Mar 30, 2011

A U3A sort of day

I had an interesting afternoon. It involved giving a hand out with some didgiscoping practice to the local U3A photography group. It was blowing a bit of a breeze up the loch once we were assembled in the hide at Barnhouse Stenness. It wasn’t the best of conditions but every one got to try the scopes out and grab a few snaps. The birds all stayed well off across the loch though in the unfavourable eart of wind. A few of the lochs swan flock did come over for a look and we managed a few shots of the bob, bob, bobbing swans.

The loch its self held
6 Longtailed duck
3 pairs of Goldeneye
2 pairs Red breasted mergansers
3-5doz Tuffted
3 Slavonian grebes
200 Widgeon
substantial roosting flocks of Oystercatchers, Curlew and Lapwing across the south end where there was also two big gull roosts.
There were about 300 Greylag and a smattering of Pink feet at Masehow.
Lesser blacked gulls made several appearances heading down the loch along with some very sharp looking Black headedgulls.

Coming away a brown looking Piedwagtail took my eye bouncing down the Stenness shore. I t was just one glimpse and gone though…I have no idea what it was…and they are the best ones!!!

Mar 29, 2011

Twenty thousand hits

To celebrate twenty thousand hits on the blog here is something a little different. I spied this lad down the fields with this Harris hawk this afternoon He kindly came over and took some time out of his rabbit hunting walk for a chat. What a cracker!! Shame it wont be going on the garden list!!

Mar 26, 2011

The soggy shore

Spurred on by a report of the first Wheatear of the spring on the west side coast I headed to Stromness to have a look about. First off I had a look for the Purple sandpipers but they were not to be found. I managed some shots of a pair of Dunters and moved along the shore only to find a cooperative Redshank and Oystercatcher. There were a couple of seals about hauled up and others sleeping in the water. The closest one to the shore had a good amount of blood coming from wounds around its throat although it didn’t seem to bothered. It was a misty looking Hoy and Graemsay across the water and the water its self took on the grey of the skys and held a strong greasy motion in the tide. With only a few Dunters a couple of Mergansers and a few assorted gull I thought a move along the shore might be more beneficial. The last thing to hold my interest was a Scarfie on a rock . It was a distant view but looking through the bins I could see the rock was getting well washed over by the waves and it was ignoring the water about its feet.. It was out as far as the scope and camera could reach but I shot off ten or fifteen pictures trying to get a sharp one of the action. I didn’t really get one but its good to practice…I tell my self. Jumping the bike its over to Warbeth and a wander along the shore.
Warbeth on the falling tide was particularly empty of birds, things looked even less promising with the arrival of more wind carried drizzle. I bet the lip and hopped that the weather might bring down any moving birds. It was a bit of a plod but the end of the sands held only a flock of Oystercatchers and one or two Redshanks. The rocky shore fared a lot better though with four or five Pied wagtails moving along before me. At one point I came nose to nose with a Meadow pipit on a stab, the closest view of one this year!. The drizzle was becoming more and more persistent, this was leading to the inevitable turn and walk back. Crossing a fence and cresting a rise curtains of grey wetness rolled down the shore before me. I stood looking along the shore and thought jees!!. Surveying the scene before me my reluctance to turn and walk face first into the rain paid a dividend as a Curlew rose up and preformed a stunning display, It flew in tight horizontal circles between ten and twenty feet high. There were several sharp changes of direction and jinking flight. Even though it was down wind im pretty sure the bird at no time called. It ended this flight which had gone on for ages by just as dramaticaly and abruptly as it had started by dropping out the sky and back down on the shore. I don’t know what was going on but it was pretty cool at the time!
Another ten minutes watching the shore and that was enough though, it was buff up and hat down for the plod back to the bike. The head down attitude as I shouldered in to the weather did produce a field mouse running on the shore as I passed it. Lesser celandines were putting out the first flowers and there was piles of dog shit!! The last section leading to the sandy shore produced three Rock pipits moving along rolled up mats of seaweed ahead of me. Its just everyday stuff in the rain to day but it is nice to get out in the slightly raised seasonal temperatures. It’s the boat race this weekend another good marker for the year……OXFORD!!!

Mar 25, 2011

Mar 20, 2011

Supermoon...sort of...

I missed the moonrise so didnt get the chance to see it at its apparent biggest. The highest tides are not untill monday though!!

Mar 17, 2011

Wrens return

It seems that the birds are coming back on line over this last couple of weeks. The first signs were the piping calls of the Oyster catchers ringing up from the dark fields below the house. It made a pleasant addition to the greylags and whistling Widgeon. I know the novelty will rub off soon enough but for now it’s a nice addition to the sounds of the night. Lapwings have started displaying and were looking nicely conspicuous in this afternoon’s sunshine. The nice sunshine also brought out Curlews to bubble and Skylarks to sing on territory today. In the shrubs of Stenness I heard Wrens, Blackbirds and Dunnocks all in good song and saw a pair of Harriers pass over the hill top in close order. Around the house here The Song thrush has been in full song and encouragingly the male chaffinch that is constantly accompanied by a female is singing. Wrens made a welcome reappearance the other day with one flitting around the obvious high perches and was soon pursued by another. I’m just guessing they are females as I haven’t heard any song but its early days. The Robin is singing from time to time but the Dunnock doesnt seem to be making a lot of effort. All in all its looking al lot more like spring. We have the biggest moon for ages in a couple of nights and then the equinox is upon us….before you know it it will be the grand national, the boat race and it will be summer……..another nip and a dod of wood on the fire, rain on windows….yawn…dream of summer days....zzz

Mar 12, 2011

The northern lights just wont quit

Every time i have looked at the NOAA site over the last ten days there seems to have been orange or red on the polar map. When the skys have been clear enough there has often been a glow on the northern horizon. Last night's display was a good one and the lights were fairly dancing in the sky.

Needing to see further than my nose!!

It’s strange that you so often don’t see what’s right in front of you. This has been brought home to me in the last couple of days. Last Sunday after the bird race check in at the Lynfield hotel (the bird race is another one to write up at some point) whilst we were speaking about what and where someone mentioned that Carrion crows seemed to be establishing them self’s on my road the Stonyhill Rd.. I have seen dark billed crows about the house here and just dismissed them as first year rooks as we have a large flock of rooks and Jackdaws about that likely come over from Binscarth woods. Yesterday though there was one on the roof that caught my eye. I got the bins on it and was thinking that the bill didn’t look straight and pointy and had a nice curve when it took off and headed down the field in the company of a Hooded crow. They both landed on fence posts about a hundred yards away and look like a pair. So after managing to see what was in front of my nose all the time I am now seeing at least one Carrion crow around the house. In fact I think the bird is taking the piss a bit as its been on and off the Hydro pole next door all morning.. I don’t really know how many Carrion crows are this far north and out of their range but I can think of a couple of Hoodie/Carrion pairs that have been out west over the past few years. Looks like there might be more inter breeding going on here as well….We will see……now I am paying a bit more attention that is !!

The good thing about this is its another bird on the garden list, and whilst on the subject of the list it’s a super flat calm day and looking down to the loch I can see in the bins Cormorants clearly drying them selfs on a small island. Spurred on by this a scope across the still water soon reveals not only the Cormorants with wings outstretched but a flock of Tuffted ducks clearly visible, several pairs of Golden eye and a Slavonian grebe. Im fairly chuffed with the morning so far…..I might even go and write up a bit of a report on last Sundays bird race as it was my first ever attempt at bird racing!!

Mar 9, 2011

Stormy weather

It is blowing a bit out west this afternoon. Looks to be worse the morns afternoon though.

Mar 5, 2011

Pinkfeet below the house

Its a sign of the times that the pinkies have started pouring in to the county. There are a few kicking about over winter but we never see them here, Its only when they arive in numbers that we see them around us. This is a sure sign of spring starting to loom in the distance and winters grip loosning.

Mar 4, 2011

The Scottish Hen Harrier situation worsens

I have just been reading that the number of breeding pairs of Hen Harriers has been lowered yet aging after the announcement of new survey figures. It’s a depressing and infuriating situation as we all know the reason why this is happening and the government lacks any will to do the right thing and rectify the situation through positive action.

Have a look through the blog (} its interesting reading. There is a ling in the side bar in Scottish killing fields/only 489 pairs of Harriers left.

Mar 2, 2011

Northern lights

There was a display of the northern lights last night. It was much more of an ark across the northern sky which is far more usual than a full on show of search lights and curtains. It did kick off onto a larger display at times but all in all it was quite modest. The display was called around the back of eight last night on the local Orkney forum . When I saw it was starting I had a look at the NOAA site in the blog side bar and it was glowing dark red which is always a good sign. That was fifteen or sixteen hours ago and the alert is still going on so this is a long one. It was still showing in the north as I went to bed late last night. At the moment it is concentrated over the north coast of Canada. I don’t know if the storm will last till darkness tonight but fingers crossed it will.