Aug 25, 2011

Shooting stars

Its 23.21and a superbly dark night and i have counted eleven shooting stars and three bright flashes over the last fifteen mins!

Aug 24, 2011

Painted lady

This is the only the first painted lady i have seen this year!!

Aug 19, 2011

Things are fairly starting to move now and over the past week I have seen the Ruff at the Shunan, a Marsh harrier at the mill of Rango, a pair of Greenshank at the loons. The past couple of days have produced flocks of Meadow pipits in the verges and fields. The Rendell hillside yesterday held a couple newly arrived and very tired looking mippit flocks. There was also a flock of sixty Swallows hunting together over a wheat field and resting up on the hydro cables. Things are certainly warming up in the migration stakes. Today I basked in the sun at the Black Craig (shirt off it was so hot!) and although whales and dolphins were not to be seen in the fantastic conditions I did manage two Manx shearwaters. The cliff top heath provided a few Common blues and my first Painted lady of the year. The sea was pretty quiet tho with only a small flow of Gannets way out heading north to take the interest. Five Whimbrel passed. I watched them approach in the bins then held them in the scope for ages before they disappeared south heading past the high cliffs of Hoy. Heading off I was circled by a juvenile Twite that called and called, landing ahead a couple of times. Cresting the hill two more Whimbrel take off and pass over me calling as they go. I am quite impressed with this im having a good day for Whimbrel!!. Its not all over though and as I start down the hill there is a ringtail starting to quarter the edge of the heather. Its back is to me and as I stand still its unconcerned by me, I suppose the wind is taking it away and it has nothing to fear. It makes a great excuse to stop and catch my breath after the up hill down hill bash from the cliff top…..The quiet time is looking a little less quiet now!!

Aug 18, 2011

Heads up!!

A juvinile Pallid / Montague’s harrier on Pappy has been reported on Orkbird today. Its likely the one on Fair isle the other day so look out mainland as it is bound to come through…..good hunting!!

Aug 11, 2011

Swallow roost

I have been to see the Swallow roost at the loons twice this week and tonight definatly provided the best spectacle. The birds are favouring the reeds right in front of the hide for their roost at the moment which of course means super views. The Swallows began to gather from half eight and grew in number over the next half hour until there were over a thousand whirling about. The flock was so great I made my way outside and stood in the road to get a fuller view. All to soon they began too swoop down to investigate roosting sights in the reeds, eventually falling from the skies in droves to settle before all being put up by a couple of late arriving birders!!. Still this gave a chance for the entire flock to be seen as one and impressive it was!!. No sooner had they risen though than they spiralled down to settle again and were almost all down by the time the late arrivals had sorted their self’s out and entered the hide. Never mind it will all happen again the morns night wi a bit of luck. It’s a super sight and very atmospheric to be under such a flock, well worth going out for a look!! There will be a wee bit of film going on the facebook page the morn some time!

Aug 7, 2011

Aug 4, 2011

Cetacean watching

Its been a good couple of days for cetacean watching for me. Sunday
Was flat calm and slack water was about lunch time so I shot down to Hoxa for a look. Ten minutes watching produced the thrilling sight of a fin and another trailing after it. A while later and another pair appeared and disappeared. They were highly mobile and moved about from one end of Flotta to the other. These were Harbour Porpoise and they would take two or three breaths and be gone. I was fairly sure I saw at least four separate individuals, Steve Sankey who was watching further round the head thought he had seen at least seven individuals so there was plenty to see.
Monday was another flat calm day and I headed for Stromness and the Black Craig. This was to misty to see anything and I decided to return as soon as possible, that just happened to be today funnily enough. Conditions were good, nice and calm with a mild air. I could see from the jack up rig to Hoy and north to Yesnaby. Little was to be seen, a few birds on the sea and several more in the extended view from the scope. Any distant exotic shearwater shapes resolved themselves into immature gannets over and over again. When this became to much of a strain on the eyes it was back to eyes and bins looking for fins. Still nothing and as time ticked away I began to attract the attention of midges. My tolerance to the wee beasties is pretty lame and I was soon in the mind to move on and make my self a bit of a mobile target. I ended walking half way to Yesnaby and back with little luck. There had been a constant passage of Bonxies heading to Hoy and for a large part of the path I had been accompanied by families of Wheatears and more than a few Rock pipits. By the time I reached the stile below the Emec spy post I stopped to catch my breath and cool off in preparation for the final uphill path. So all peeled off and enjoying the cold perspiration evaporating in the slightest of breezes I was looking to sea thinking that was that for the day a fin cut the water and disappeared only reappear as the first sight was sinking in. This was about half way to the yellow buoy. It didn’t stay in sight for very long and once down it was three or four minutes before I could find it again. At one stage it was obvious that there was a smaller one close behind it. Eventually I lost sight and they headed towards the Jackup barge. I amused my self looking at the photos I had taken that had taken zooming in and out playing hunt the fin….with no success I should add!! My attention was grabbed with a sudden blowing sound and looking up the Dolphin is right below me just off the cliff, snatching up the bins ( I hardly need them!) I can see the back is grey, it has a bluntish head, as it dives shallowly through the water it rolls on its side as it gos down showing a white flank with a smooth line between the grey along the flank. Close in like this the, the sensation of size is large and I wonder if this is a Rissos Dolphin ( there has been one washed up out west this week and they are fresh in my head) anyway it soon is nowhere to be seen and I turn to walk back to the stile three walkers have appeared one of whom is Tim, a stalwart of the camera club. We were soon chatting about sightings and the disappeared dolphin when Tim says there was a huge splash out at the yellow buoy, as we look out there’s another and another. With bins trained on the spot we can see a pod of Dolphins out there leaping clear of the water splashing exuberantly, some clearly spinning. Counting over and over gives the best count of eight at one time although im sure there were more. It’s a thrilling if distant display but it just gos on and on. We get the scope on them and manage a few views before it all eventually gos off the boil. Its not all lost though and they reapear after a while a lot closer in, not jumping as much but still very active moving about the same area . I think these were common dolphins as you could see a dark v in the body colours lateral line (saying all this tho im no sort of expert on cetaceans) Leaving the other three engrossed I was to soon head off though very satisfied with my mad 40 mins watching…..cracking stuff!!

Aug 2, 2011

Aug 1, 2011

Field Gentian

I had a visit to the Black Craig by Stromness this lunchtime, the idea being to have a look for passing whales and dolphins. Right enough it was calm and smooth but unfortunately the sky dropped to the sea as I reached the cliff edge and began to set up. I was shut down before I started as the horizon sped towards me. With that there was little more to see than occasional razorbills, fulmars and Bonxies emerging from the gloom. I had a poke about the cliff top to keep my interest and circulation up. I am glad I did though as I wandered in to a huge display of Field Gentian. Field Gentian is one of those bogey plants that I just haven’t seemed to come across on my travels despite seeing sightings of it posted on various sites ( I even have it misidentified in a photo album on this very blog!! ) The duck was about to be broken though as I realised I was sat besides a flowering Gentian, along sides this there was another and another. It didn’t take long to see there was a carpet of Field Gentian spread before me. Its so often the way of things, you wait for a bus and three come at once. I had looked for individual plants in a couple of roadside verge sites with out luck yet here were literally thousands just breaking into bloom. This spectacular display is not alone though as there seems to have been a huge cliff top blooming of Eyebright as well, turning the cliff tops frosty white as they disappear in to the soft mist. All in all it a fine sight and well worth a look. Take the path to the Black Craig, straight past the renewable spy station and down to the cliff edge stile. Cross the stile to the right and the display starts just a few yards in. Please watch for trampling plants though!!