a view of this rarity. Actually a different bird of the species was seen near the Gloup area earlier in the year so is there a chance they are venturing further north and maybe might breed at some time in the near future? Thanks to Elaine and Steven for alerting me to this super bird. Elaine was also able to take photos so that was a bonus.
Photos of Barn Owl by Elaine Spence.
I wonder if many Deerness folk did the RSPB Big Garden Bird Count? Nothing exciting at Sunnybank. My tally was: 1 Dunnock, 8 Rock Doves, 48 House Sparrows, 57 Starlings, 2 Blackbirds, 3 Greenfinches.
With the winter weather kicking in I hope people are feeding the birds to help them through the cold conditions. Important, too, is water so please break the ice and refill drinking water.