Skip to main content

Posts

Cerise-ly?!

On a showery Sunday afternoon sandwiched between a dreich Saturday and a wet Monday, that briefest of phenomena, an Orcadian Autumn, put in a surprise appearance midst some watery sunshine. It wasn't New England in the fall, it wasn't a vast swathe of colour across a broad landscape, it wasn't even knee deep in leaf litter, but it was magical in its way.The Rosa rugosa was swinging its hips in a dashing red and cerise number...


Elder bushes were flaunting greens and purples...


There were still a few Buddleia blooms on display...

And Rowans were laden with ripe red berries which, on another part of the walk, were being much appreciated by migrating thrushes: Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds.

I have no idea what this is, other than gorgeously pink.

One particular Rosa rugosa was in a fiendish mood, showing an impressive set of snarling,  sharp teeth.

There were a few insects about, not many, but the fading light did add a splash of colour to this fly's wings.

Lichen wars con…
Recent posts

Self sealing

If it's October, it must be the beginning of Grey Seal pupping season, so a trip to Burwick at the bottom end of South Ronaldsay was called for. The morning's bright sunshine soon gave way to cloud and then rain but, no matter, the short walk offered up some lovely moments.A solitary Thrift flower...
A pair of Grey Herons...

Plenty of Yarrow...

Some quite fresh Otter spraint...

A Redwing...

And then to the rocky coves for some pups!

Westray wanderings

Another island trip for work, but the two tasks were separated by several hours to fit in with customer schedules. So what does a wildlife watcher do with 4 hours to kill on Westray?As the early morning ferry sailed by the island of Shapinsay, I was left to ponder the meaning of 'coastal defences'. I don't think this qualifies on either count.
Mind you, the skyscapes at dawn were very nearly worth getting up for. 

Passing the small islands of Faray and Holm of Faray, it was good to see populations of Grey and Harbour Seal. The first of these two photos also contains a Grey Seal pup in all its fluffy whiteness.


When replacing a satellite dish, I invariably (though hopefully, temporarily) make a spider homeless. This day was no exception.

There were still some migrants about and a Water Rail was heard in the reed bed by the Bay of Tuquoy and a flock of eight Pintail was seen flying over the Bay of Skaill. But here's a conveniently-posing Wheatear.

In Pierowall village, garden…

Vis-migging

A work trip to the island of Sanday allowed a few hours of free time whilst I waited for the ferry back to Kirkwall. Thankfully, this opportunity coincided with some warm October sunshine between heavy showers. The Autumn migration of birds continues, so I was hopeful of finally witnessing some of this spectacle for myself.At the edge of a sandy track by the Little Sea, a couple of finches flew up from a field margin. The view from behind them was of a white rump, which threw me completely. A finch? Really? By the time I raised my bins, they had disappeared again, but were soon relocated further along the verge.Brambling!

Not such a welcome sight, was this deceased Short-eared Owl, which had at some time in the past become fatally snagged on a barbed wire fence. Gusting winds and barbed wire are an occupational hazard for birdlife in these parts.

As well as the Brambling, this stretch of track offered up Wheatears, Song Thrushes, Robins and three Knots, as well as a smattering of Redwin…

Wrong place, right time

[Insert eye-rolling/facepalming emoji/emoticon of choice]A recent work trip to Shetland (my first since lockdown began) coincided with a period of wet and windy weather, ideal conditions for a 'fall', when hundreds, perhaps thousands, of migrating birds are grounded by the conditions. Unfortunately for me, the winds in Shetland weren't from the same direction as the ones in Orkney, so I could only stare incredulously at the updates pinging to my phone from birders in the archipelago I had just left. Who knew that 100 miles could mean such differing fortunes?Work done for the day, I did make an attempt to find something, anything, exotic but I was in the northern half of the Shetland mainland, rather than the southern tip (where it later transpired that there had been some interesting warblers).Despite the wind and rain, a visit to the plantations at Kergord in Weisdale seemed a hopeful choice. These small woods contain the most northerly rookeries in the UK, so although no…

Autumnal

There are signs... amongst the day-to-day happenings, there are definitely signs.
In Orkney, Autumn is not so much a season, it's the dawning realisation that birds you have been listening to or watching for several months are no longer there. Then, no sooner than that thought has flickered across your mind, the empty skies, fields and bays are filled with different species, a new palette of colours, sights and sounds.
And, if you're a leaf, Autumn lasts about 24 hours. Plants don't tend to be sentimental, they can't afford to be. For them, Summer to Winter is like a switch being thrown.
This week, many flocks of Pink-footed Geese winged their way south through the scudding Orcadian sky. Energetic V's of "Wink, wink" sounds battling the gusting breeze as they headed for estuaries far from the Arctic Circle.
I saw my first Whooper Swans of the Winter, a group of a dozen, counter-intuitively flying north, but I think they were headed for St Peter's Pool in …