Aug 30, 2008

A quick scan at Yesnaby.

Yesnaby, a favourite destination for a cliff top walk on the west mainland coast. It is rightly famous for its wild flowers growing in the maritime heath. Most notably the Scottish Primrose which grows in abundance along with Grass of Parnassus and other staples such as Eyebright. And along the cliff tops Ladies Bedstraw and Wild Thyme. The cliffs have a number of rock stacks along there length. There is even one with access for the intrepid as you will see in the photos. Its an interesting place with some interesting geological features and one or two industrial ones!, see if you can find where the mill stones were quarried from the rock.

The sunset tonight at the stones of Brodgar.

Down the road

Greylag numbers down the fields from the house seem to be rising day on day. Three hundred and eighty this afternoon and four hundred and seventy odd last night. Every bit of open water in the parish seems to be infested with them at the moment. The sky is full of skeins and folks are saying aren’t they early this year not realising they never left.. It will be interesting to see what the estimated breeding numbers are this year. It all ready looks like another of the year on year increases again. All a bit grim!


I always get excited when I hear about cetacean sightings usually I miss them and it’s seldom I am lucky enough to see even a solitary whale.

I was reading on orkbird today that five to six humpback whales were seen from the Pentalina last night a couple of miles of Duncansby Head. How cool is that! I haven’t heard of humpback since one was seen off Echna bay and Hunda actually in the flow last winter some time {I think that was last winter} Looking in The mammals of Orkney. Humpbacks don’t make it on to the whale’s index. Looking in Sillocks, Skarfies and Selkies they are listed as very rare with sightings once a year or so over the past few years. Keep a watch out this week end you never know your luck. They are a big whale 10_15m in length and blow 3m high when they blow. They arch the back before diving and like a good fin slap before disappearing with the classic wave of the flukes. I hope someone out there is lucky enough to see them. Good luck folks. Cheers for the report Kas!

Aug 27, 2008

Out at Rango.

A spin around wet sights on the west mainland produced little this afternoon. I was at Finstown Ouze,Bosquoy and Sabiston and hadn’t seen very much. Although it was bright the stiff breeze was very testing. There was certainly nothing to be seen on the lochs and few enough waders around shallower muddy edges. Eventually the mill dam at Rango. This was the place I was looking forward to. It has good mud flats for waders and has been featuring all week over on orkbird. There has been a steady flow of really good sightings for days and seemed promising.

On arriving there was two large balls of birds rolling and settling back down one was starlings and the other were waders. There must have been some threat passing over. Things were settling as I pulled up. A quick scan with the bins showed nothing close on the water but scoping the far side showed waders on the muddy fringes. Exelent! In the distance two birders with scopes are slowly packing up and returning so I wait as they walk back before heading around the loch to where they were standing. This is to see if any birds are put up as they walk and to sus out where the path is as its further around than I have been before. Saying hello to the two lads walking out they tell me I have just missed the three Spotted Redshank a bit of a bummer but never mind. The path reveals two Reed bunting, three mipits, and a small flock of Swallows passing at head height with noisy chatter. Looking from the fence corner that reveals the furthest mud flats there is a fair bit of movement. Binoculars reveal there are birds of different sizes along the loch edge. Scoping them from as low a position as I can get to keep out the wind I start to look through finding Redshank Curlew, Knot and Dunlin and eventually Ruff. I only was sure of three Ruff but I’m sure there were more. Every so often small birds would take the attention,Mippits on the fence or Reed Buntings moving about. The wader flock I had seen earlier rose up from one of the fields behind me and headed for the loch passing at head height above me. With a rush of birds and the whoosh of feathers through the air they circled the loch before eventually landing on the opposite side in a field already occupied by a flock of Greylag geese. They lasted for a while but a Bonxie passing at water level put up every thing within a hundred yards and they gained altitude and disappeared. With all the waders up and swirling I picked out one Ruff by its tail and was all pleased with my self. I soon deflated when I tried to find them again oh well!. The panic had shown me there were twice as many Dunlin as I had thought!

Another good look through showed me nothing new and a check of the geese revealed no collars (if you see a goose with a collar could you please phone it in to the RSPB office cheers) so it was time to go. The wind straight in the face was enough to convince me to head for the kettle rather than hang around for another hour…tempting as it was….

Aug 20, 2008

Tonights rising moon.

The missing photo.

Here is the photo thats sliding off the page. Not quite sussed all this out yet!!

A couple of snaps from Weddell

First is an Arctic Skua.

Next is one of the Ringed Plover family that harassed me.

And finaly this is a spread of pink and white Sea Rocket.

Over the barriers a look

With this evening being such a fine late summer evening I took a run over the barriers for a spy about. A nice run down the ham strait took me to Graemeshall Loch The loch was heavy with mallard and geese but my attention was really on the fore shore In the distance was a Sandwich Tern. This a bird I really need for the photo year list I have running on birdforum. It wasn’t to be tho. In the foreground Arctic Terns were being harassed by a couple of Arctic Skuas. A noisy and dramatic struggle unfolded before me the Terns every twist and turn matched and bettered by the bigger bird. It was looking grim as the Tern was obviously tiring than as suddenly as it had started the Skuas faded away. Within minutes the Terns regrouped and started fishing a distance down the beach whilst the Skuas settled on the shore near the first barrier. I clocked one of the Skuas on the shore and managed a close approach over the were covered rocks with out spooking it to get a few shots and then it was back aboard and off to the next barrier.

Little was to be seen at either end of the second so I nipped to the far end of the third and took a walk along the beach at Weddell. Its strange how soft the sand is on either side of Weddell Sound. Walking on the tide exposed sands gave little support and you sink up to the ankles. Before me pleeped the Redshank scaring up Ringed Plover and Curlew…Thanks lads I can always rely on you’s! Reaching the beached fish farm boat and nets I got great photo opps with a flight of Pied Wagtails A flock of ten or more were about and seemed fairly unbothered by my presence. Needless to say I got camera to scope and whiled a way some time. Moving to the point there is some cover from low sand dunes and rocks I plan to look over the shore but getting through the vegetation All the way along the shore edge there is big growths of Sea Rocket in pink and white. The scent is sweet and all pervading on the breeze. A true delight of summer. Amongst all of this and between me and the rise are the wee birds tho. A load of Wagtails and then a flock of Linnets take to the air complaining. Cautiously I stick my head over the rise. Below are a load of Redshank and Curlew that soon start to rise taking every thing with them. Oh well it happens doesn’t it!

Moving on from Weddell point I get in a position to scope out Dulse skerry This has a load of birds all over it. Working my way through them I check the Curlew for Whimbrell with out luck. There are a few Terns lurking but none of the Sandwich that I am looking for. My attention is drawn to a family of Ringed plover that land close to me and set about making enough noise to drive me away. I take a few snaps in the bright evening sun. Whilst this is going on three flocks of Golden Plover take to the air over the course of ten minutes. I could see there were some on the weed covered rocks but there were way over three hundred in total. I was surprised at the numbers that were lurking down there. This was about enough for me as I fancied trying for a sunset shot some where on the way home. Wandering back in the warm sun I came across the back bones of a long dead seal…quick snap… a good load of Yarrow in flower and some mean thistles. The sands were quite amazing with the amount of fresh water springing out of them.,I cant help wondering if its rain water draining of the low hill behind or if its spring water. Something to look at another day….I didn’t get a sunset as fog rolled in from the Atlantic and swallowed every thing by eight thirty. Oh well tomorrows another day.

Aug 19, 2008

Out and about today.

250+ Greylag in the fields along side the bigswell Rd.

30+ Swallows around the house.

50+ Mallard feeding together on the pieedie sea tonight made for a fine looking sight.

Aug 18, 2008

The lunar eclipse the other night proved to be an elusive spectical. I managed to get a 10 min view from the kirk yard at the bu in Orphir. I have been looking around diffrent places and dont see many photographs. I managed to snatch a couple before before the clouds covered it all up for the night.

There have been a few nice sunsets of late so here are a couple of images.


Last weekend I got the offer to get out and see some Storm Petrel ringing. Needless to say I jumped at the chance. I have been out a couple of times with the local field club/RSPB and been rained off so I have never even seen an elusive Storm Petrel in the hand. Mind you I had never seen one in the air either so when the phone went about half nine I was up and out in to the gathering gloom with an excited air. Allan is a life long ringer and to night we were off to Birsay on the North West corner of the mainland. We have one net, poles and gear for the area we will work so with the car loaded and his nine year old assistant aboard we are off. Riding over the air had been absolutely full of insects and at times moths looked like snow flakes in the still night air. Parking near the whale bone we set up the net on a rock shelf below a twenty foot face. As we are adjusting the tension the first bird fly’s in and we are off and running. Allan is all excited as we haven’t even started the CD recording of petrel song that helps to lure them in. With the first one quickly out of the net and in to a bird bag we move back to the car to ring this bird and record this first bird of the night. Watching it emerge from the bag the first thing to strike you is how small it is.

Its an amazing thing this diminutive wee sea bird before me is one of the most prolific birds in the UK but I have never seen one before. Its daylight life is at sea where it picks its food from the surface of the ocean. Fluttering along like the butterfly of the sea as its sometimes called and it will pitter patter on the surface with its webbed feet.. Its feet are vulnerable at these times and it’s common to find feet injuries probably from fish bites{we saw three in the ones we caught}. Such delicate behaviour in a bird makes it very vulnerable to predation and an easy target for Bonxies to Peregrine when it enters there range so it is a nocturnal visitor to the feeding grounds of the shore line or its cliff top burrows to feed its partner and young.

With the first bird rung weighed and measured. It is released on the ground where it fills its wings a couple of times before fluttering away into the darkness. Back to the net now descending in the darkness the air if filled with the strange calls from the CD Once back at the net we quickly work along the net Allan’s removing the birds quickly yet with delicate patience and deft finger work Arron and I hold the bags as they are filled and build up. Arron is a old hand with the ringing and is casually explaining the differences of leach’s petrels in the nets I was very impressed!! Every so often a petrel flutters softly past us visible against the lightening horizon. We go from end to end and return to ring then and so we keep going with this routine until it’s to light Allan is cock a hoop as we manage over seventy birds with five controls that is birds that have already been rung. So the picture grows.

All too soon the sky is lightening and the night is over but I am delighted with the experience. Now I know what I am looking for I think I could sit out on the rocks for an hour and see an occasional stormy. The over whelming impression that I take away from the night has to be when we were releasing the birds. Most were released on the ground. With the flat calm conditions some were held on the palm of my outstretched hand in the breeze. These delicate birds weighing around an ounce would sit there then fill there wings with a slow flutter slowly raise up so just their feet would be touching but not take off. They would be pitter pattering on your hand, their long wings extended. It was like having fairies dancing on your hand. It was stunning. It was breathtaking…and then it was gone fluttering into the night………….birding don’t get much better.


Hello there and welcome to my blog. I am a keen birder and love getting outside. So I hope to share my out doors experiences of these fantastic islands with all of you. All of this bogging is quite new to me and the grammar has never been a strong point so please be patient and we will see how it goes. So with out further ado…let’s go.