Aug 19, 2014

Unusual harrier behaviour

I saw something I have never seen before tonight. As I was coming away from Russadale quarry I had the dog running on a right good bit in front and was messing about in the heather just off the track. A hen harrier came over Chris's house down the field and over the heather. It made for the dog and circled around it five or six times. It really looked as if it was looking to nail anything the dog would have put in to the air. I might be assuming a lot here but it really looked like it was taking advantage of the dog buldering about.

Aug 11, 2014

Time moves on with nobody charged

Apr 29, 2014

Through the square window

Standing in the kitchen looking out of the windows putting off doing this and that, thinking of making a cup of coffee when bugger me a pied flycatcher lands on the compost heap then drops down and picks off a couple of flys. With this it rises to perch on the fork handle and look about. It probably sees me raising binoculars and moves off to the rugosa and out of view. After a reasonable time of about sixty seconds waiting I slip out of the back door for a spy and sure enough the wee fella is sitting low in the garden corner elder. Unfortunately for me a mop of grey hair and a grey hoodie dont make for very good camouflage and its off again. Returning to the kitchen I put the kettle on and before its boiled the bird is low down in the other corner of the garden. There is a cold wind blowing down there and the bird is flighty, just picking insects but it looks like slim pickings. A few moments later it was up and gone hopefully to better feeding. It was a delight to see for that brief time and a garden tick. I made and drank a cup of coffee waiting but it was gone carried away on the migrants wind.........then it was back to the task of putting off what ever it was off again. Who says procrastination gets you nowhere !

Apr 18, 2014

First wheatear of the year.

Briefly out and about

Out for my first run about for a while. The west side was devoid of auks with just a few razorbills and fulmars. There were quite a few kittywake about with one or two settled on ledges. I took a few shots of fulmars loafing. A female wheatear shot along the rocky shore at Mar Wick which was a nice site being the first one I have seen this year. Shooting over to the Butquoy carpark at Birsay for a bacon roll I met a holidaying birder that I had met before a couple of years ago, poor fella has had a rough time of it with the weather.!! From there to Northside and the geo to have a look at the puffin ledge. It to was bare apart from a few razorbills. There were plenty of fulmars paired up tho so at least that was encouraging. Just at the parking I spied another wheatear which I manage to snap a few photos of. It moved off to the garden wall across the road where it was joined by a second. I totally failed to get another shot and the pair took to the air disappearing in to the fields. Not much but it was fine and bright with a promise of better days to come !!

Apr 14, 2014

Facebook bloody Facebook

I may be preaching to the converted but I think that through out birding in general there is one rule that at the top of the list and it is this.... Your actions in the field should NEVER be detrimental to the interests of the birds, the birds come first. With the proliferation of DSLR photography this maxim has been pushed aside as more and more photographers push on for more and more intimate images. Now seasonal shots of unfledged chicks in nests, birds on nests are cropping up on the big facebook sites. Some of these groups are happy to host such images. Its a disturbing thing to see some shots of the worlds rarest freshly hatched ducks scattering before a snappers lens. Another shot one day had rare chicks in a nest with the photographer giving a description of how hard it was climbing the tree and getting mobbed whilst he struggled to get the shot. This instance did cause a fair amount of condemnation but such comment was soon stopped by the admin and the group continues to host such images. The problem is that such big sites attract superb photos and big audiences and turn over a large amount of photos in a day, the toxic shite is soon buried in the scroll. I saw a shot of a LEO around a occupied nest taken with 50-250 lens. The only reason the owl didnt fly and he got the shot was because the female was on the nest nearby. If the bird had spooked the female could have gone as well and left the nest open to predation and for what, a crappy photograph. You would probably need a licence to take that shot in the UK, to get that licence you would need a better reason than some ego massaging on facebook. The past few weeks things have looked worse in this respect than previous years. I hope its a trend that will get stopped and facebook groups will get a grip on this irresponsible crap but in reality I cant see it.,

Apr 7, 2014

Great Grey Shrike

The Great grey shrike at the Shunan today, theres a bit more on the blog facebook page.

Mar 30, 2014


This now from aurora service europe. There has been a second big flare carrying CME today. I ken all well and fine it so often the kiss of death when i start shouting look to the skies but this is looking so good for the coming nights that i just have to type with crossed fingers.

There was yet another CME today which also looks Earthbound (and better than the one we reported about earlier today). SWPC have just issued a G1 (kp5) Geomagnetic storm watch for 2 April because of it. The kp figures and times will show up on the 3 day forecast tomorrow.

We now have a few CME's probably heading our way, so it is going to be an interesting couple of nights ahead.
This from Spaceweatherlive......

SOHO/LASCO imagery is now coming in and there are some frames available showing the CME from the X1 solar flare. Good news: the CME has an earth-directed component. It is perhaps a slightly weaker part as the bulk of the CME is heading well north but a asymmetrical full halo CME is clearly visible. The CME has absolutely an earth-directed component. More imagery is needed for a more detailed analysis (arrival time, expected storm strength etc.) but an impact can be expected at Earth from this CME.

Mar 29, 2014

X Flare heads for earth

Hot diggitydoo after being locked out of blogger for six months the new  google single identity has suddenly let me back into the blog. So HEADS UP....There is big flare headed towards earth right now. It might be a glancing blow but who knows. Could be another big lights display about to arrive,  be looking from sunday.

Oct 4, 2013

Pinkie flock today

stopped starts play

Its been a couple of days since i have been out what with the gales, rain and such so finding this morning flat calm and exceptionally mild was a pleasant find. Shooting off up to Eskadale with the dog on tow was a muddy delight, every thing was fresh moist and the air was sharp and clear. This is a huge change to the sunny spells during the gales. The air then is allways laden with salt and the air holds a haze that becomes particularly Leary with the dropping sun behind it. Anyway i digress, that was then and this is now, now is a different game! The cycle up has really only put up a dozen  meadow pipits and arriving at the bushes the dog once again dives in to where he has chased pheasants before. Its a bugger but he jumped in before i realised what was going on. Three wee birds flushed followed immediately by several calling redwings one of which dived into the elder beside the stand of fuchsia. He held his ground for a minute calling angerly until the dog once again moved him away as well. These were the first redwings i have seen this year. All excited I was going to post them up on Orkbird on my return  but it soon turned out they were all over and folks were well aware they were about !! Our return to the  house had starlings fly catching, a spectacle I always find enjoyable to watch. I wish I had a big camera with a big lens to catch some of the antics !! Down the fields there were substantial golden plover and pink footed geese flocks along with the first widgeon of the season on the Breckan pools.........Oh its nice the wind and rain have stopped !!

There is a little film of the flocks on the blogs facebook page. To get there click the link in the side bar on the right.

Sep 29, 2013

Pink Waxcap

I would never have thought of a mushroom to be twichable but here we have the Pink Waxcap a red list species exceptonaly scarce across Europe.

Been a while

was out with Tim Deans saturday class today for the first monthly walk of eight. We started at the east end of Newark beach with me arriving late !! However we were soon scoping the beach picking out every thing to be seen and comparing sizes of waders from sanderling up to godwit and golden plover. Off shore gannets actively fished. With this we moved off to the Mullhead plantation where we found Allan Leicht and Julian Branscome packing up their morning ringing effort. They had been catching the birds we had come to look for, in this case yellow browed warblers. These are regular passing migrants all be it in small numbers This year its a some what different story, there have been record numbers in Norway and yesterday the count on Shetland went over three hundred ! Although Shetland sits in a good position to hover up tired migrants before they reach us many have been getting through. In the trees the lads have caught three of five that were about. We had a quick series of glimpses of one flitting about also robin and wren scolding away, snipe and brambling over head before we moved off to Grindigar via the kirk yard at Sandside. Here we checked out the rocky shore and enjoyed the dramatic sight of the last of the bonxies harassing the gannets for the food they were catching. The safer water close in held the first returning widgeon flock I have seen this autumn, another treat. Grindigar quarry gave us a good place for a quiet coffee whilst we enjoyed very close views of A couple of yellow browed warblers flitting about our heads. This pair turned to three then briefly four until one went from YBW to chifchaf to willow warbler. Still they provided excellent entertainment. The last stop on the whistle stop tour of Deerness was Sandi sand accros from Dingishowe A tramp out over the sands brought us first close to ringed plover amoungst these and closer to the waters edge where a few dunlin. They are getting through their summer plumage now and interestingly there looked to ba at least two distinct species together. Its always nice to get out on the sands. Once you are there things settle around you and it all becomes more intimate. The water line on the rising tide to one side of us was providing good feeding for a flock of bartailed godwit along with a solitary knot. The other side had a very nice flock of golden plover. The goldies were just sitting about intent on doing nothing. They werent feeding and none realyly looked like they were sleeping. They were just casually loafing, mostly on one leg I may add. The air about us would fill with rising birds every so often although a cause never appeared. In one group of starlings and finches Tim had a goldfinch. Constantly over us were small flights of goldies and geese. We had had a good collection of shore birds before we headded off to the cars. One last peek over the dunes to the sea produced a pair of red throated divers, an adult and juvenile who obligingly came towards us right to the waters edge afording supurb views, an excellent way to finish the first walk of the season.

Jun 21, 2013

A sea watch for whales and porpoise today produced nothing but a posey photo !!

Jun 2, 2013

There is a little film of Cuckoo on the facebook page.

May 26, 2013

Tough life for a girl on her own

What seems like a couple of weeks ago I was at Cottsgarth for the nature festival day. There were shown Food passes at this years nest site and as a bonus its not to far from the hide. All in all things looked cushtie. Several visits later and things look a bit different now. Over six visits I have seen hardly any contributions from the male bird and the female was often off the nest hunting. Last time I was here the female dropped a young rabbit into the nest area from a dive with a release from sixty or seventy feet !! before continuing hunting.I assume the presence of hoodies in the vale prompted this action. Today on arrival the male was preening on a post above the nest site so I guess he had brought in food and was hanging about whilst it was eaten. It was soon off and a wait of an hour and a half ensued before it reappeared. This time it quartered the hill side and circled about the landslip before I lost it from site, I assumed it had floated over the top of the hill. Another fifteen minutes and a ringtail started in from the far right of the hill quartering low and slow. About half way up the heather. As it came in the male took off from the head of the landslip some where and soard down at it. The ringtail started calling and the pair tumbled together split and tumbled again. With this the female began a circling climb calling softly with the male following, they gained a lot of altitude before the male pulled away and I lost sight of both by taking the bins off them. Almost immediately tho coming in from the right fast and low to the nest the female glides over it dropping prey to the ground. She soon turns again and quarters the ground heading into the wind, over the greenest patch of of ground she wheels and drops on some thing. This time she stays put and quickly eats it for herself before disappearing over the ridge line. All in all its a bit concerning, it looks like this female is a victim of a polygamous relationship and having to do a lot of fending for her self. Things might go her way tho, the ground is full of young rabbits and every thing is hatching out food is looking more abundant. It will be interesting to see how she goes !

Gargany does the double !

It is fifteen days since i saw the gargany on the Loons pool. I was there a look today and after a while a gargany appeared, suprised it was till here i was even more suprised when a second one also a male paddled out of the bogbean...bonus !!

May 16, 2013

May 12, 2013

Stonechats are go !!

After a couple of weeks of weeks of my local male stonechat calling im pleased to say that he has found a mate and today they were enthusiasticly defending a territory. The pair of them were out calling and causing a ruckass as I passed with the dog so im guessing they have yet to lay but I think its odds on that I have breeding stonechats on my patch !!

May 11, 2013

May 10, 2013

The film below dont work and i cant get it off ...ooops

John Crosleys Gargany at the Loons !!

Cheers John i wouldnt have waited about for long and missed this if it wasnt for gabbing to you...nice one !!

Apr 30, 2013


Water rail tosday at The Loons

Apr 14, 2013

Yesterday Stano was telling me of listening to snipe drumming and this morning I heard my first of the season as well. I was just uncliping the dog from the bike at the end of the Howe road before heading up the hill as above me a snipe was doing its thing. The surprises didnt stop there because from the Eskadale track a distant harrier put on a display of skydancing. With out bins it was about as far away as I could manage to see. It was surprise as the conditions were quite damp and lightly misty but all in all a delight to see. Tramping back the mile to the bike we were asailed once again by the amours snipe This time he was accompanied by a female (I am assuming)who followed him around maintaining station below him chiping away....a nice walk !!

Apr 12, 2013

Nothern lights

There is an earth bound CME due to arrive the 13th. Look out for lights on sat night !!

Apr 2, 2013

Cotasgarth april 2nd

After reading Tim Deans sunday class report saying that Cotasgarth was hooching with harriers on sunday I thought it was an idea to pop over for a look this lunch time. Even though it was clouded over and cold it was a warming walk up the track from the farm. Geese were the main birds seen on the way to the dale. The heather hill sides are fairly covered in pairs now as the residents begin to take territory . The track through the dale produced a few of the first returned meadow pipits. I have been noticing more of these have been reapering in the county over the last few days, we had seven or more on the Eastside beach yesterday and one was displaying somewhere over the back field last night. The hide was cold and draughty with yet another dodgy door handle! However with the windows open and the collar up I settled down to scan the ridge and hillside before me. My usual routine is a spy over the stands of willow scrub for small birds perching, a look over all the posts on the hill side for perching raptors that might be resting, preening and chucking up pellets then up to thr ridge line for birds coming in. At this point the first raptors came into sight with a buzzard moving along the skyline. This was closely followed by another and the pair moved towards the pylons and disappeared over the hill. A large ringtail came over the top and quartered the hill to the left to disappear from view. Shortly another smaller one (young male) came in from the Harray mens graves area and passed over the hillside rising over the ridge at the land slip. The pair of buzzards were soon back about hands with the pylon and this time the drew the attention of another ringtail. This one set about haranguing the buzzards and quite a scrap for a while. As they split and moved away it fell quiet for a bit until a harrier quartered the right hand hill side again. Around the pylon a female kestrel hovered dipped hovered and dipped. There are a pair over this ground and have been a fixture for years there.Buzzards reappeared over the ridge line and patroled with hovers and flapping wing beats reminiscent of sparowhawks giving it a bit of flap flap flap gilde flap flap flap glide. I was well chilled by now and not in a mellowed out sort of way man, I was just plain cold !! Giving it up and walking out the best bit of the day was about to happen, at the gate to the dale there is a wet patch with a big dung pile and just as I arrived there there was a single call from a snipe and with my next foot fall three tiny snipe took off from almost beneath me, they shot away low and silent to land almost together a short distance away in the long rank grass. My heart was in my mouth with the thrill and surprise!. Im sure these were jack snipe, I have seen a few singles over the years but this was the first time I have seen any together and three feeding together has just made my day. Worth a wee bit of cold !!

Mar 31, 2013

Orkneys stonechats have received a hammering over the last few hard winters. From once being a common moorland bird their numbers have crashed to become something of a rairity. Last winter was favourable tho and there was breeding in a few isolated sites. This winter has been mild for us as well and hopefully stonechats are starting to re-establish. This male was in a dale of the Harray hills and I found him whilst walking the pup.. I have now seen him a couple of times on visits but have yet to see a female to make a pair. With luck a lassie will happen along as he has taken up some prime real estate. Wrens have made a good recovery from the decimation of the past winters and the hill was ringing with their song along with several skylarks in the distance. I was only there for 40mins but I also managed to see a pair of buzzards ( another of our successful arrivals with numbers going up over the last couple of years) Both of them came down twice in the small trees besides Comleybank before lifting off to soar the ridge. Whilst up there the were harassed by a female kestrel. The first returning meadow pipits were about the heather although I have yet to hear one sing but its early days. Other raptors were a ringtail that came from the Lyde side and a shorteared owl that quartered the low heather and grazing’s below. Apart from these the only other birds were a raven and a couple of hoodies but as I said its early days

Jan 28, 2013

Its the start of the year, dafs and other bulbs are showing the first signs of shooting above the surface and the ravens are roosting in the derilict up the road. Life is starting once again, Question is will my birding revive its self after five months off....we will see....

Sep 12, 2012

Swallow this !!

Here is a photo i am really chuffed with. This is the sort of shot i dream of getting and this is how i got it. First thing in the morning as i was putting the puppy out to do its biz when swallows took off from the gutter over head. These were the freshly fledged chicks from the brood in next doors garage. I though that was close and nice as they flittered away but then though no more about it. Later in the day i walked out of the open back door intending to be cleaning up the pups biz when i heard a noise and looked back. Two swallow fledglings were sitting there calling and as i watched the parent bird came in and fed one of the calling chicks. My vantage point was a runway between the shed and house that leads to the dogs pound. I stood quietly and another food pass took place. Exciting to watch as it was i thought PHOTO OPP!!. I quickly returned indoors through the front door to get my camera. Slipping back in to the gap between the shed and house where i was reasonably hidden and i started to try for feeding shots. I couldnt have been in a better position, 6m away resting on the sloping roof. As the parent birds returned and the chicks would start their demanding calls for food. This gave the perfect opportunity to depress the shutter button to prefocus before the main event. All i had to do was settle in and concentrate on the job in hand. Unfortunately the midges had the same sort of idea and began to feed off me at there leisure. It all gets very zen as you search for an external stillness whilst they crawl over your skin, knowing that to wave your arms or rub your face would collapse the situation with the young birds taking off. Over about 40 mins i managed to take 25 or so shots, now this is where the truth of the situation comes out for even though i had taken advantage of being in the right place at the right time this shot is realy down to lady luck. After retreating from the midge attack and processing the photos on the computer 25 shots yielded up five food passes none clear several to late or early misses and this photo i cropped out was one of the first i took. Luck really does play a part for me.......and greatfull I am for it!

Stronsay trip

Good day out on Stronsay with the RSPB local group migrant outing. Although the westerly wind flow had us looking for american arivals rather than european song birds both were a little sparce. Allan and Jerrys numbers read like this.

Waders; Greenshank (2), Black-tailed Godwit (45), Knot, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Sanderling (72 - including a colour-ringed bird & 26), Bar-tailed Godwit (14), Snipe, Turnstone, Curlew, and Golden Plover (300+).

Wildfowl; Mute Swan (3prs with broods of 4 cygnets), Pink-footed Geese (23), Red-breasted Merganser (25), Little Grebe (1), Coot (40ish), Pintail (16), Shoveler (17), Wigeon (800+), Teal (50+), Gadwall (2), Tufted Duck (26), and the ever present Greylags... (no collars though)

Passerines; Wheatears numbered (20+), Meadow Pipits dotted around in loose flocks and a few White Wagtails with fewer Pied. Linnet & Twite probably in equal number.

Grey Heron (at least 20 seen), Sandwich Tern (15+), Arctic Skua (2), Peregrine (Ad, male chasing the Black-tailed Godwits) and a cock Hen Harrier on the way to the boat.

Aug 31, 2012

Sanderling at Skaill

There have been a lot of Sanderling aroound their usual haunts over the last couple of weeks. These birds are on the beach at Skaill. They were fairly unconcerned with my presence and moved from side to side of me on the last of the disapering sand. Last flock i saw they were in all states of moult but these are nearly all the way to their winter colours, exellent wee birds.

Aug 24, 2012

Starlings rock

I was off to the Broch of Birsay this morning but totaly messed up with the tide and couldent get on!! The trip back produced no birds that i wouldnt have expected so i was feeling a bit bummed with the thought of cutting grass all afternoon. On pulling in and letting the puppy out the air filled with birds! Over the houses were several hundred starlings all in the air engaged in fly catching, what a wonderfull sight!! This something that happens only rarely but they have been going at it for almost an hour. I supose it just gos to show you dont need to travel miles to see things some times its all on your doorstep and from the most unasuming of sources as well!!....Starlings rock!!

Aug 20, 2012

Out west

Out for a quick spin this afternoon first off to the Shunan where a couple of Bartailed godwits stalked about the muddy edges of the island. The whole shore line was fringed with cast feathers that looks like snow in the distance. A Greenshank flew up and over towards Finstown calling. It took a swing to the right and came down about hands with the burn at Bosquoy. The last bird I see as I an about to pull away are three waders, they dive down to the loch but turn and carry on. By now there are four, following with the bins I see they are Dunlin and hear there high piched calls as they to head to Bosquoy. I now head over to Bosquoy my self, thats left on the road and first right. The first thing I see turning in off the main road is a dead bird, A look and I see it is a short eared owl, this is yet another road casualty. They may be here in good numbers this year but the other side of the coin has been some severe attrition on the roads.

Bosquoy its self held nothing unusual, the big greeb flock was there and good flocks of Curlew and Lapwing came in whilst I scoped about. Moving on from there I hit the Loch of banks hide I hadn’t been here for ages and there was a certain air of dereliction starting to settle about the place, There was bugger all to see either as the meadowsweet had grown so much you cant see any water. A spin on from there saw me looking over the loons from the view point, this to was to prove fruitless with no birds at all on any of the muddy pools and the loch side to lost in the haze and glare of the sun. With little to be gained from waiting about I head down the west coast to enjoy the ride to Skaill. Stopping at the north end of the bay the tide is just high enough to stop dog walkers from approaching the last third of the bay. This portion of the shore is absolutely teeming with birds it seems every where you look there are more. The waters edge is dominated by Dunlin ,Sanderling and Ringed plover rushing back and forth, the rocky shore has Turnstones in all states of moult, Redshanks well close in interspersed with Knot. The Knot range from red to grey. Along with hundreds of starlings on the strand line are several family’s of pied wags and a few Wheatears, one a strikingly even colour of brown. Amongst a group of gulls and Oystercatchers a rather striking Blacktailed godwit is probing away. Seeing this it leads me to see another and another till there are ten in all, They are an exellent sight in their breeding plumage. Carefully looking through every thing I dont see anything out of the usual not that you can take such a massive gathering as usual tho. I was counting Sanderling and got in to nearly a hundred before a couple of Bonxies put the whole beach in to the air. When I lost count I was less than half way through!! All in all it made for an entertaining hours watching and a nice relaxed ride home!


The last few days have seen a continental wind-flow bringing good falls of migrating birds to the east side. I haven’t really been out on the hunt but I did manage a couple of lifers with a Wood warbler in full and glorious colour on saturday and a redbacked shrike on sunday.Fairly chuffed i was!!

Aug 3, 2012

Common Crane

A good day today as I have just ticked Common crane. This bird was posted on the Orkney bird group on facebook last night . At the time it was just for an ID as the bird was on a farm and far from the road and turning there is an issue. This morning it was visible from the road at the North west end of Swanny loch tho. We located it by the booming calls coming through the mist and managed to get some distant views. I do wonder if this was or should I say is the Tufta bird of a couple of weeks ago. Looking back the cranes that were about Stromness a while ago seemed to stay about for ages, cropping up over and over in different places. Could be this is the same sort of loitering. Im just glad to have had a chance to have one in the scope whilst it did its stuff for an hour on and off…..A very nice big bird!!

Jul 30, 2012