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!!

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