Do you love our Orkney nature reserves? Share your thoughts with the community. Or if you're thinking about visiting and would like to find out more, ask away!


  • 'I can see clearly now the reeds have gone' at The Loons Hide!

    During the last week some habitat management & maintenance has been taking place at our Loons Reserve in Birsay. We have had a digger (not a crane unfortunately) on site. Increasing the amount of open water available on site for wildfowl & waders. At the viewpoint lay-by we have created five additional pools, they are quite subtle from the lay-by but the birds are going to love them - already 5 species of wader have checked them out; Snipe, Redshank, Lapwing, Greenshank and 6 Golden Plovers came into bathe!

    The view from The Loons Hide has had a haircut ... The first three shots are before...

    and now it looks like...

    Several years of aquatic vegetation growth has been removed to keep the view from the hide 'live' and interesting. This has been made possible as part of the Enjoy Wild Orkney project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and RSPB Scotland. The work was carried out using a small tracked excavator working on specially made bog mats that we had stored on Shapinsay (where similar work took place a few years ago). Ewan (from DS Nicolson Ltd) has done a fine job.

    While I have been on site this week supervising operations, I have had some great wildlife moments and a couple of soggie wellies; from Brown Hares to a juvenile Merlin chasing a Lapwing and grounding it twice, though not quite sure what to do with it and the lucky Lapwing escaped... There have been upto 6 Greenshank, daily sightings of Hen Harriers, Short-eared Owl & Kestrel. The first Golden Plover have returned with upto 250 birds and a very impressive flock of Curlew has peaked at about 400 birds. Both Common Frog and Toad have been seen also.

    Well worth a visit at this time of year - Sit for 15 - 30 minutes and you'll be amazed what turns up...It will be interesting to see what is seen over the next couple of months.

    Cheers Alan
    Orkney Sites Manager

  • The Queen's Baton at Brodgar

    For the last six summers I have had the pleasure of showing folk around the RSPB's Brodgar reserve and introducing them to Brodgar's farmland birds and waders - lapwings, oystercatchers, curlews redshank and skylarks to name but a few. The soundtrack to these walks is quite incredible with the liquid bubbling calls of the curlews, the "pleep, pleep" of the oystercatchers, the mournful whistle of a redshank and, outsinging them all - the joyous song of a skylark as it soars above the reserve.


    On Thursday however there was quite a different atmosphere. The Brodgar reserve surrounds the iconic Ring of Brodgar - a spectacular Neolithic stone circle built between 4000 and 4500 years ago. It is part of a World Heritage Site and so it was not surprising that the Queen's Baton Relay made its way there.


    This group of walkers, coming up from the loch side must have been wondering what all the fuss was about.

    The Baton Bearer at Brodgar was Keith Brown, one of Historic Scotland's World Heritage Site Rangers. During the summer the RSPB and the Rangers deliver a series of joint walks at the Ring of Brodgar, combining archaeology with wildlife - a two-in-one.

    For a brief period the Ring of Brodgar was a hive of activity with a film crew and hordes of photographers scurrying around, all trying to get the most dramatic/scenic/iconic (delete as applicable) shot of Keith holding up what was quite a hefty piece of kit. The handle is made of elm and and it is topped with a titanium lattice framework so I expect Keith felt the after-effects the next day.

    All in all, quite an experience but the Ring and the reserve soon returned to normal. Although the joint walks mentioned earlier are now over for the summer, there is still one last chance to join us on a "Birds for Beginners" walk around the reserve this coming Friday (18th July). Booking is essential so if you want to come along, call the office on 01856 850176.

    PS. The skylarks continued singing their hearts out throughout, a great addition to the soundtrack of the filmed interview with Keith.


  • People Tracking - Marwick Head Open Day



    The magnificent sights, sounds and smells of the seabird colony was the main draw to the Marwick Head Open day on June 29th. Visitors enjoyed a walk up the thrift covered coastal cliffs to look out on the razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and puffins that help make up this wonderful Seabird City.

    Some willing folk were tagged and tracked by RSPB staff over the course of their visit. GPS loggers were used to follow the movements of various visitors – the same technology that is being used to track many of our seabird species and contributing to leading research on the movements of seabirds. Here are some of the human tracks captured on Sunday.
















    A few walks up the cliffs. 















    Some interesting movements around the viewing point. 
















    A beach forage and a long track back to RSPB office in Stromness.



    This summer, researchers will be out and about fitting satallite tags to seabirds as part of the Seabird Research Tracking (STaR) project. The aim is to learn more about where fantastic species like shags, kittiwakes and razorbills forage for food. You can follow their progress on thier blog - Orkney STaR blog. 

    Our next open day is on Tuesday 29th July at our Brodgar reserve. From 11am there will be wildlife wanders, bumblebee family activities and a giant flower meadow mural to be painted by visitors throughout the day.