May 25, 2011

Terns return to Skipi Geo

A trip over the Hillside road to Evie led to Birsay where I parked up at the Buckquoy car park where I indulged in bacon and egg rolls, coffee and photos of the recent rockfall at Marwick. With the tide rising to much for a walk to the broch I made for Skipi Geo to check out the turns. Sure enough they were loafing about claiming nesting spots, picking at the thrift and moving stones. Hopefully they will have some luck breeding here. The western cliffs are poorly filled with breeding birds and things look pretty sparse. Only time will tell if the Auks and Terns will do any better this year and for now we can only hope. Skipi Geo is one of the strongest sites around tho with the birds here gaining the advantage of food brought here by the strong up welling currents and tides. It is this food source that hopefully will keep them going if the Sand eels move off to cooler waters. For now though life in the small colony is just getting going with pair bonding, food sharing and mating all happening together. All the drama noise and spectacle is just restarting for another season. Skipi Geo is a site that should be of interest to those who have limited mobility as with care you can get a car close enough to the edge to enjoy really close views with out having to walk any distance!!!

Alfresco sex is all very well but i think its a bit close to home for this Oystercatcher!!

Things look settled but the arival of a hoodie soon has everything in flux

May 24, 2011

Volcanic ash

A fairly big fall of ash seems to have happened overnight. The car and bike have a good covering and despite the heavy showers it is coating everything. Should be good news for the garden tho!!!

May 21, 2011

May 20, 2011

New seasons orchids

Whilst cutting the grass in the back garden it was a plesant suprise to find the first of the seasons orchids blooming.

May 19, 2011

Orca sightings

Yesterday I went to the cliffs of Hobbister to scope the flow for Orca. A small pod of two adult and one young Orca had been reported earlier in the day off Hoxa heading in to the flow swimming close to shore. I of course chose the wrong side to go and look. The water was to rough for a long distance scope and little was to be seen along my side of the shore. I did get to see Red throated divers displaying but that held little solace for me as I returned home to read reports of Orca hunting in Echna bay and around Hunda the same time I was sitting out the showers in Orphir…Ach well never mind…Tonight Kas Monro from / and orkbird reported a pod of six or more Orca seen from the Pentalina off of the Lother rock. So here might be another chance to catch a sight of Orca from the shore….good searching

May 17, 2011

Cuckoos calling

After days of rain things dried a wee bit to day. There was word of a Cuckoo at Happy valley so I steamed off for a look. A walk round happy valley filled in time as I could hear a bird calling way down the Stenness end of the valley. With no bird getting close it was time for plan b, I moved off up the valley towards Russadale to a friends house where I could get a cup of coffee and wait in comfort. Refreshed I moved out of the house and down a gully that leads to the lovely scrub covered valley. I hadn’t been there for long but heard two wrens, three willow warblers and three sedge warblers calling away. Add to this the abundance of meadow pipits and you soon see why the cuckoos are drawn to this place. Sure enough a cuckoo appeared on a fence post about a hundred yards away. I scoped it up and took a few photos but it was fairly distant. Form time to time it was mobbed by small birds but it showed no sign of moving as it assessed its options of where to lay. As it was so stationary I moved out of the cover of the gully and decided to chance approaching closer in the hope of getting a better shot. I slunk across the fence and in to the field keeping the bird in sight but avoiding eye contact. I got as close as I dared and snapped a couple more. At this point another cuckoo started calling. Not to be out done a third bird chimed in from some where way up the hill. That was three birds in the same area at the same time. All to soon tho the cuckoo in sight rose to the air with the arrival of a family of raven on the scene. The cuckoo circled before heading in the direction of Happy valley with a second one appearing in hot pursuit. Quite chuffed I moved off as well. Three birds was a first and a male and females was another first as all I have seen up to this point are females.

May 16, 2011

Keeping an eye out

Following on from Allans post on suspicious activity that might have been eggers up to no good out police wildlife officer Gregor Hay has posted this on orkbird. I thought it was well worth reposting here as it concerns everyboby that loves our wildlife. Please can everybody be vigilant!!

Dear All

Having read this entry with great interest I cannot stress enough the importance in phoning the Police please in the first instance should you see anything or anyone acting suspiciously.

All too often I hear about events sometimes days after they have happened as individuals either did not know what to do or did not want to waste Police time. Believe me when I say that my colleagues and I want to make sure that Orkney nesting birds rear healthy clutches and guilty perpetrators are identified and brought to justice. There will always be individuals who through ignorance disturb nesting birds and at the very least they can be given suitable advice.

I know that some of you may feel more comfortable phoning the RSPB in the first instance and if you wish to do this then feel free, however my cautionary note and I feel sure that Eric and his colleagues will support this, is that by doing so it is delaying any action which the Police may be able to take and causing unnecessary delays which could make all of the difference in relation to evidence gathering.

My knowledge shows that invariably when egg collections are seized there will nearly always be eggs sourced from Orkney which have been stolen from under our noses and believe me this hurts and is a source of much frustration.

If you see something please endeavour to note the following, if you can get into the habit of keeping a pen and paper handy when out and about it will be very helpful.

1. Car registration numbers, colour, make and model.
2. Number of persons involved.
3. What they are wearing start at the top and work your way down.
4. What are they actually doing, if you can pinpoint a grid reference on a map all the better, or give as good a point of reference as possible such as parked in passing place approx one mile north of Bay of Skaill.
5. Lastly if they head off, give a direction of travel.

If you wish to do your Sherlock Holmes bit then the more info the better.

I thank you for your assistance in this matter and hopefully we will have a problem free breeding season.

Gregor Hay
Wildlife Crime Officer
Tel 01856 872241 (Police Station)

May 15, 2011

Keeping an eye out!!

This message was posted on orkbird tonight. Could everybody out there please be extra alert and keep an eye out!!

Many species that breed on Orkney are scarce across the UK and occasionally
Orkney can be targeted by folk who do not have the birds' interests at heart.
They could be egg theives, photographers or indeed innocent visitors who don't
happen to realise they are causing disturbance whilst out walking.

With the breeding season now well underway, I have had my first report of
'suspicious behaviour' regarding the potential disturbance of rare breeding
birds at our Birsay Moors reserve this weekend (two individuals apparently
searching an area 20 yards apart in suitable harrier breeding area).

Can I ask you all to be vigilant and report any possible/probable disturbances
to the police (01856 872241) or indeed the RSPB (office and mobile numbers
below) at the time or as soon as possible afterwards.

Many thanks

Warden - Orkney Mainland Reserves
RSPB Scotland
12 North End Road
KW16 3AG

01856 850176 or 07887 626327

Twitch alert

Short-toed Eagle in Orkney...Its twitch alert time!!. There has been a report of a Short toed eagle on Rousay tonight on birdguides. This is only the 2nd time ever for this bird in the UK and may well spark some interest if it stays about. I hope it does but we will see!!

May 9, 2011

Hen harrier action shots

Here are three shots of a Hen harrier hunting over willow shrubs. There is also a film of this with both male and female birds engaged in trying to flush birds out of the scrub and interacting with each other. You can only view this film on the blog facebook page. To get there just click the Facebook link at the top of the side bar.

May 7, 2011

Loons/ Loch o banks

I had a spin out to the Loons this afternoon in an attempt to re find the otter of the other day. Of course this wasn’t to be but I did see plenty of action from the dab chicks as they guarded their nest sight from all comers, There were some good sights of Reed buntings which kind of makes up for all the Sedgies being so far away this year A different Mallard appeared with six chicks which was nice, the weather wasn’t so good though. A strong breeze blew into the front of the hide and it was cold, draughty and off putting. With little sign of an otter (little surprise there lol) I decided to cut my losses and head off. Heading for Dounby I decided on the spur to go and have a look from the Lochend chalet hide. Its been a while since I had been in there and the short path in was impressively over grown with a big willow fallen over the path baring the way. This passed and I made it to the hide.

Looking now in the opposite direction the wind is behind us with the bank of large willows soaking up the power of the wind. The vista is open and sunny and the hide is warm. There are not so many birds close in here because the pools are separated and very shallow but the view is further than the loons and across the ground all of the local breeding species are kicking about. Every where there are nesting birds, displaying birds, and loafing birds with mischief on their minds. A Herring gull might pass over and set up several wheeling Lapwings or a Curlew might see off some rival with a chase and bubbling call setting off a crescendo of Curlews before things settled down once more. Reed buntings were about and Swallows and House martins hunted over the pools. Snipe were quite evident, not with displays but with short low flights to and from nests to feeding spots. It really must be worth a visit here at sunset to hear the evening chorus, Its got to be about as atmospheric as it gets!! The final scope out before leaving reveals something I had not noticed before. In a field on the hillside just past the Twatt turn at the furthest end of the loch I can see several geese feeding and corralled within them at least seven goslings, the first of the year!

May 6, 2011

House martins return

House martins arrived back in the neighbourhood two nights ago. After tea tonight I noticed a pair have already started nest building. Interestingly they have chosen a gable end of a brand new build to nest under. This wasn’t even here last year but the first nest is going up on it. I’m hoping there will be at least one other nest on last years site as there were three martins in the air at the same time at one point. The most pleasing thing is it is all visible from the back door….you couldn’t ask for more!!!

May 4, 2011

An Otter shot

This week just gets better and better!!!


This is another shot of the Short eared owl from two days back.

May 3, 2011

Todays birds

Parafin budgie...Black cap, Blue tit. ARI.

Out west

Evie was the destination of the day all be it a bit late in the day to be finding the reported White tailed sea eagle A good look about lead me north to Costa head where I thought it would be an idea to have a wee look about the head for the way of it. No sea eagles there tho but it did produce my seasons firsts for Arctic Skua and Puffin. There were good numbers of auks and all the rest of the cliff nesters. A nice visible Ravens nest had at least three young all well grown. The parents spent their time chasing the circling flock of Fulmars which led to some nifty aerobatics from the Ravens. It was a stunning bright day with just a hint of cold wind. Dog violets covered the ground in places, grasses were flowering and the first thrift was in flower. Another first was the first predated Guillemots egg so at least they have started to lay. Lets hope the food lasts, at the moment the cliffs don’t very full at all. The road home was kind to me as well with quick stop to catch some film and stills of a Short eared owl….perfect end to a cracking afternoon.

May 1, 2011

Willow warbler joins the garden list.

The pre dawn of Mayday was a still calm affair. The brief view I had of it from the front door about four this morning revealed a sheen of frost over the grass, bike and cushions that had been left out on the swing over night. This had all gone buy the time I finally dragged my self out of my pit at a respectable hour!!. It’s a stunning may morning now with the air still and the sun shining. The grass is all cut thanks to Sig and things look fine. Things took an even better turn as I was making the first coffee of the day. In the trees at the bottom of the garden a Willow warbler was in full song. This was a delightful first for the garden. The bird its self was determined to have a sing and a search for a mate. He was unperturbed by the camera and I managed a few shots with the FZ28 before I switched to the digiscope. All in all he managed for forty five minutes of display from various perches before moving off to try his luck else where…..great start to a great looking day!!