May 31, 2010

Corncrake update

Its good news on the Corncrake front. The bird calling here is unrecorded and new to the RSPB. Last night it was torrential rain but tonight is clear and fine. He has been calling since 23.00. This is fingers crossed that this is a new territory being established. Fingers doubly crossed that he is heard by a female with love on her mind!!

May 29, 2010

Been a good day today


Gloupy doings

It has been a great day today!!!It was the RSPB boat trip around Mull Head today. We managed to get in to the Gloup all the way into the deep cave at the back. I have allways wanted to do that. It was stunning and i was not disapointed....apart from the quality of the photos that is!!


I have just heard a corncrake calling in the fields beyond the house. The last corncrake in the actual garden here was in 79-80. There is a good drizzle going on but i am going out on the bike and going to try and get a good location and sound recording........yee ha the hunt is on....

(edit)...Soon tracked it down. It is calling like a trooper. Its in deep grass with a fenced off section of wet ground beside it. I couldnt see mutch in the dark but made some thirty second sound recordings. I will post some the morn but be warned watching a black screen to hear a corncrake repeatedly calling may well be taking you in to geeky birdy

May 28, 2010

Happy valley cuckoo.

Here are a couple of fuzzy shots of the cuckoo thats hanging out in the Happy valley, Biggswell, Russadale area at the moment. It has been showing realy well and providing plenty of entertainment as it avoids atacks from all the local birds. There are several calling cuckoos at the moment scattered across the mainland but with a bit of paticence and a pair of bins this is one thats resonably easy to see.

Tripping up Trump

I recieved this email today. Please read it and if you feel like joining in and saving some homes then have a wee click!!

Have a look at this:

Thousands have spoken out against US billionaire Donald Trump's plans to demolish family homes to build his massive golf course. But Trump hasn't given up yet. He's still pushing Aberdeenshire Council to force local families from their homes. We need to up the pressure again.

Tripping Up Trump have bought a piece of land slap bang in the middle of where Trump wants to build. We've found a legal way for thousands of us to sign up as co-owners of the land. That means as well as speaking up on behalf of the local people threatened by Trump, we can stand alongside them as fellow owners of land he wants to get his hands on.

A plot of land owned by thousands of us makes it a much trickier legal job for Trump. But it also sends a powerful message to the council. They'll know that if they do Trump's bidding, they're not just trampling on local residents, they're taking on thousands of us across Scotland and beyond.

It is simple and quick to sign-up to have your name added as a co-owner of the land. And it doesn't cost anything. Just click here:

It looks like you may have to copy and paste this link, sorry for the extra effort folks but i cant get the links to work!!!

May 26, 2010


That is now ten thousand hits on the blog to date. I never thought my feeble musings would be of that much interest. Its all very gratifying and i would like to thank you all for looking in.I hope you all continue to find it enjoyable and interesting. My regards to you all...Daf

May 20, 2010

Dafs orkney birding is going on the road for a few days. Heading south to explore the north so to speak....back soon.

May 15, 2010

Sea Eagle.

The big news of the day must surely be thet there has been a Sea eagle seen several times over the last couple of days. Its been seen along the rendall hills north of Finstown. The report on Orkbird this morning was that there were two seen together along the ridge this morning. It has to be worth a look if your out that way. I know i will if i can get the bike up and running !!!
Orkney has a past history of ocupation by sea eagles and with the winter population of grey geese not to mention the summer population then it all ways raises faint hopes that they may once again expand their range and start to occupy the isles.......oooh one day

May 11, 2010

Siskins a garden first!

Siskin’s in the garden this morning were a nice surprise. These are a new garden first for us here. We had three females and one male. They only lasted for a few minutes until they were driven off by a starling and the falling sleet. I shall be keeping a good look out this morning seeing I am indoors and snowed off gardening and enjoying a lazy day….i am a very laxed boss!!!


Here we go theres a good peppering of snow on the hills. Last night the ground and roads were frozen.....seasonal or what!! Come to the sunny north isles!!!

May 10, 2010


I saw my first Greylag goslings being led to the safety of the sea today. Is this a sign that summer is ending....god i hope not its snowing again!!!

May 9, 2010

Dotterel, its a lifer!!

Today whilst sniffing about the net I happened to check out the all about Orkney site and was pleased to find the blog now included in their new wildlife blogs section. This might account for all the extra hits the counter seems to have been accruing this week. Anyway I returned to the site to show the OH what’s been happening there and to have a look at another local bird blog , Literate herrings, this way…(an excellent blog and my first read of it) when I noticed that orkbird had a notification that there were four Dotterel out in Tankerness. They were in the ploughed field behind the old school just past the tip. This is a bird that I have never seen before so it was a case of jump up and shoot off. I am damn glad I did as well!! There were showers on the way and a good strong wind blowing from the north however I was not going to be put off. On arrival I parked in the yard of the old school house and a quick chat with the owner who was building a new shed soon saw mt tucked away in a corner of his yard out of the weather. It took a moment to find the birds but we were soon both enjoying views of this beautiful and elegant bird. It was a lifer for me and once again orkbird shows it’s worth. The photos struggled a bit in the conditions with distance and bluster I hope you enjoy them. The north wind is going to continue for the next few days so there is a possibility that these excellent birds may remain so if your out and about I would urge you to have a look at these rare visitors whilst they are about!!

May 4, 2010

RSPB bird records for april 2010

APRIL 2010

An interesting month with spring migration really getting under way. A Great Crested Grebe was in Widewall Bay on 27th. A strong Fulmar passage involved up to 5000 per hour past Marwick on 1st; a ‘blue’ bird was off Birsay on 16th.

Whooper Swans decided it was time to head back to Iceland; 36 were over the Harray Loch on 9th while seven sat on the sea at Marwick on that date building up their courage! 40 flew out to sea over Birsay on 12th. There was a big movement of Pink-footed Geese as they headed the same way; 2700 passed over North Ronaldsay between 20th-23rd, 600 were over Costa and 600 flew out to sea over Marwick on the latter date while there were many reports of up to 500. The Loons Greenland White-fronted Goose flock held just 32 birds on 4th although one was nearby at Twatt on 22nd and four on Egilsay on 27th; most unusually, 500 moved north over Durkadale in three flocks on 11th. Less common grey geese involved a Bean Goose on North Ronaldsay on 15th and 20th; two Eurasian White-fronted Geese there on 2nd; and two Snow Geese in Sandwick on 27th. Barnacle Geese were conspicuous after 20th with up to 53 on North Ronaldsay, 42 at the Skaill Loch, 24 at Costa, 22 on Burray and 19 at The Loons; 13 remained on Papay all month. During the same period, up to 24 Light-bellied Brent Geese were found at Marwick with six in Birsay Bay, three on Papay and one on North Ronaldsay; the latter island also reported two Dark-bellied Brent Geese on 9th and 27th.

Ever an early breeding species, a Mallard duck accompanied 14 ducklings at Scapa Distillery on 28th. The best Pintail count was 28 at Sanday’s Loch of Rummie on 7th while that for Gadwall was 36 at the Brodgar Pools on 17th. A spectacular drake Mandarin was at Mill Dam, Shapinsay on 17th while North Ronaldsay’s Ring-necked Duck remained there all month. 50 Scaup were on the Skaill Loch on 28th while the Peedie Sea provided an excellent count of 120 Long-tailed Ducks on 21st. A pair of Goosanders were on the Stenness Loch on 5th and one on the Loch of Brockan on 23rd. The Loch of Skaill Smew put in its final appearance of the winter on 11th.

Away from breeding areas, a Buzzard was in the Widewall area all month and, more unusually, one was on North Ronaldsay on 28th. Marsh Harriers put in their customary spring appearance with singles at Loch of Banks on 2nd, in Rendall on 4th and on Rousay and at The Loons on 27th. Goshawks have become more regular in recent years and one was in Rendall on a typical date of 13th.

The first Corncrake was back on Papay on 26th. By far the largest Golden Plover flock was 1300 on Burray but there were many reports of up to 400 as northern race birds prepared to move back to their breeding grounds. The only Knots reported were three singles on North Ronaldsay up to 13th and 19 on Papay on 29th. North Ronaldsay also produced the peak counts of Sanderling (82 on 16th) and Purple Sandpipers (104 on 28th). A single Black-tailed Godwit was at The Shunan from 11th then, from 20th, five flocks of up to 10 were noted. This month saw an especially strong passage of Whimbrels from 18th on, peaking on 27th when small parties were noted in many parts of South Ronaldsay and an amazing flock of 58 was at the Mill Dam of Rango. Three Common Sandpipers had returned to a breeding site at the Loch of Bosquoy by 25th. More unusual waders included Ruff (one at the Skaill Loch on 24th and two at Rango on 28th), Wood Sandpiper (one at The Shunan on 25th), Greenshank (one over Shapinsay on 11th, one at Burwick on 14th and one in Deerness on 29th) and Spotted Redshank (the wintering bird at The Shunan until at least 23rd).

A very early Arctic Skua was seen over Stenness on 11th, one off Marwick on 16th, one on Papay on 17th and two off Shapinsay on 18th then no more until 26th. Common Gulls were already sitting on eggs on Shapinsay by 23rd, an early date. The Stromness Iceland Gull lingered until at least 26th while others were seen in Holm Sound on 12th and at Rennibister on 17th. The only Glaucous Gull was one at Newark Bay, Deerness on 29th. Sandwich Terns became widespread but the first Arctic Tern, typically, was not seen until 25th (Loch of Tankerness) and the first Common Tern on 27th (Rango).

The strange passage of Wood Pigeons through the north isles was again noted with five on Papay on 1st and up to three on North Ronaldsay between 1st-5th and again on North Ronaldsay on 27th/28th. Collared Doves were also noted there with up to three on four dates. A Cuckoo was calling in Rendall from 23rd and another was seen on North Ronaldsay on 27th. What was perhaps the rarest bird of the month was a Hoopoe, on Stronsay, from 6th-10th. A Long-eared Owl was on North Ronaldsay on 12th and a very early Swift over Stromness on 28th.

The first Swallow was noted in Stenness on 11th followed by a scatter of records up to 23rd after which birds became widespread. Sand Martins also first appeared on 11th when five were in Birsay, 18 having gathered there by 25th and others having been seen in four localities. An early House Martin was seen on North Ronaldsay on 7th but then no more until 25th after which birds were seen at five sites. The first White Wagtails were two in Birsay Bay on 25th then 26 were reported there on 30th, possibly an Orkney record count. Grey Wagtails were noted at their breeding site in Kirkwall and in other possible nesting areas at Wideford Burn on 4th and St. Margaret’s Hope on 9th.

Following the first Wheatears in late March, birds became more widespread during early April with, for example, six at Houton on 5th and up to 29 on North Ronaldsay from 9th – 12th; a strong passage was noted on the latter island on 27th when 175 were logged. Single Black Redstarts were seen on Rousay on 7th and North Ronaldsay on 10th while a Ring Ouzel was in Rendall on 10th and three on North Ronaldsay on 28th. Fieldfares were only seen on North Ronaldsay with one on 7th and up to three after 26th. Up to 40 Redwings were seen in Stenness and on North Ronaldsay mid-month while there were several records of singing birds in Rendall, Swannay and Costa. In amongst all this migratory activity, local Blackbirds got on with their business and a fledged brood was noted in Kirkwall as early as 15th.

The first Sedge Warbler was noted at Hestily, South Ronaldsay on 26th followed by others at The Loons and in Costa over the next couple of days. A Grasshopper Warbler was in song in Rendall on 30th. A Blackcap visited a Greeny garden on 7th and two were on North Ronaldsay on 10th. Two others occurred after 25th when one-two Lesser Whitethroats appeared in Evie, Deerness and on North Ronaldsay the latter locality also reporting an early Common Whitethroat. Chiffchaffs were noted in ten localities with up to four on North Ronaldsay and three in Rendall. The first Willow Warblers were two in song at Finstown on 10th, several more arriving on 11th/12th, a maximum seven being recorded on North Ronaldsay on 27th. A Pied Flycatcher was in Deerness on 28th.

A Great Grey Shrike was a good find by a visiting birding group at Whaness, Hoy on 12th. North Ronaldsay reported its usual light spring passage of corvids with a peak of nine Rooks on 9th and six Carrion Crows on 28th; a Rook was also on Papay on 8th.
Bramblings were noted in nine localities with as many as four in Finstown on 25th while one-two Goldfinches were reported from six sites. Similarly, small numbers Siskins passed through with one-two at six sites and up to five in Rendall. Up to three Common Redpolls were on North Ronaldsay on 25th/26th while two Lesser Redpolls were in Rendall on 27th and 30th. A possible Arctic Redpoll was seen in Costa on 21st/22nd. Up to three Crossbills were seen in Rendall with the maximum on 2nd when one was also in Holm; another was found dead on Burray on 19th. The late March arrival of Hawfinches continued into early April with singles reported from Lythes and St. Margaret’s Hope (South Ronaldsay), Stromness, Rendall and North Ronaldsay during 1st – 3rd. Two-three lingering Snow Buntings were noted in three West Mainland localities and on Papay during 15th-28th while single Lapland Buntings were seen on North Ronaldsay on 3rd and 10th.

Eric Meek

May 3, 2010

Raptors in the hill

I went in to the hill tonight in the early evening. I wasn’t all that far from home and I was really just out for a bit of a leg stretch and a spy about. I’m not going to say just where it was but it was a fairly typical sort of valley, grazed fields giving what to rough grazing and then the heather hill. Several burns run of the hills here and there are stands of scrub willow dotted about the lower slopes. The walk up over the fields had lapwings and oystercatchers mixed with a few greylag geese that have no intention of heading to Iceland. The rough grazing has rabbits scampering around my feet as I pick my way through the clumps of rush grass.
Through the throng of calling meadow pipits and skylarks I here a familiar song! To my delight I can here the descending song of a willow warbler the first this year. I take the opportunity to draw breath and have a look. Before me there are a few spruce trees and beyond that a large clump of willow. Its from in here that the bird is singing. Unfortunately its quite sporadic and doesn’t seem to keen to get up high and sing, its enough to know he is here though. It’s a good job as well because as im standing looking panic is spreading up the valley as birds scatter and warning alarms sound. The reason is almost instantly obvious, a male hen harrier is quartering its way along the burn, swooping about the stands of shrubs as he attempts to put up small birds. This is quite a show but just as quickly he is gone, disappearing over the brow of a low slope. With in moments the sound of birds re-emerges to fill the air. I move on towards the heather edge. I had not been moving for more than five minutes and the male harrier returned to give the burn another look. This time I plonk down the scope and scope the slow moving fella up. It’s a fine twisting plunging display as he pounces a couple of times unsuccessfully until he moves off from sight once again.
A bit of peace falls over the hills side before me and I sit in the lea of a ruined building. I am out of the north wind and am catching the warm rays of the sun. Is so unusual to feel the sun so hot on the skin I think I’m going to get an instant tan…lovely. Looking across the vista before me I see high sloping hillsides covered in heather. You can hear curlews and red grouse from in front as the wind is carrying the sound towards me. The next raptor to arrive is a male short eared owl. I see it on the horizon as crosses and descends, It makes little effort to quarter the ground. It turns and banks then turns again and lands. During this manoeuvre it was giving out a rough barking call. I scope him up as he sits. Its apparent he is sitting looking out making no effort to preen. As minutes pass I look about to see what else is happening returning briefly to the owl to check he is still there. On the third look he was gone! A quick look drawn by the same call put me strait on him. The moment I acquired him in the bins my relieved breath I was about to exude was strangled in the throat as a darker larger female burst from the ground to and I a flurry of wings turn almost inverted and receive a food pass. It was over in seconds and my eye naturally followed on after the male as he moved of horizontally along the hillside. Within seconds I was back to look for the female. She was nowhere to be seen though she hadn’t flown off and was not on the wing anywhere in sight, neither was she insight on the heather. It now dawned on me that I had just seen a food pass to a bird that was sitting on a nest. I had found one of those really hard to find sites a SEO nest site…..excellent. The male eventually crested the horizon and disappeared over the hill top.
Ravens and big gulls moved along the hilltop horizon and the raptors settled down for a bit. With nothing in the air I turned my attention to scanning the heather its self. This proved to be successful almost strait away, on the lower slopes I found a female ringtail casually preening. I put her in the scope and even though she was quite distant and a bit engulfed by the heat haze that was messing up efforts to film and photograph her she was providing a nice enough view. To my surprise though another bird arrived and although this one lifted up it soon settled unperturbed by the new arrival. My thoughts are that these are first year birds and probably related. So with the two of them on the ground I an trying to get them both in frame with the digiscope the male bird comes on the scene. This looks good and the ring tail is rising to the male things really get a head of steam. Screaming into this comes yet another ringtail female. There is a furious strumash of wheeling shrieking birds as the new bird sets about the other two and has them sent on their way quick smart. It is breath taking and dramatic stuff. With the competition gone the pair play and bond with a delight full interaction around the willow stands both will land and the male will preen, this wont last for more than a minute then the female will make him rise and settle again. This goes on for a while and I make some efforts to film the male but its all desperately far for the camera.
As I am doing this I am aware of the owl calls coming from up the valley at the probable nest site. I can see nothing there but sure enough a scan about shows the male short eared owl entering the hill side. He moves along the hillside high up and despite the calls moves over the hill top and disappears…probably foodless. I move back to the hen harriers but they too are up and moving away. I take that as my cue to move away as well. I have only been watching for forty minutes but it’s the sort of forty minutes that make Orkney such a special place.

Want to see it for your self come for a walk…phone 771697…we seldom close.