Sep 27, 2008



Last night we were lucky enough to witness fine if short display of noctilucent clouds. I went out about 22.40 and the sky was glowing with clouds. I thought it was an aurora at first glance but it was soon obvious this wasn’t to be {aurora watch is very quiet at the moment as well} There’s no moon to speak of as well. I watched the display for five or tem minutes, dragging all and sundry into the garden. The responses varied from ooo cool to its cold,im missing the end of my program. And that all time classic’ will someone put that bloody outside light back on……Ahh….with every one successfully under whelmed by the wonders of nature. I nipped in to post the sighting on the web and came back out in time to see them quickly disappear….It was a fantastic display tho.

Noctilucent clouds are the highest of all clouds. They can be as much as eighty miles up!. The general thought as I understand it is that these clouds of ice crystals that form around particulate matter possibly left by the rocket trails from space launches. As the sun drops further and further below the horizon its oblique rays illuminate the clouds from below giving the spectral glow. What ever the cause the phenomenon is the sightings are becoming more regular. Last night was the third time I have been lucky enough to see them this year.

The grainy photo is from last time I saw them and the blue sky one was from last year.

Sep 26, 2008

First Sightings

Yesterday i saw my first Redwings of the winter.
Flushed out of the vally scrub by Ruby and her dog on their regular walk. A dozen birds rose and settled again in Happy vallefirsty.

Sep 24, 2008


I took a spin out today. Heading out past Brodgar first there was little to be seen along the shore. The fields held a few Mipits milling about. A spin to Voy revealed more at the far end of Stenness loch. In the lee of the skerries Newly arrived Widgeon sheltered from the breeze. The scope revealed a good spread of the usual suspects. Rolling past Voy its self put up the usual Sparrows and Greenfinches. The bay beyond was teeming with Greylag Mallard and Widgeon, Along the rocks roosting Lapwings and Curlews stood immobile. My attention was drawn by a flock of wee birds circling over the old mill. As I moved towards the junction they moved to the roof of the house on the corner. Dead right…I hopped off the bike and snapped a couple of shots through the scope.

Flocks of Twite are all over the west mainland at the moment I saw four flocks of twenty to thirty+ in the course of 90mins today. Heading off I spin on to Rango for more Twite… Rango holds loads of BH gulls a few common waders and little else but as I was about to leave I spy a nice Ruff feeding quite close to me. This perks me up no end as it is another bird for my county photo year list…check it out at this link( if links work in the blog….hehe)

Heading back home I take a stop at the loons hide. Theres not much to see but a Moorhen is being quite entertaining whilst preening so I snap a few shots and some film as it starts to resume feeding. There are also two common Scoters feeding away. I manage to get some film of one feeding then a couple of stills. Unfortunately a couple more birders enter the hide so that’s the end to the didgiscoping as the hides a bit bouncy with folk in. A quick spy along the Loch of Banks produces a few Redshank and little else so it’s the coop and home for me. A nice cup of coffee and a look at some fuzzy pics. It’s a reasonable day when I can get another snap on the year list.

Sep 22, 2008


At about six last night (sun) we were at the Strombo coop for a few bits and while we were there we nipped across the road for petrol and lucky we did while I was sat there my attention was taken by a cat walking through five Pied wagtails. The cat was walking nonchalantly through the throng ignoring the birds all around him. I am sure he new there was no way that he could pounce on any of them in the flat car park. As I looked I could see more over the road in the lorry park. This was enough to get me out the car for a look. Sure enough Pied wagtails were gathering in preparation for there evening roost. They were along the shore and across the car park. There were upwards of twenty five milling about. I had a look for whites but saw none. Quickly I was back to the car and off. Next we stopped on the Garson side and I had a look across the school playing fields here I managed to see thirty seven birds with out the aid of binoculars. It’s a very pleasing sight. If your in the vicinity before sundown have a look and a count up!

Sep 19, 2008


The extreamly rare Cretzshcmars Bunting has been reported today on North Ron.

Sep 18, 2008


WINTER COMES..I CANT WAIT....well i can actualy!!



Sabiston Loch


A spin out before the forecast rain produced a few common migrants but nothing spectacular. Stopping at the Stenness stones my attention was taken by half a dozen Skylarks feeding and chasing each other along the loch side. There were a good few Mipits in the air as well.

The tide was well up on the Stenness loch so little was to be seen along the sides. Harray had a few Redshank and young Mute Swans but little else. Moving past Brodgar pools they look in a sorry state It is so long since they held water that the vegetation has sprouted a fine green carpet with no mud to be seen.

Pushing on up the bray half a dozen Wheatears cross my path. I take it as a good omen, but then again any time I see a wheatear I take it as a good omen…its one of my favourites!! Small birds are much in evidence along the field edges and in the air. As I am rolling along there’s not much time for anything more than a cursory glance and a quick guess at an id from the giss. Queena is the next stop This is a bird crop on the brow of a hill just before the Brodgar road meets the Sandwick road. There is a small track you can park on. Here a flock of 30 or 40 Linnets flit about and move across the plants feeding. After a few minutes a far larger mixed flock rise behind them in a ball. The flock rises and falls a couple of times before it descends to feed. They seem mostly Twite by the sound of them but I am sure there are a good few Reed bunting in there from the cries on the wind. This is a nice reliable sight for birds in the winter, its unfortunate though in that its topography makes it the birds difficult to get good views of for ID’s.

Of to the junction and turn left its half a mile to the dam of Rango. The first spits of the forecast rain start to fall now. Off to the south and west the sky is growing ever darker it looks like this could be it. A quick scan shoes bugger all to be seen. I ready the scope and start to head off along the path when 200 or so Widgeon take to the air flying from end to end of the loch before settling for a couple of minutes then taking to the air this time heading in the direction of Harray Loch. I move along the path. There is nothing at all to be seen on or along the loch edge, The view point reveals a far expanse of empty mud totally devoid of any avian presence. A ten minute sit dose not improve things one dot so move off. By the time I reach the bike there is more persistence in the rain. I had been going to head to Skail then home via Voy but its sod that now. I get the oil skins on and beat the retreat. Home for coffee.

Sep 16, 2008

happy valley this morning

There are still birds in the wood,Willow Warbler, Spot Fly,A good few of common migrants. The best ones were the Goldcrests,there are still a good number kicking about.....entertaining!!

Sep 14, 2008

What a day!!!

Its been an absolutely stunning day and there are still loads of pipits moving up the valley here as night starts to fall. Looking through reports of the day it makes amazing reading. I thought I would reproduce Paul Higsons list he put up on orkbird tonight. I hope he don’t mind but I thought it well worth a look as a record of the day. Bear in mind here that he did not even step foot off St Margaret’s Hope.

30+ Redstart

8 Winchat

50+ Wheatear

12 Spot Fly

5 Pied Fly

2 Reed Warbler


10+ Song Thrush

6 Chiffchaff

2 Tree Pipit

30+ Willow Warbler

2 White Throat

1 Sedgie

Aint that the kind of list that you dream of!!!!....Outstanding Paul.

Other birds of note reported were Wryneck,Marsh Harrier,Honey Buzzard and the White Billed Diver was photographed hanging out with a Red Necked Greeb ……What a day…More the morn please!!


It was a superb morning for seeing migrants. Thick mist, flat calm…just dead right …unfortunately it was perfect for the midges as well. A search around the house here produced two song thrush a chaffinch and an unidentified warbler. Moving to the neighbours mature trees soon produced the goods with several Goldcrests the first to be seen. Next a Chiffchaff hove in to view stopping for a few seconds in the open before he continued feeding. Several song Thrushes could be heard and one would appear from time to time. The bushes were nicely occupied with birds. A Blackcap was the next up. By now the midges were driving me to distraction. Changing positions was no help so reluctantly I moved off . Crossing the field down to Happy valley proved to be the business. Entering the wood at the eastern end produced the goods right away. The first trees were host to a small flock of Goldcrests. Settling down to watch they were soon in the open moving through the canopy catching insects in their acrobatic fashion. To day seemed to be the perfect day for Wrens. I was only out for an hour and a half but must have seen twenty five Wrens in that time. Quite outstanding for me!! Moving through the woods the high canopy and dense shrubs were a bit of a problem as I carefully pushed forward. I could see wee birds moving ahead of me ushered away by Blackbird and Song thrush alarm calls and my own inelegant stalking. Settling at the edge of Edwins garden for a while did the business as I got a thrilling view a Spotted Fly Catcher as it chased insects from the edge of the house roof. It soon took off over the roof so I wandered over to have a look round the other side . This was a big mistake as I put up stacks of birds that had been avoiding me out of sight. Mostly they headed to the end of the woods where I had entered. Un daunted I moved as quietly as I could to persue them.{not easy on that poxy gravel] Sure enough settling down to watch the trees where I had seen the Goldcrests birds slowly became apparent. Another Chiffchaff several Chaffinch and my first Garden Warbler of the last couple of years pleased me no end. The Goldcrests still continued to feed non stop, Wrens moved endlessly through the lower canopy with little fear of anything Whilst song thrushes and black birds foraged away. In the end it was the midges that won the day and I decided to move on. Heading home via the vally to Russadale. It is alive with Meadow Pipits and the willow shrub looks promising but as i start to scope things out to see whats what the skies start to open. Time to beat the retreat and head across the fields to home. It’s the best day for birds here since the Hen Harrier was teaching its young to hunt in the garden…..i am double chuffed and cant wait to get out there again.

Sep 9, 2008

Aboot the hoose

Its been a few days of constant movement over the house here. Small birds have been coming from the Brodgar direction up the valley and over the hills towards the flow. Lots of swallows with an occasional Sand martin along side. Legions of Meadow Pipits Wagtails, bounding Linnets and all manner of unidentified flying things. There were Gold crests in the willow scrub to day but I couldn’t see them in the cover. All this movement into the wind has drawn the raptors to Kestrels are along the upper slopes of the hill behind. A Sparrow hawk has been up and down the burn in the valley. Yesterday we sat and watched a female Peregrine hunting over our paddock and chasing birds out of the thistles and over neighbour’s house. Its all go at the moment!!

Tonight it is raining steadily which is good news. With a bit of luck this will bring a good fall of migrants down to shelter out of the weather and refuel. Better be up at first light the morn!!

A busy lochside

Last night I was out a spin to lochside Harray for an attempt to catch a sunset. It was a perfect sot of night bright and clear with a distinct lack of midges. Arriving at the picnick area the air is alive with bird sound. All around the heather and grass is buzzing with wee birds. Meadow pipits abound the air is full of chattering Swallows yet beyond all that Twite can be heard. There are loads of birds here and I mean loads, strange to think they might all be gone in a few hours or at first light. Considering the pleasant prospect of moving some where warmer for the winter i move off down the board walk and then right over the big mound and down to the shore in the bay. My buldering about here produces the best bird of the night. Rising up in a wee group of birds is a Jack Snipe. He rises up and flies in a flat curve away from me complaining as he go’s. Moving along the shore so I can see out into the loch I see a fella fly fishing. He is a handy thing for me as he will give the sunset some scale. So there I am waiting for the sun to go down casually spying around for waders on the different islands shore lines when a small hatch of flys happened. Its not like they bite but I was soon picking then out my lugs and blowing them off the camera. Fortunately at the point of distraction every thing took to the air at once on the northern side. The flys are forgotten as the spectacle unfolds before me. I cant see waders shore birds, geese from the fields gulls, starlings balling, lapwings and masses of Curlew rise and fall back to earth almost as fast. The more spooked or cautious circle there spots with alarm calls ringing. It looked like an attack run from a Peregrine passing through. With the unseen bird soon gone peace returned. It was an impressive sight to se how many birds are using this one area. Once the sun started going down it was camera time. I did try for some flight shots as Curlews and the like passed over but they were mostly to far for my feeble wee camera. They did look stunning against the darkening sky tho.

With the sun well set and the photos done, the path back has a fantastic gathering of Swallows above it. The birds have been gathering above with the intention of roosting in some of the deep cover here abouts. As I reach the bike there is a definite change in the Swallows calls. I wonder if that is them thinking of coming down for the night….is that how it happens…I wonder..

Wideford burn

Yesterday I took a wander up the Wideford burn path starting at Inganess and going as far as the top of the valley. The weather was to bright and calm to hope for any sort of migrant action. The wee loch held plenty of Moor hen strutting about one or two Redshanks around the edges,Coots with growing young were showing well. A small flight of Linnets landed in the dockans and thistles of Currys yard and started feeding. Just below the waters edge close in to the parking a single whooper swan was lethargically feeding.

The path along side the burn yielded up nearly all of the last of the summer flowers to shine in the last of the summer sun. Ravens and rooks crosed our path and later by the road Jackdaws called whilst Hoodies sat on the dead trees and along the fence before heading off over the airport landing lights.

Over the road and up the valley gave good views of two Wrens as we started up the path. A blackbird was flushed out of the Rowan tree on the first corner. Wee birds moved in the dense cover out of sight.

Over the style and there are Reed buntings moving parallel with our progress. No more than 10m away a lot of the time some times they would jump ahead and wait. I don’t know if they were curious or saw an opportunity to catch spooked insects. The narrow path with willow at shoulder height might be part of it who knows. At the top the bushes were occupied by Stonechats in some strength as well. The return journey brought out Greenfinch Swallows feeding, a few male Wrens, Pied wagtails and Meadow pipits. Over the road and down the burn a bit I heard calling Twite moving along. The shore was now sort of clear of dogs and the burn mouth was the only spot with birds. Freshly arrived Turnstones were bathing in the fresh water A couple of curlews and a couple of Oyster Catchers probed away whilst the waters edge was held a half a dozen Arctic Terns with young. Nothing to spectacular and yet the weather was so spectacular that you don’t mind. There will always be other birds…

Sep 5, 2008


After moving book cases for the dear MIL..bless her I rewarded myself with a swift trip out to Warbeth for a spy about. It was the back of six and a nice late summers evening. The tide was low exposing a lot of beach. In the distance the birds running over the sands are all ringed plover the same along the waters edge. A few redshank and Curlew fill out the distant shore. Closer in is more interesting with constant movement of Pied Wagtails. Coming down the track there had been fifteen or more come towards me on the graveyard side these ones were a dozen or more feeding and hanging out before they would go to roost. I wonder if they will fly south tonight or roost and leave the morn. Leave the morn I would think. The grazing behind the shore held lots of Meadow Pipits moving around in small flocks. A quick wander round the point gives a fine view down the shore and over to Graemsay and Hoy. The foreshore seemed to have little moving across it, a couple of herring gulls were still taking food to youngsters on the rocky waters edge. Here and there a Redshank moved about but little else. The lack of action was more than made up for by forty or fifty Gannets diving for food off the end of Graemsay. The birds fished for about a half mile stretch from Oxan up the Hoy sound. Their efforts were accompanied by Black backs and herring gulls. The dark forms of Bonxies could be seen patrolling through the melee looking for their chance.

Moving from the rocky shore and back to the path under the graveyard twitery small birds tumble over the wall into the yard a good few linnets I think but I don’t see them again. Following the track up to the car park for the graveyard three meadow pipits fly across and land on the fence posts and path. Looking through the bins the bird on the stab has the most amazing green flanks and I mean green. I am looking carefully at it in the bins desperately wanting it to be something else but it is just a very green Meadow Pipit. The birds it is with are Mipits and when it flies it is a Mipit…shame. The path produced plenty of birds over head ,various small birds waiting to migrate or resume migration are about. Several groups of Redshank and Groanlag geese. A small flock of Lapwings over the hill side, individual Curlews came from the golf course direction.

Reaching the car park I head up the road a bit to get a look over the wee pool below Brinnigar. This proves the best yet for here are four Heron resting up ,preening away. Getting as steady as I can for the long view the pool holds some Mallard and my first Widgeon of the autumn. In front of one Heron a Moorhen is stomping about on the waters edge. Moving up the road a bit reveals three more Heron. Yet another turns out to be a plastic barrel or some such crap. A group of five Black Tailed Godwit now drop in after a brief half circle. They look stunning in the low sunlight. Unfortunately they land out of sight but its enough for me, I turn for the bike.

Its nice heading back to the bike ,the warm sun is ahead but not to low. The air off the sea is fresh and clean. In the distance the dark hills of Hoy provide a fine back drop to show off the distant vibrant white gannets fishing for their supper. To the other side the pasture field has the constant chatter of small birds. It is a proper taste of migration at work and a delight to walk through. Sadly though it is all to soon over. Arriving back at the bike I have a last sit and scan the beach. I count fifty six Ringed Plover before a dog puts every thing up so that was finally that..Helmet on fire it up and whistle up a quick chorus of Rawhide as I head up the road….I only ever do that if its good or if its grim.

Evening all.

Sep 4, 2008

The season moves along

Things are really starting to pick up out there now. Migration is moving along nicely. The south parrish is seeing lots of departing wee birds, the east coast headlands are drawing in tired migrants in small falls…there was a big fall on N Ron the other day. Else where the shore line is seeing increasing numbers of waders. Little stint reported in the south isles by Paul H yesterday. Fresh water sights have been producing lots of interesting sightings amongst Curlew and Black tailed Godwit Ruff and Green Sandpipers have been appearing. On a couple of sights,Milldam.Rango and Skail I think it was there have been reports of wood sandpiper.

The weather seems to be forecast to go round to the east for a bit which is excellent news …let the good times roll

Sep 3, 2008

A while ago the subject of bee keeping came up and I mentioned there were bee hives near me. Well today I spied the bee keeper at his hives so I thought I would take a stroll down and see what like. I asked if he minded me taking a few photos and telling me what he was doing. He was happy to explain. He was repairing a hive that had collapsed. The hive was lying on its side with the bees swarming round. He did warn me that the bees were in a bit of a feisty mood. I was feeling brave enough so I headed forward to get a closer photo as he worked with his smoke gun. He was calming them before splitting the hide in to each section. With in seconds I have an angry bee in my face and then another…by the time I have thought bloody hell!! I am feeling them hitting my clothes. I make my excuses and leg it up the field quick. I leave a few behind me but with my hair full of bees giving it pure tambo the world is no more than an angry buzz. Using my shirt I I knock them all off and make it to the house. Unstung and undeterred I get my tourie and midge net. Fleece and work gloves. Tooled up I head straight back. Donning my safety gear I approach again. This time I am quickly surrounded by the bees. They are hitting me and all over me but I can take a few photos with confidence. So far so good. I learn that its harder to separate heather honey. That if you want to keep bees you should have 2 or 3 hives in case of losses. Now our man{sorry I forget his name} looks up at me whilst we are speaking and there is a horrible look on his face. Whilst he is explaining how blue is a really bad colour with bees. The first one gets me on a finger through a hole in the gloves. Yea they will do that, get through the smallest holes he says I realize that they are inside the midge net that is not quite as tucked in as I thought. Trying not to panic and having a look at the situation. I am two hundred yards from home and now covered in bees - hundreds of them. All round the back of my neck is crawling with them and they are filling the face net....mmmm....LEGGIT!!! So its right mate that was interesting. I will see you again ouch but ouch I gotta go. Legging it up the field was a right laugh!. The world was one mad buzz, every so often another one would sting…luckily enough it was all up hill to the house. Just as I was wondering if I was going to kop anaphylactic shock or maybe just a plain old heart attack or if that damm buzzing in my ears would ever stop I made it in to the yard. Shouting for help I got the hose on and the OH took great delight in hosing me clean of the little varmints. She quickly pulled out all the stings and applied cream Job done. I don’t know what all the fuss was about…hehe

So sitting here in fresh clothes with a necklace of nippy bee stings and fingers buzzing. They got me down the back and up a trouser leg. I ask my self what have I learned about bee keeping and the answer must be not a hell of a lot really. It might be an idea to have some decent gear rather than developing your own through trial and error. A good pair of running shoes rather than steelies for foot wear. I think that I wont be perusing bee keeping as a hobby for the foreseeable future…..hell I don’t even like honey.

Here are some photos the first is the hive on its side. The second is the honey comb exposed. The third is the hive rebuilt with an angry population on the sides……..a fun day was had by all...never see a Bee eater when you need one!!

Weathers in a spin.

Took this picture of a water spoot about three thirty. Its sitting over Lochside,Harray.