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!
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.