After terrible weather on the Saturday, it was a relief tofind a much better day on March 4th when the 7 teams toured the mainlandcounting species along the way.
Some rarer birds were seen - American wigeon, Tree Sparrow,Hawfinch, Mistle Thrush and Snow Goose (I was privileged to see the wigeon,snow goose and hawfinch - the latter thanks to the good sportsmanship of arival team who allowed competitors to have a telescopic view of this beautifulbird).
After bird-spotting for eight and a half hours, the winningteam once more emerged as Alistair Forsyth, Julian Branscombe, Barry &Linda Hamill who amassed a total of 91 species.The runner-up teamwith 88 points - Malcolm Russell, Thelma Irvine, Willie and Pauline Wilson; third wasSteve Sankey with his wife and young son - they did well with only 3 members.
A total of 107 species was seen on the day - it is thought this is a record.
After the race some of the participants enjoyed a meal at the Lynnfield Hotel.
Many thanks to Malcolm Russell for supplying these facts andfigures - Malcolm says this is one of the best bird races ever and I can onlyagree with him. A photo of the winning team is below:
Winning Team: Alistair Forsyth, Julian Branscombe, Linda Hamill, Barry Hamill. Photo Pauline Wilson.
Ian Cunningham has been busy with his camera again and sentme 3 great pictures:
(1) A rare American Wigeon that has been atToab for a few weeks now. In fact I was lucky to see this on the bird race.
(2) A colourful Teal taken at Graemeshall in Holm.
(3) Coming back from Kirkwall on March 8th, Ian spotted this Merlin near BossackQuarry and rushed home for his camera. Incredibly, the birdwas still in the same spot and he was able to get this super photo. Ian tells me that this bird was still in the exact spot today when he took the other two photos. As he says "Who says lightening doesn't strike twice!"
Teal at Graemeshall in Holm.
Merlin in Tankerness
Rare American Wigeon in Toab.
During the weekend of 25th/26th February, staff and volunteers attempted to census the number of geese on Orkney at that point in time using the road network and attempting to cover all suitable habitats. The result which were compiled by Eric Meek are shown below.
Hoy & Walls
Other goose speciesrecorded
Tundra Bean Goose
European W-f Goose
G’l’d W-f Goose
The numbers of Greylags are not that surprising given the increasing ‘resident’ and wintering Icelandic populations. However, the numbers of Eurasian White-fronted geese is a reflection of the large numbers that arrived unusually in the UK in early winter, along with some Bean Geese from the continent.
Eurasian White-fronted Goose – Photo - Morris Rendall
The Pink-footed goose number of 4,454 shows that greater numbers of this species are using Orkney as a stopover enroute back north to Iceland. About a third of that number winter on Orkney currently.
Greylag Geese – A collared family group near Marwick. Photo - Morris Rendall
During the past four years members of Orkney Ringing Group have been marking some of the ‘resident’ Greylags with orange neck collars to monitor movements, productivity and build up individual life histories, so far over 500 have been marked. Given the issues/conflicts with this species it is hoped by marking some of the population we will learn more about them and hopefully inform future debates on management of the species. Approx. 95% of Greylags marked stay within 5km of their breeding/natal areas. What we did not expect was an annual winter migration of birds bred or breeding on Orkney to winter in East Anglia! For the fourth winter in a row a small number (five in 2011/12) have been seen down south and just this evening I have had another report of a bird in the Loch Lomond area with 100 Greenland White-fronted Geese! Interesting stuff...
Orkney Local Group member Ian Cunningham took these stunning photos of a Short-eared Owl out looking for prey: