Sep 27, 2009

The suckier side of birding.

What a manic day. My early start didn’t happen and im cursing myself for it now. I managed to get to the Gloup a little before eight I think. My spirits were high as I approached. The road gets narrower as you get there and the flocks of small birds were all over with lots of activity in the air. The car park had one car in it and two birders on the Gloup path. Seeing they were heading back I waited at the head of the path to see what was occurring. It was to be crap news tho, this was Dave and Stuart returning from their first light check. They had been spending all this time looking for the bird. The area where the bird had roosted had been heavily trampled down to only twenty feet from the spot. The ground had been clean when every one left last night. Two cars were there over night but gone when the lads arrived. Draw what conclusions you want..i ken what I think. If I had the reg numbers I would have spent my time tracking them down rather than half the day looking for the cuckoo….altho probably not.
The cuckoo blown out I head off to Burwick to meet the boat . Sitting about the car park I get the cannon out to get a few snaps. Once again it insisted that the batteries are flat. Spinning them over usually does the job however even changing them for fresh wont get it going….what a pain. The boat disgorges a sea of twitchers dressed in olive drab clothing and matching pallor. The bloke im looking for I have met before but cant see. I sit till every one is boarding busses. No one says hello and I am the only biker there…another bummer.
Still never mind. With this its back to the town for the bike run to the Stromness bike show and a hang out with the bikes for a while. Its blues weekend there as well so its going to be a good day in strombo. The lure of the birds is to strong tho so I head off after an hour, get a coffee and a sarnie before heading out to search for the Cuckoo. It was to prove a long afternoon starting at the Wideford burn, Tankerness, Deerness and as big a swath of the east coast as I could manage. In the end I cut my losses and headed off to Winnic to look for the Crane. Fortunately there was a nice parking place with the bird conveniently located in the adjoining field. There were a good few folks about in various places enjoying the views. The bird was a good distance off with the angle of the sun doing us no favours. The wing was dropping and the air warming. The skys had broken to show an increasing amount of blue. My mood was lightning by the minute. Moving down the road speaking to some folks as I go every one is friendly and enjoying the views. Speaking to Barry and Rebecca and watching the field a Hen harrier quarters the ditch right behind the Crane. Amazingly the bird is completely unfussed with this and ignores it with a wary eye. More surprising still is the goose that is grazing beside it. Ordinarily it would be up and away with this threat but it seems there is safety in numbers…even if that number is two!! I met the furthest travled twitchers here with one young lad that had made it non-stop from south Devon. Like I said at the time ..outstanding effort!!!..i did wonder if his name was Joe Ray.
Having used up the vantage points below it I move off and go to Hestly for a look from the garden. There are several folks here and the view is surprisingly good. Looking over my shoulder back to the house its obvious you could sit inside and view this mega from the comfort of your own soft seat…..that is if you wernt in Spain…ouch bad luck Andy.
The midgies are starting to bite so I head back to the bike but not before I have a yarn to yet another birder this time about bikes. It makes a nice change and a good note to end on before a nice run home. The birding day ended better than it started that’s for sure.

Sep 25, 2009


Things are going fucking brilliant up here this week. There was a black browed albatross seen from the Pentalina north of Stroma just sitting on the water. A Yellow billed cuckoo was found by Gerry Cannon and posted up on Orkbird this afternoon. Its out in Deerness near the Gloup…just follow the Deerness road till the absolute end and your there. Deerness is doing well at the moment with two American Golden plovers showing well in the same area. I cant resist this and will be off to the gloup at first light. I was speaking to Tim Dean tonight and he was telling me that these cuckoos are pretty delicate and this one might not last all that long which is a sad though. Saying that tho Paul Higson has reported that it was feeding and alert before it went to roost so fingers crossed.
There was a Grey Phalarope at the first barrier flow side so with the constant fresh westerly we are having there’s a chance of more. In these conditions there is always a chance of Little Auks sheltering in the same area mostly further out tho. Echna is also worth a good look
. I intend to go for the Crane again the morn after Deerness and with a bit of luck it will still be about. The wind should remain fresh and from the west. If this is the case hopefully the bird will remain. It is a long way east of where it should be and while it may find that confusing I am pretty sure it will realise how far north it is. As it may winter in the southern united states or Mexico I am sure it will feel the need to head south once the gales finally break and it gets a chance to come about….enjoy it while you can…..stay in miss out.

Sep 23, 2009

Sandhill crane...refreshes the place other birds cannot reach

It had been pourin like the flood on and off al day. On the met office weather site I was watching a break in the clouds coming in towards the afternoon so I saddled up and took my chance. On arriving in at5 the bottom end of the south parish I spoke to a couple of birders who both told me it had been about an hour ago and had been flighty, they pointed me towards Liddle loch tho. I know the place fairly well having fished and walked it for thirty odd years. It is cris crossed by tracks and rights of way. The first place I stopped to scan over the loch and fields beside it produced the Crane. Its in preening with a small flock of Blackbacks…right enough I am a lucky dog and this dog was about to have his day (for a change)
I took the road up to Banks and parked up by the café. You could scope the bird from there but I thought I would get closer.
Below me half a mile away down on the shore other birders were getting a good view sheltered behind some stone dyke. I made my way down to the cliffs and then the shore. Using the slope of the storm beach for cover I made my way along to the dykes and joined the small throng. Although the bird was a bit off and the wind was whistling about a bit I managed to get a fine view and a few snaps. At times it was settled right down and at others it was preening away. It showed a lot of character though and strutted about a couple of times pushing away through the gulls.
All too soon it was up and away whether it was the two birders approaching from the other side of the loch, or the flight of ducks that came in at that time I don’t ken. I did see two Bonxies cross the space and they didn’t put it up tho.
Never mind once its gone its gone. What did impress me was once it was away dozens of birders stood up and exposed them self’s (not literally) I could see a few from my spot but they emerged from ditches and folds in the ground. They were every where along the shore side. Quite a sight for Orkney where you are often unlikely to see another scope all day.
I haven’t been out birding for ages and quite gotten out of the way of it. I am glad to say I feel quite refreshed and keen again…I might even get this blog back on line again....mega