Sadly the fickle winds have moved back around to a northerly, but the sun is still shining and it isn't just myself and Patrick, my residential volunteer, that have taken advantage of the recent spell of warmer weather (some have called it a heatwave) and the southerly winds.
The birds have been busy over the last couple of weeks and nests and chicks have started appearing all over the reserve. A female snipe, flushed during the survey gave away the location of four newly hatched chicks carefully hidden away in some long grass and a female eider was leading her brood of ducklings around the Egilsay coast. The arctic terns have finally started to settle and are on the Manse beach along with oystercatcher and ringed plover. If you are walking the trail be careful where you put your feet, and mind your head as the terns are starting to get aggressive. The corncrakes have yet to find their way to our fields on Egilsay but the canary reed-grass that we sow to provide early cover for the 'crakes has proven very popular with the sedge warblers and reed bunting.
Snipe chicks - we moved on quickly! (c) I. Morgan
Female hen harriers have been conspicuously absent from Trumland and I hope this is a good sign that they are sitting on eggs, hidden well away from prying eyes. The red throated divers have returned to Rousay and are often spotted from the ferry. A couple of curlew chicks surprised us as we drove past the east entrance of the Trumland nature trail, unfortunately I don't hold out much hope for them unless they learn some road sense. We have been out surveying some of the cliffs for seabirds on the northwest side of Rousay the white stained cliffs are home to fulmar, gulliemot, razorbill, puffin and some very ugly shag chicks. Sadly the kittiwake colonies are a bit sparse, with some historical sites now looking very abandoned. A sad reminder of how difficult it has become for seabirds and why it is so important to protect our marine areas.
The white stained cliffs of seabirds colonies of guillemot and a few shags were on these, sadly no Kittiwakes (c) I. Morgan
Taking advantage of the southerly tail wind some of our African migrants have appeared across the islands, a chiffchaff was making best use of the scrubby bush outside my kitchen window and provided a welcome distraction from the washing up. Willow warblers have been chorusing along with the finches from the trees near the Rousay ferry terminal and Patrick’s keen hearing picked out whitethroat somewhere in the thick gorse on Trumland. The unmistakable noise of the cuckoo has been echoing around Rousay for the last two weeks and I think it is safe to say that there is at least two on the island heralding the change of the seasons.
It isn’t just the birds that have benefited from the warmer weather and the flowers have started bursting into life. The yellow flag iris seem to have shot up in the last week, marsh marigolds are providing a great splash of colour across Egilsay and along the road sides. Cuckoo flower, orchids, violets and bog bean are all starting to show well in the Onziebust fields and wetlands. With the flowers have come the insects and there are plenty of tiger caterpillars around along with the bees and a few green-veined butterflies. The starlings, wrens and sparrows around the farm have been to-and-fro with bills full of insects and larvae. Great news for any newly hatched broods.
A tiger moth 'woolly bear' caterpillar (c) I. Morgan