Friday, 4 November 2011

Orkney bashing

Having completed my WeBS Talk roadshow (taking in Inverness, Thurso and last night, Kirkwall in the last three days), today I was looking forward to getting out and exploring Orkney properly.  Waking up to dull grey windy weather was not what I was hoping for but filled with anticipation, I set out and headed east.  Stopping briefly to check the bays, finding a couple of Slavonian Grebes and following a short search around the southeasterly point of the Orkney Mainland at Point of Ayre with a few Purple Sandpipers and 5 Barnacle Geese I retracd my steps back to Kirkwall and then headed south.

Crossing the causeway to Burray, there are several bays which were sheltered and held quite
 a few birds.  The stars of the show were at least 30 Long-tailed Ducks, the males looking stunning in their winter finery and displaying and calling to each other, a magical experience.  The bay also had at leasta  dozen Slavonian Grebes, a Great Northern Diver and a couple of Black Guillemots.

Carrying on south, I reached South Ronaldsay.  I headed for Sandwick, the most southerly point and the ferry port to have a look around and was quite surprised to find a couple of Wheatears, which would have been unusual at this time of year on the south coast of England, let alone Orkney.  Other than a few Blackbirds, Robins and Goldcrests, the area was very quiet, though a ringtail Hen Harrier was a more expected, but nonetheless, nice bird to see.

Having had a quick look at the RSPB Reserve at The Loons yesterday afternoon, I decided to go back there, and having missed my turning, which given the number of roads on Orkney should have been avoidable, I ended up going the long way round.  This misjudgement turned out to be a good thing as a Great Grey Shrike flew across the road in front of me before typically perching on roadside wires, but flew on a bit further before I could even think about getting the camera out.  With my WeBS hat on, it was good to see good numbers of Icelandic Greylag Geese around the island, and The Loons is a regular roost site, and the fence posts according to the notice board should be checked for Short-eared Owls, which proved right with an owl sat watching for voles in the grass.  As dusk fell, a quick look at Marwick Bay produced a juvenile Iceland Gull which was a nice end to the day, just a pity the light never improved to be able to get any photos.

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