Oct 30, 2008


A quick visit to Barnhouse today produced good numbers of Widgeon. It was Teal that were the big surprise with loads along the Harray shore line. There was little sign of Slavs but I was happy to see my first male and female Goldeneye of the winter happily feeding away opposite the Stenness kirk.

Oct 29, 2008



After the shite weather of the last few days it seems the forcast must have blown out of the window at some point. Things weren’t as expected when I woke up this morning. Blue skies and flat calm was the last thing I was expecting. The bike has been off the road with a wheel off for days so after throwing it back on I set off for the barriers and the Phalaropes.

For days now I have been reading reports of Grey Phalaropes around the barriers with the number growing each time. I went to see the bird at Deerness last winter a few times and it was a little cracker. It was quite tolerant of a close approach and interesting to watch feed. A pleasant slow run didn’t produce a lot on the way. There were small groups of red wings here and there and a Merlin crossed the road just above the traffic below Saverock. The loch at Holm had a good few Whoppers and Slavs kicking around. With nothing at the first barrier I cross slowly checking but see little. Next stop the pier on Lamb Holm, the only white birds on the water prove to be Tysties and over the pier has nothing hiding behind it. I shoot some photos of Scarfies and a roosting Oyster Catcher in the bright sun light. It’s a bit bright for this old camera but never mind. With the photos done I move off further down the barrier I pass another birder about half way down skulking about. Un seen by me there are thirty odd Grey Phal in the choppy water on the Scapa side. I miss the chance to turn in to the car park so I carry on to the third. Dive training is going on at one end so I cross to the other and park up. Across the road two other birders are looking down on a flock of Phalaropes. I join them to see twenty odd birds feeding in their distinctive fashion. They move around at such a rate of knots that I have a real problem getting the auto camera to catch a steady picture, it is all very entertaining though. So we have another five off to the left feeding in a bladder wrack lined pool and twenty two in a flock about twenty feet across. Beyond this Gannets are sporadically diving. Every so often one will come over to low or dive to close then the flock takes off and with a circle or two lands back in the area they are feeding. The gannets are taking fish and some one suggests that they are small herring. It is a laugh trying to get a shot of a Gannet entering the water. All photoed out I head back to the second barrier for a look. About half way down the flock were sitting just off the blocks. Walking down the far side until I was close I crossed the road to refind the flock. Fortunately they were fairly close. I crossed the Armco and on to the blocks moving slowly down the blocks I approach as much in cover as I can. Sitting comfortably and quietly in the blocks the birds ignore my presence as the flock moves to and fro feeding and always active. It’s a fantastic thing to be able to get that close to feeding birds with out being in a boat. I like birding when you don’t need binoculars!. On the way out I stopped in the village and spoke to Dave a Holm birder who was telling me that there were as many as eighty birds about Orkney at the moment.

Who said its an ill wind that blows no one no good….It rocks out there!!


Oct 25, 2008

Oct 23, 2008

Kestrel on the stones

Not much doing

The continuing S/W winds have brought a rake of Gray Phalaropes to North Ron a couple of days ago have started to drop them around the mainland with one reported over on Lamb Holm beside the pier. There must be more around in sheltered spots. I wonder if we will see wee auks appearing.

None of these were for me this afternoon. Having no waterproofs that don’t leak and heavy passing showers all day I thought I would stay close so i shot down to Brodgar for a look. I had the stones to my self to day which was nice but the view from the salty was pretty exposed to a buffeting S/W wind. Stenness Loch was a wind lashed mess with little to be seen. The pools were brimming full of water with no waders to be seen. A few distant widgeon and tufted duck were on the water but little else. I had a Kestrel in the stones tho and it put on a nice show. Back to the Stenness stones and there is a male and female Scaup with two separate groups of Tufted duck just before the brig with a Slavonian Grebe close in as well. I stop at the old bird carver’s cottage and watch the ducks taking advantage of the lee of the shore. After this I nip in to Barnhouse hide. The loch is getting whipped up by the ever freshening winds. Small groups of Tufted are toughing it out and in distant sheltered spots are a few Widgeon. There is little to be seen and bugger all else comes along to speak of. After amusing my self taking swan photos I shoot off. A dozen small birds pass over at the road and head along the Stenness loch side, Linnets I think. Crap but at least the wind is mild. I dump the clutch and go….

Oct 17, 2008

Latest arivals.

We had the first Fieldfares of winter in the garden this afternoon.


At long last The Orkney Book of birds is here. Tim Deans new work illustrated by wildlife artist Tracy Hall looks like its going to be worth the long wait. It is going to be released on saturday the eighth of next month.
I cant wait!!

Oct 16, 2008


I have just posted this on the Orkney forum but thought i would put it up here as well...

Here is a simple recipe for fat feeders that can be made at home. The advantage of these is the size compared to stuff you can buy. In the winter months a 2 or 3 ltr feeder will save you the hassle of refilling a fat ball feeder every couple of days. Add to this that they are more nutritious and a bit cheaper you and your birds should be well ahead.

Step one.

Gather all the gubbins that your going to need first.

Beef dripping


Wild bird seed

Big pan

Wooden spoon

2 Cups


Hanging sticks

Beef dripping. Proper beef dripping from your local butcher is the best choice. It is good and hard when set and makes for a durable feeder. I think it’s the only choice for this size of project.

Peanuts. These are used in equal weights with the amount of dripping and seed you use. But I might chuck in an extra cup of peanuts.

The bird seed. Try to avoid the really cheap seed mixes. If the seed you look at has lots of big seed like barley and wheat give it a swerve. Seed like this is not much use for attracting anything other than Pigeons and Collared Doves and Corvids. Look for a nice fine grain mix. This will prove the most attractive to the small birds we need to help in the cold weather.

Two cups. One to scoop the seed and nuts and one to scoop the warm dripping……using one cup makes loads of mess!!

Hanging sticks. The ones in the photo I made for the job but it is easy to make one from a small bit of branch from the garden. As long as you leave a few sticky out bits on it so the feeder weight is supported as the birds devour the block.

Moulds. These are made from Various stuff as you can see, a cooking oil bottle ,a drinks bottle and a couple of milk cartons.

Cover for your work surface. As you will be pouring warm dripping and seeds it will make a mess. Beware!

Step two

Put your peanuts in the blender and give them a whiz up. If you aint got a blender then bash them up in a bowl a cup at a time till they quite small. Put them aside with the bird seed ready to go.

Now comes the fat melting. I shouldn’t need to say this but I will. TAKE EXTREME CARE WHILST MELTING AND POURING THE FAT.

It is very easy to get burned. Please keep the kids away from this stage until you are ready to pour.

Cut the dripping in to lumps and melt slowly over a low heat. Keep stirring and as the last bits melt you should be about ready. Check the heat of the fat carefully remember you are not making chips!! The moulds are all capable of holding warm fat but hot fat will quickly melt them. If in any doubt then let the pan rest.

OK With everything ready pour one cup of dripping in the mould then one cup of seeds and one of nuts, stick in the hanging stick and puddle it up and down to make sure every thing is evenly mixed. Repeat this until the mould is full.

Try to get your seed n nut mix well saturated and add more mix if it has a clear layer of dripping on top. I try to get as much mix in to the fat as I can. Give the mix a quick twist with the hanging stick or a poke and prod with the back of a wooden spoon.

Work quickly with each mould as the warm dripping will get stiff quickly after it reaches a certain temperature.

Make as many as you can with the mix you have

Step three

Leave overnight to properly set then carefully cut away the moulds and discard. Hang one up an put the others in a cool place or the freezer until they are needed.

There you go nice easy to make and highly nutritious the only down side is who is going to do the washing up!!

It will soon be time for the RSPBs feed the birds day{sat oct 25th} where you will find all sorts of interesting feeding tips and information. This is a national event so where ever you are look to your local press for details and come along. We might even help you join up!!

Enjoy your birds.

Oct 13, 2008


Taken tonight at 21.00.

Oct 10, 2008

Moon tonight at 22.10

Hand held Nikon 5600 thru Opticron ES80 .

Out and about

A quick spin into town today produced the first Long Tailed ducks of the autumn on the peedie sea. There were good numbers of Tufted there and not a few Mallard. Leaving town in the fields opposite the mart I noticed a big circular flock of Golden Plover feeding on the ground. These would be the first good flock I have seen in Hatstown this year so I turn and go back for a look. Typically as I approach they are all taking to the air and heading over the back of the mart. Diving in the car park I pull up to try and count, there are now three flocks of about 200-300 along with a few lapwing and Curlew that have also been spooked. Some drop between the mart and shore the others head to Orkney meat….I head off.

I have a quick stop at Quanterness. The fields between the road and the shore are starting to host flocks of Greylag so it’s a quick scan to look for collars and off again. There are plenty of Lapwing and Curlew flocks between there and Finstown. Last stop was a pull in at Stenness kirk. Coasting down the hill for the last bit gives a silent approach hidden behind the graveyard wall. Looking over the wall there are about a million Common Gulls. With the crash helmet still on and the bins to my eyes I slowly look over the wall. The south end of Harray Loch is in sight but all I can do is hold my breath The gulls don’t all rise at once but the nearest ones rise uneasily. Scanning across the loch the water is choppy with small rafts of Tufted and Mallard. Gulls bathe around the islands. The rough ground beyond is well filled with Curlew at roost. On the shore and in the field edge Lapwings are standing around doing little as well. I could see Golden Plover rising and landing down here earlier from the house but two hours later they are nowhere to be seen. I see the first Slavoninn Greeb I have seen on the loch this autum. Happy with that I move away to cover and then slowly leave. Looking back from the last rise on the road every thing is still quietly at roost…….job done

Oct 7, 2008

Whats on

I have just been listening to a very intresting radio program on migration. There were exelent contributions from Martinmeer discribing the Pinkfeet influx. There was also intresting info on the migration of Swallows down through Africa. Contributers included Simon King and Birds Britanica writer Richard Mabey.

Find it here on listen again.

Look down the page and click on World on the move with Philipa Forrester and Brent Westwood.


Oct 6, 2008

Cold day

Brig of Waith

A quick spin out some where to day just could not be avoided. It seems like days we have been stuck indoors,traped by endless rain and a north wind. I managed a spin down to the Brig of Waith for the quickest of spys. The tide was on the fall and looked high but not bad. Over on the Stenness loch side the skerry was occupied by forty Curlew and about the same in Lapwing. A few Turnstone dotted along one edge of the Lapwings dozed quietly.. Little else was to be seen out on the loch a couple of Dunters and a couple of seals skulked about. The shore in the distance below the Howe road junction fairly buzzed with small birds. Scoping them up it looked like a large flock of Mipits feeding.

Returning to the seaward side the farthest shore is dotted with Common Gull and Curlew. Little else is to be seen amongst them, a few Redshank and one Black tailed godwit. Over the rough near ground my progress disturbs a flock of feeding Twite. They take to the air in a noisy flight thirty strong. Swirling around me they land no farther than the spot they took off from. As I pass them they seem oblivious to my presence. Crossing the stubble field that will give a view over to the dead sands meadow pipits take off from around my feet. There’s a bit of commotion as a hundred yards from me Starlings and Rooks take to the air, sure enough the culprit is clear. A ring tailed Harrier passes over the field before heading out over the water and over the dead sands before me. Flocks of waders take to the air before it dispersing in panicked flocks to the distant fields and safety. Some circle and land back on the muddy sand but not for long as the big raptor starts to quarter the further fields and fence line.

Approaching the field edge there are twenty or more Mallard and a few Teal that are now spooked out of there sheltered hiding spot concealed directly below me. Three red breasted Mergansers also push out from the side. Looking at all three its impossible to tell which is which with the sexes. The males take on female plumage at this time of year…it must be enough to give a young saw tooth a complex. Across the water Curlews predominate with a few Dunlin dotted about. The only other bird of note is a Black Tailed Godwit. Struggling with the sun in the face I head back to the bike where once again I am treated to a fine display from the flock of Twite. It is fresh and bright with threatening clouds. The wind has sung around to the South East and is carrying a milder air flow. The sky above is now full of the cries of Greylag geese. This last while has seen quite a passage of Pink feet moving over at altitude but Greylag arrivals have been boosted by the N/W winds of the last couple of days. What we need now is a strong constant weather system to blow from the N/E…..we can but hope

Oct 2, 2008


Goldcrests put in an appearence in the garden today for the first time...hooray!!

Redwings are still around.
A Merlin made a kill in front of me yesterday snatching a wee bird out of the dockens in the padock.
Pinkfeet passage continues.

The weather looks bright and clear before the storm.

I might try and get a couple of hours birding in this morning.