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Dragons and other flying stuff

Yesterday (Saturday) was a bit of a dragonfest. Not because my favourite order of insects are on the wing yet, at least not in Orkney, but because the BDS was hosting its Scottish conference 2021 online. Lots of interesting talks about rare species, extraordinary behaviour, habitat management and public engagement. All the while that I was indoors, staring at a computer screen, there were regular updates on my phone about another winged predator, as a White-tailed Eagle was being seen over moorland not far to the north. So as soon as the conference was over, a short drive was taken to Birsay Moors in the hope of seeing an eagle. En route, a flock of about a hundred Golden Plover flew across the road in front of the car, their jinking flight flashing the white and gold of their plumage as the birds turned one way and then the other. Up on the moors, it was a struggle to find any birds. A couple of Ravens were keeping their wary eyes on us, a few Meadow Pipits appeared out of the heather
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After the gales

Most of the Easter weekend was lost to gales, snow and hail showers, with little in the way of wildlife watching to show for it. However, one jigsaw was completed and another started. By mid week, things had improved a bit, in as much as the wind had eased off to "flippin' breezy" (technical meteorological term), although the wind chill still kept temperatures below freezing. One evening, whilst eating our evening meal, a Short-eared Owl made a brief visit to the rough grassland beyond our neighbour's garden, so apologies for this hastily-shot photo of a moving target taken through a filthy window. Today dawned with yet another covering of snow, but with the lightest winds for some while. The view across to the hills on island of Hoy highlighted the difference in altitude of the viewer and the view. The sunny morning encouraged the local male Stonechat into song and he even let me approach a bit closer than normal for a photo. In the afternoon, there was a trip to Yes

Gyre Wood

This is the southern end of the Gyre Wood in Orphir, a small area of woodland with a burn running through it, surrounded by farmland pasture and sandwiched between moorland and coast. I f things turn out as planned, this post could be the first of a series from this location. In early April, new growth is sprouting wherever it can. Here's a Pink Purslane roseate which is growing in the moss on a tree bough that leans out over the burn. And there are swathes of Butterbur carpeting the woodland floor. And to my surprise, there's also Dog's Mercury, usually an indicator of ancient woodland, so I do not know whether its presence is accidental or not. Meantime, the Butterbur is attracting a few hardy, early bumblebee queens, like this White-tailed Bumblebee. Blackbirds forage in the leaf litter, in search of tasty morsels. And another species of bumblebee, the Buff-tailed Bumblebee was also helping itself to the Butterbur's bounty. Finally, just in case you haven't had e

A traditional bank holiday pastime

Throughout much of the UK, the Easter weekend of 2021 was viewed in several ways, depending upon whether one was fed up with a year of global pandemic restrictions and hell-bent on hedonism or one had a care for one's fellow citizens, especially those in the NHS and local authority waste services. With restrictions easing slightly in England and Wales, there was much blatant disregard for the rules in places such as Newcastle, Bristol and Cardiff. Northern Ireland wasn't immune from this madness, with rioting in several places, and I'm sure there would also have been Covid transgressions in Scotland, but we're four weeks from an election for the Scottish Parliament, so news media is in full 'union or independence' mode. Meanwhile, I had to go to Shetland for work (travel allowed as the work is deemed essential and both archipelagos are in Tier 3), with a planned day of broadband repairs. One of these was cancelled last minute, so I found myself with a free hour

Brown out circuit

Bright and breezy, the westerly gusts possessed a cool razor's edge. Scapa Bay wasn't as sheltered as it would be from a southerly wind, but this didn't stop a huge flock of gulls from gathering far out in the middle. A few grebes and auks could be picked out from this throng, though they were difficult to identify to species at distance. Closer to or on the shore, were assorted Redshanks, Guillemots and Black-headed Gulls, the latter not actually sporting black feathers on its head, more a dull brown.  The scientific name for Black-headed Gull,  Chroicocephalus ridibundus , translates as 'coloured head laughing', so rather unhelpfully not a direct reference to which colour, and the laughing referring to its call. Oddly, and this is often the case with gull nomenclature, there is a species known as Laughing Gull, whose scientific name is Leucophaeus ( or Larus) atricilla , translating as 'white/brown blacktail', without any reference to laughing at all. It&

Budding photographer

For a Sunday morning walk, something delightfully unstrenuous was required, as a busy previous week had included a Covid jab and a day trip to Shetland (it's called a day trip because it's 24 hours door to door). Cue a circular wander from Orphir Village to Swanbister Bay and back via Gyre Road. Things got off to a grand start as we left the village, when a pair of wagtails flew over... they were Greys, my first of the year. The weather forecast had predicted cloudy but dry all day, with a generous westerly breeze gusting 25mph. Passing Swanbister House, it began to rain, so the immediate Fuschia looked bleak. Further down the track to the coast, a Sycamore tree was showing off its buds to good effect. As we reached the shore of Swanbister Bay, a pair of Gannets flew by, another first for the year... yay! There were plenty of waders on the beach: Oystercatcher, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew. Walking around the bay, the light changed a lit