Sep 30, 2010

Been a good day today with a wide spread fall of migrants. I had been on the shore to snap shore birds changing plumage but ended up having a look in Grindigar, Deerness. I met a snapper there who had what looked like female piedfly, spotfly,chifchaf.. I managed chifchaf,spotfly,blackcap,robin,chaffinch in a short time The best bird as always is the one I didn’t know, a dull warbler with a single faint yellow wing bar and a faint yellowish supercilium.

On getting in I read there was a Hoopoe at Warbeth this morning so it was back out for a look as I have wanted to see one for ages and didn’t make time last time one was about, Anyway needless to say I didn’t see it so I suppose the moral would be get the finger out and do it while you have the chance!!! With that in mind there is a Red breasted fly catcher in the Cara bushes on South Ron Its been a good day today and might just be another the morn….It would be good to start it with a lifer…

Sep 27, 2010

Buff bellied pipit

Buff bellied pipit

Returning to the bike after a particularly good mornings birding I thought everything was about done and I would be riding off for a cup of coffee and a bit of breakfast. The bike is parked at Yesnaby camp carpark A spectacular sight that stands on the edge of rugged cliffs. Parked along from me is the RSPB’s pickup Loaded for a days labour. Looking around I can see Allan Leitch and Lorna an assistant warden waving to me to come across to the cliff edge. I was saying as I approached that I hope its something good like a King Eider and he replied I think its something EVEN better im sure I have just heard a buff bellied pipit!!! He had heard it call as it rose giving off a call somewhat like a wagtail and very un pipit like. So the hunt was on and we slowly moved along the cliff top picking our way through oodles of mippits and rippits. We get well north almost to the bay below the broch turn and head back. Alan heres its call again and then sees it flying and calling. This time it lands on a small promontory and settles in to catching insects along a dark shelf. We get super views if a bit distant. Its all there, the plain mantle, a bit of a bib dark legs, buff colour, Its all breathless excitement and the minutes pass. Lorna is dispatched to the motor to get a phone and in no time at all Eric is out of the office and running along the cliff tops towards us, Hes confirming it as a buff bellied pipit and we are all about as breathless as he is. Alan is about throwing up with excitement. It really dose not get much better than this……what a fantastic ear!! I was some lucky to be passing at the right time!!!

Sep 23, 2010

Pectoral sandpiper, Peedie sea.

This has to be the most photographed bird in the isles this week. Unfortunately for me i struggled to get a realy sharp shot in the wind but i did get fantastic views so i cant complain!!

Sep 22, 2010

Pectoral Sandpiper in Kirkwall!!

Looking on Orkbird on Sunday I saw a heads up from Tim Dean advising that the peedie sea had a new sluice system and the water level had dropped 40 cm exposing some nice rich mud for feeding waders. Sure enough by Tuesday a sharp eyed Morris Rendell had reported that a Pectoral sandpiper was feeding on the mud below The coop. The Pectoral Sandpiper is a smart and reasonably rare visitor of the wading variety that’s stopping over on its migration. It was even better news that it didn’t seem at all phased by folks walking past on the path. It looked like it was to be there all day giving excellent views. This morning it was reported again still in the same place. So all this seemed to be leading towards a shopping trip to town. Unfortunately it was a day of rain and it was to pour and pour. I arrived on site about the back of four and the bird was still actively feeding. I managed a small watch with the binoculars to check things out, alone amongst a small group of Redshanks to one side and Ringed plovers to the other a very crisp looking Pectoral Sandpiper sieved and probed in the soft mud seldom staying still, often spinning through 360 deg with out removing its bill from the mud. Enjoyable as it was to see such a site within the bounds of Kirkwall it was pouring with rain. I ended snapping a series of ultimately blurry photos before I beat a retreat to enjoy a damp retail experience. This is a beautiful wader and well worth a look. There is a fair chance that it may be there the morn although I suspect it will catch the strengthening northerly winds that are forecast to rise soon. Fingers crossed though it will show, the weather is on side at the moment. With so much rain about most of the usual mud flats are now under water so the fresh feeding to be found on the peedie see must seem an oasis for a bird so needing to get its energy store replenished for the journey ahead.

Sep 18, 2010

Pink footed geese

It seems to be a busy day for geese here. When the OH came in from work I was going to show her the white goose from the kitchen. I set up the scope and lo and behold the eyepiece was full of pink footed geese. In the time it took me to say come and see this whilst I got the camera they had taken to the air and were off, leaving me to wonder if I had or hadn’t seen pinkies. Fortunately a wander down the drive revelled twenty or more grazing away isolated from the local greylags with little more than the huge flock of golden plovers for company. It all seemed a bit early for geese but a word from Paul Higson on orkbird told me that there have been a couple of sightings of birds as they were coming in off the sea. These are the first migrating geese I have seen this season and very welcome visitors they are…. Migration rocks!!!

Leucistic goose

From time to time white patches appeared in the feathers of birds. This lack of pigment is called leucisim. This can affect small areas like a single feather to the more extreme of the entire plumage. You would think that having a trait like this would make you vulnerable to predation and I am sure it does to some extent. The surprising thing I find is how well other birds of the same type will accept another that looks so different from the norm.
I was sitting a layby on the side of the road in Caithness enjoying a can of juice one day when a white greenfinch fluttered past carrying food back to a nest. It was shooting back and forth foraging and feeding so it didn’t seem to be a problem for him/her! Last year I helped out the ringing group collaring Orkney bred greylag geese and we had a lucuistic goose that got named blondie. Blondie is doing well last I heard and had avoided Predation by a large array hungry predators ….not to mention the attentions of the professional hunting element. Here is another white goose, I found this greylag today on the Breckan pools ( harray end of the stonyhill) It looks like a first year bird but im not sure. For a moment there was the usual it’s a snow goose it’s a snow goose excitement of the first spot until I got it in the bins. However I suppose its worth a note just for the novelty value of seeing a cool goose, I don’t think this will have the county twitchers out though…lol

After coming back and looking at these images, this one being the clearest, i am not sure that my diagnosis is quite correct here. I keep looking at that overly large looking bill and thinking that this is a domestic goose that has strayed and not a leucistic bird.......mmmm

Sep 17, 2010


I had a spin out west this afternoon, more to take photos than chase birds in the winds. Ending up going up and down the Northside road there were clouds of small birds. The most obvious were the wheatears but there was more than that crossing the road and rising from the bike. It looked like the wind changing to the N/W has made little difference to the amount of migrants resting up on the north west coast. It must be worth an early morning visit to Birsay if the wind drops!!

Rooks on stooks

Sheaves in stooks are a sight you see less and less often in this modern age.

Sep 16, 2010

Oot west

An old friend I haven’t seen for ages came around today to try out different binoculars He also came camered up with his new 400mm lens so we just had to go for a scout about after all it would be rude not to!! Conditions were well against us with a gale blowing in from the north west. We wanted to check out some sites and Bosquoy was first on the list. The wind here scoured the surface of the water from one end to the other, white horses rose and fell and it was plainly obvious there was not a lot for Alfies 400mm lens to focus on. Venturing out the car and up the bank produced one small light and tan bird and a couple of meadow pipits. This is a total contrast to a week ago when we had a huge migrant fall at the end of a week of gales and big numbers of local geese mixed with hundreds of tufted, potchard and others filled the wee loch and small birds abounded around the shore and bordering fields feeding and resting after the gales. We moved to the Shunan and it was much the same story here with the wind sweeping the length of the loch in to our faces. We were luckier though for along the track in the lee of the fence thirty or more linnets were intently feeding, Over them a small group of swallows were feeding in the tumbling air. These birds all seemed game to be photographed, the flock of linnets moved up and down the track and the swallows obligingly landed feet away on the fence and were unbothered with the car windows going up and down….a few snaps were taken!!! We mosied on up the road through Dounby past the Loch of Banks. A few mallard sheltered around the bottom but we kept on going to arrive at the loons hide. This fairly bird less expanse is all ready being watched by two of the RSPBs finest. Little is to be seen on the water though and attention is on a hunting type hound running loose in the field below Skorn. Its putting up geese as its sniffing about but it isn’t wasting its energy chasing them. There are a couple of gadwall on the pool whilst overhead we catch a flock of snipe going up round and down. Andy was telling me that there are a lot being reported passing through at the moment. All in all though it’s a wind swept hole so we shift on. Marwick looked like looking in to the teeth of the gale so we turn south at the junction and head to Skail to try for a bird photo. Below the kirk will be the most sheltered and give the best chance. From the hill it looks wild with the waves breaking on Row and being carried over the cliff tops in spectacular fashion. Fortunately the shore at the kirk end of the bay is sheltered from the worst of the wind. We now get a chance to snap ringed plovers as they argued amongst them selves and chased each other in circles. A few turnstones now with their summer plumage mostly gone moved along the ware poking about. On the water Twenty odd dunters paddled about, a common scoter and a winter plumed guilimot added to the count. Two seals slept snouts in the air. A very obvious Whimbrel followed moments later by three more made for some excited oooh oooh look look type shouting in the car. We have about exhausted the possibilities so I jump out and try to digiscope the waves breaking on Row but it’s a bit windy and bumpy out of the cage! A run back past the loch presents little for the the cameras as there’s a small group of geese three quarters of the way across, given that the surface is lifting off like smoke here and there we plod on to have a look at the bird crop of Queena. This crop is on a the top of a small rise with a track beside it and a great place to sit and wait for the flocks to come to you…HA! Not today though. On the roll down the hill towards Brodgar there are a lot of birds feeding in the fields and we manage to get black headed gulls, lapwings and golden plovers in good range. In the lee of a skerry on the loch a small flock of teal were sheltering but once again little was to be seen. Our last stop was a walk up to the russadale quary as Alfie had never been there. This walk produced one blackbird,a meadow pipit, two hoodies and a distant raven so with that less than impressive total and me reassuring him that if he had been here in the spring ect ect we decide to head home, fortunately the rain decided to give a bird less return walk a little spice…..It was good to get out though and renew old friendships, have a nose about and see a DSLR with a big lens in action. Roll on the winter..oh god did I just say that!!...

Sep 15, 2010

Golden plover

I have just arived home to find at least three flocks of Golden plover in the fields below the house. Watching the fields every so often a flock will rise and twist about catching the sun and turning en mass from dull brown to a shimmer of gold, like a curtain in the wind before they all land back and resume feeding. Its a real highlight in a day of wind and bluster.