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.
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.
PAULINE WILSON WRITES AS FOLLOWS:
Well, the days are lengthening and the new season of RSPB Local Group Events is almost upon us.
Ian Cunningham has been out with his camera and captured the attached photo of a Green-winged Teal which was in a small pool near Graemshall Loch on March 24th.
To help us identify this bird Ian has also sent another photo of our Common Teal and writes:
I have attached two photos so folks can see the difference between our "common" teal and the green-winged one which is a N American vagrant. The biggest distinguishing feature is the white stripe which is horizontal in our "common" teal but vertical on the green-winged bird.
Ian then goes one step further and has sent another photo as he explains below:
This photo shows, by comparison with Wigeon, just how tiny this teal is.
Many thanks Ian – we’re all delighted to be seeing your photos once again after the long winter!
Local Group Spring Meeting – “North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory” - Thursday 27th March
We consider it a scoop that Alison Duncan has kindly agreed to come along and tell us all about the work of the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory –,and a fascinating talk it promises to be. I hope a lot of our members will attend the meeting at The St. Magnus Centre, Kirkwall starting at 7.30 pm. Details as follows:
North Ronaldsay is on the migration route of many common – and sometimes incredibly rare – birds. Alison Duncan describes the observatory’s vital function in the monitoring of bird movement through the island. Alison has played a key role in the running and development of the observatory almost since it was founded in 1987 and this illustrated talk is an opportunity to hear first-hand about the important role it plays. I know some of our members have stayed at the Observatory – in fact our local group organised an outing there a few years ago.
Members and non-members are welcome. Refreshments will be served. Admission is free but there will be a door collection towards the cost of room hire. I hope to see a lot of you there.
Money Raised by our Local Group
Our Treasurer Graham Brown has contacted me with the following information to pass on to members:
"The RSPB Orkney Local Group has just given a cheque for £460 towards the work of the RSPB in Orkney. This money was raised by raffles and collections at various events; thank you to everyone - members and non-members - who donated.
This money is in addition to the £1672.33 that the Local Group raised bag collecting last year at Tesco and Co-op in Kirkwall. The Local Group has also sent RSPB Sales Ltd a cheque for £470-95 which is the proceeds (not profit) from goods sold at the Charities Christmas Bazaar and in the Stromness office."
I think we can all be proud of our fund-raising efforts for last year. Let’s hope we do well in 2014 also. We will be bag-packing again at the Co-op in July but I am not sure whether Tesco has room for us this year which is a great pity. Any more fund-raising ideas from our members will be very welcome so please email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nature Festival bookings open
A reminder that the programme for the 2014 Orkney Nature Festival is out now and bookings are being taken by Visit Orkney on 01856 872856. To download a copy of the programme and find out more go to www.orkneynaturefestival.org or pick one up from Visit Orkney or the RSPB office. It is also on the RSPB Facebook page and information is available from the Visit Orkney Information Centre in Kirkwall. The Festival runs from 10th to 18th May and includes a fantastic array of outings and activities. Highland Park Distillery kicks off the week then there is a picnic on Hunda; boat trips to Auskerry and Switha; a day of events on both Rousay and on Stronsay. Our local group is involved this year, running our popular boat trips into the Gloup in Deerness although these are now just about full as are many of the more popular events.
If you missed out on the Gloup trips, our local group will be running more in June, also a couple of puffin-viewing trips with Sidney Foubister. This is a new idea which I hope will be popular. Details of this, and all the local group events, will be arriving with you very soon.
Meanwhile, here are a couple of imminent events:
Bag the Bruck – Saturday 12th/Sunday 13th April
This is a joint event with Orkney Field Club and, as usual, I am appealing for members to lend a hand on either day. Marine debris can seriously harm our wildlife so the more hands the better to come along and help remove plastic rope, netting and other rubbish from our beaches. RSPB Local Group will tackle Waulkmill Bay on the Saturday and OFC will be at Marwick Bay on the Sunday. Come along anytime between 10 am and 2 pm. Contacts: RSPB office on 01856 850176 or Brian Ribbands (OFC) on 01856 751439.
Harrier Sky Dancing – Saturday 19th April
This is a joint event with Orkney Field Club. Take a guided walk in the Birsay Moors to watch the spectacular courtship display of the Hen Harrier. Other birds of prey should also be on view. Families and non-members are welcome. Bring a picnic and binoculars if available. Meet at the Rendall Community Centre at 9.30 am. To book:Dick Matson on 01856 751426.
Spring is in the Air!
Thank goodness the lighter nights are just around the corner! Signs of spring are everywhere – I was delighted to see Celandine and Coltsfoot flowering nicely and our fishpond has taken on a new lease of life as frogs made their presence felt, leaving us a with a gift, ie masses of frogspawn! Perhaps the tadpoles will survive this year seeing as there is a serious depletion in fish, thanks to the visiting Heron during the winter!
The Greenfinches are sporting bright coats and singing from the bushes – I look forward to seeing young from these birds in due course. The other day we had visits fromSong thrush and Robin – how nice if these birds chose nest sites at Sunnybank? No sign of a Wren though this year which is unusual but there’s time yet I am sure. A few years ago Peter put up nest boxes for the Starlings (to dissuade them from nesting under the garage canopy) and two pairs have already claimed them and are busy carrying nesting material into the boxes – fascinating to watch and it’s great to have a fairly close-up view of the youngsters when they pop their heads out and demand food.
That’s all for now but I’ll be pleased to hear from any of our members who have interesting items for my next email. My address is: email@example.com.
Pauline W/RSPB Local Group Sec.