Join the warden for a short walk into the heart of our Birsay Moors Reserve.
To book contact the RSPB Orkney Office on 01856 850176
It's the time of year when the RSPB in Orkney are asking for public reports of any corncrakes heard around the islands.
In Orkney we are proud of being one of the few remaining places in the UK to have corncrakes, and now even have a beer named after them. Any day, we are expecting to hear the first birds that have returned to breed after spending the winter in central and southern Africa. Although corncrakes are rarely sighted, their distinctive, raspy ‘crek crek’ call, which once was familiar throughout the UK, can be heard mainly in the evenings over the summer.
You can hear the call here: www.rspb.co.uk/corncrake
It has been an exciting year for the corncrake in Orkney with the launch of Orkney Brewery’s Corncrake Ale, named after a bird nested near to the brewery in Quoyloo. However, to ensure that we continue to have these intriguing and secretive birds on the islands, we must continue to take measures to protect their habitat.
The RSPB's Corncrake Initiative scheme offers help to farmers with land within 250 meters of a calling male. The scheme encourages voluntary ‘corncrake friendly mowing’ and delayed grazing or mowing. Since 1993, more than 300 contracts have been signed by farmers and landowners in Orkney, protecting 86% of all monitored corncrakes. As a result there has been a slow increase in the Orkney population, with 31 calling males verified last summer, but corncrakes are still declining nationally.
We rely on public reports so if you hear a corncrake please call me, Amy, at the Corncrake Hotline on 01856 852 029 or email Amy.Liptrot@rspb.org.uk
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Sarah West, and for the next five months I'm going to be working for the RSPB as their Warden on Papa Westray, known affectionately as Papay, one of the smallest inhabited islands in Orkney! I am responsible for looking after the colonies of seabirds breeding on the North Hill reserve on Papay and on the Noup Cliffs reserve on Westray, the larger island next door. Over the next five months I will be monitoring the progress of the variety of seabird species that breed on these reserves, surveying their numbers and recording their every move, as well as carrying out night time surveys for the elusive Corncrakes that breed on both islands. I will also be surveying the colonies of the rare Scottish Primrose (Primula scotica) that grows on the maritime heathland at the North Hill reserve, counting every individual plant so that we can monitor the population of this rarity over time. In addition to this, I will be leading guided walks around the North Hill reserve over the summer months on a Wednesday and a Saturday afternoon. If you are interested in joining in on a guided walk around the reserve, please contact me on 01857 644240 or call the Papay Co-op on 01857 644321 for a full guided tour around the island, including lunch and a tour of the reserve.
It's all go here at the moment, as more and more seabirds are returning to the cliffs everyday, taking their places and getting ready to breed. Already the coastline is covered with pairs of Fulmars, and the Guillemots and Razorbills are increasing in numbers as each week goes by. The Shags and Kittiwakes aren't far behind them. The Tysties (Black Guillemots) are back as well, with over 280 seen around the reserve in a survey earlier this month, plus a further 180 or so seen off of the Holm of Papay, making their lovely whistling noises to one another. The Bonxies (Great Skuas) and Arctic Skuas are starting to return with several seen back on territory, watching over their chosen piece of land and bickering with the neighbours.
Tysties at dawn
The various wader species that breed at North Hill are also back and Lapwings and Oystercatchers can be seen displaying over the reserve on a regular basis. The passerines are back as well, and the song of a Skylark can be appreciated across the island. A few Sandwich Terns have been sighted flying over the islands, but don't look like they're going to settle down quite yet, and the Gannets are back at Noup Cliffs on Westray. So now all we're waiting for is for the Arctic Terns to return from their wintering grounds in the Antarctic, and for the Corncrakes, which should be returning to us any day now, although it's a bit too windy to hear them at the moment! Once the entire crew is here, the breeding season begins! Although it has already started for some, with Shags seen on eggs on the Holm of Papay, Ravens with eggs at North Hill, and even some Ravens with young chicks seen on Westray! Wish me luck for the coming season!
Recent Sightings (in addition to above)
Greylag Geese (nests with eggs), Shelduck, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Eider (large flocks seen around south coast), Long-tailed Duck (seen occasionally around coast), Red-breasted Merganser (seen around coast), Red-throated Diver (seen occasionally around coast), Great Northern Diver ( seen often around coast), Cormorant, Hen Harrier (1 female/juvenile), Merlin (1 male plus 1 female on Westray), Coot (seen on nests), Ringed Plover, Grey Plover 3, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Sanderling, Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit 4, Curlew, Snipe, Black-headed Gull (on nests), Common Gull (on nests), Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Puffin (few seen on sea), Short-eared Owl (1 on Westray), Swallow 3, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Wheatear (seen regularly around coast), Redwing(1 on Westray), Fieldfare 1, Blackbird, Ring Ouzel (1 male), Blackcap (1 female), Wren, Hooded Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Twite 2.