It seems after wowing the world last week, our red-throated divers have become camera shy. Well not quite.. the adult birds have actually just done what comes naturally and taken the chicks away from the nest.
Although the chicks can swim not long after hatching they won't be able to fly for a few weeks and in that time are quite vulnerable so are likely skulking around in the vegetation. We were hoping we'd be able to watch them on the camera still or that they might return to the nest each evening but at the moment they are out of view.
We'll try to post regular updates here and on our facebook page (facebook.com/rspborkney) and if they come back out onto the lochan in full view we'll re-position the camera to follow them again.
We hope you have enjoyed a fleeting glimpse into the life of these beautiful rare birds and if you missed what all the fuss was about, below is a picture from the camera from last week and here is a link to a video (http://on.fb.me/1RfQZjs). Sorry it's a bit grainy.
This is an update on what is happening/has happened since my last email.
Trips into the Gloup
Our Local Group ran three trips into the Deerness Gloup on behalf of the 2015 Orkney Nature Festival. (Due to bad weather on Saturday the 16th trips to the Holms had to be cancelled). Undeterred by cool conditions, hardy souls enjoyed trips which covered the Gloup, Brough Cave, Mull Head and visited the seal colony on May 13th, 15th and 17th. Below is a photograph of Sunday's trip with Sidney Foubister's boat coming into the Gloup. I suspect lots of our members joined some of the many other activities going on during the Nature Festival which is a great publicity window for Orkney.
Our Local Group trips to the Gloup and the Holms of Copinsay are later in June and are filling up quickly so please book asap. See the list of events for full details.
Two of our members have expressed an interest in an evening trip into the Gloup so if anybody wishes to join them please let me have names and phone numbers. This will be at short notice as we would choose an evening when both tide and weather forecast suit. This would be a fine trip on a lovely summer evening.
Local Group Spring Meeting – Friday 24 April
Anna Jemmett travelled up from RSPB Forsinard Flows to give a talk at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall which drew a good attendance. Many of you will have seen Graham Brown’s report in The Orcadian outlining Anna’s talk about eight thousand years of creation at the Forsinard Flows, which extends to 20,000 hectares. Anna told us about the considerable work involved in restoring the blanket bog at this unique reserve. I have visited Forsinard twice and must say the reserve has an atmosphere all of its own. Here is Anna at the Spring Meeting:
Bag the Bruck
Not only did Anna Jemmett give us a most informative talk, she also turned up at Waulkmill Bay on a chilly Saturday 25 April to lend a hand in our Local Group’s beach clean-up. Just as well she did as the turnout was very poor! I know some of our members will have joined in other beach cleaning locally.
Here are some imminent Local Group events:
Saturday 30 or Sunday 31 May – Hestily for early Summer Migrants By kind permission of Andy Mitchell, a visit to his amazing woodland reserve at Hestily near Windwick, South Ronaldsay. The trees and bushes can be full of migrants at this time of year. Meet in the car park opposite Tesco’s at 9.00am or the Windwick car park at 9.30am. We will car share where possible. We will look at the forecast on Wednesday 27 May and choose the more favourable day. Book with Dick Matson on 01856 751426. This is to be highly-recommended. Peter and I have visited Andy & Joan’s on more than one occasion and it’s a super spot. If I remember rightly you need stout shoes.
Saturday 20 June – Into the Deerness Gloup by Boat – departing Skaill 11am and 1.30pm Boat trips into the Deerness Gloup, Brough Cave and round Mull Head to see nesting seabirds and spectacular rock formations, sailing past the seal colony on the way back. Cost £15 per person. Book with Pauline Wilson on 01856 741382.
Sunday 21 June – as above, departing Skaill at 11.30am and 2.00pm. Same trips as above. Cost £15 per person. Book with Pauline Wilson on 01856 741382.
Saturday 27h June – Boat trips to the Holms of Copinsay for Puffins, Seals and other Seabirds – departing Skaill 10.00am and 1.00pm By boat to Black Holm and Corn Holm to see the amazing wildlife and scenery. Cost £10 per person. Book with Pauline Wilson on 01856 741382.
Sunday 28 June – as above, departing Skaill at 10.30am and 1.30pm Same trips as above. Cost £10 per person. Book with Pauline Wilson on 01856 741382.
Saturday 4 or Sunday 5 July – Cliff Walk at Windwick, South Ronaldsay Meet in the car park opposite Tesco’s at 9.00am or at the Windwick car park at 9.30am. We will car share where possible. Walking northwards from Windwick we will see wildflowers, breeding seabirds and wonderful coastal scenery. We will look at the forecast on Wednesday 1 July and choose the more favourable day. Book with Shirley Tolley on 01856 731521. This is another highly-recommended trip: gorgeous wildflowers, stunning scenery – what more could you wish for?
That takes us to July – the year’s halfway through already!
RSPB Scotland’s Corncrake Initiative 2015
Corncrakes are an elusive bird, rarely seen, but they are occasionally heard making their “crexing” call throughout the summer nights. Males call most frequently between midnight and 3.00am but can be heard through the day. They are small brown birds with black spots across their backs. They prefer the cover of long vegetation but you might catch a glimpse of them rushing from one patch to another.
Corncrakes had a great year on Orkney last year with 36 calling males heard across the county, a sharp turnaround from 12 calling males in 2013.
In Orkney we rely on the help of the public to locate as many corncrakes as possible. This allows us to offer payments to landowners in return for corncrake friendly management of the area around the nesting corncrake. RSPB Scotland is asking the public to report any corncrakes they hear to the Corncrake Officer Inga Seator.
Direct dial in Orkney Office: 01856 852021
Well, our members certainly answered the call for used postage stamps to help the Albatross Appeal. There were so many after my last appeal that I had to take my car to the door of SAS Business Supplies in Laing Street, Kirkwall! I’m not complaining though so please continue to drop these off, alternatively you can take them to the RSPB Office in Stromness. Thanks.
Watch out for Tree Sparrows
There have been reports of tree sparrows in these northern climes with 24 in Fair Isle, 19 in Shetland and several more being seen here in Orkney including nine in Evie reported by Alan Leitch. I have seen this species at RSPB Fairburn Ings and there were tree sparrows in Cumbria just by the caravan we stayed in. They have a lighter brown head – if you look them up you will see the difference from our familiar house sparrows.
It’s breeding time now for the birds – we have a singing wren and calling greenfinches. There is a blackbird sat on a nest in the goat house so Peter has to be careful not to disturb the bird when he’s attending to the goats. Starlings are proving a nuisance this year (yes I know they can be a pain at breeding time as they try to nest under cars and in post boxes!). We have two nest boxes on the front of our garage, both occupied, one with chicks. The trouble is, a third pair are fancying building a nest inside the garage which we certainly don’t want! Every time I open the garage door in flies a starling! I suspect many of our members are having difficulties with these birds also – I love the starling but will be glad when nesting time is over!
Well, I can’t think of anything else just now so I will be in touch when I get back. If you have any items of interest to our members please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Best wishes Pauline W/RSPB Orkney Local Group Secretary
I know it’s not long since I wrote but this is just a reminder about our Local Group Spring Meeting which takes place at the St Magnus Centre, Kirkwall this coming Friday 24th April starting at 7.30 pm. I hope we have a good attendance as Anna Jemmett is travelling up from Forsinard to speak to us. Details as follows: This will feature a talk by the RSPB Forsinard Information Officer, Anna Jemmett, on the RSPB's largest reserve, which comprises over 20,000 hectares of the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland and is the single largest area of blanket bog in the world. It is of terrific importance for a host of rare plants, birds and other wildlife. All welcome including non-members. Please stay for refreshments and a chat afterwards. There will be a voluntary collection at the door to help with the cost of room hire. With the exciting news of the white-tailed eagles nesting on Hoy we will have some information leaflets about these birds and how to differentiate from other birds of prey. You will be able to pick one up at the meeting, as well as a copy of the Local Group programme of events. I hope to see you there! Start to the 2015 season
There have been a couple of events already. Graham Brown reports on last Sunday’s Hen Harrier Sky Dancing event as follows:
A dozen folk enjoyed the RSPB Orkney Local Group's first event of the spring season, travelling to the Cottascarth hide and the Lyde Road in West Mainland in search of hen harriers on Sunday. We saw hen harriers perform their sky dancing display, briefly, and both males and ring-tails repeatedly flying across the hillside. We also watched a buzzard, a peregrine, a kestrel and a short-eared owl, as well as ravens, curlews and meadow pipits. We were joined by two holidaymakers and it was good to hear some guests had picked up Local Group programmes from the Kirkwall and Stromness tourist offices.
Drawings by Firth Primary School pupils at new Cottascarth hide (photo: Pauline Wilson)
Opening of Eddie Balfour hen harrier hide at RSPB Scotland's Cottascarth reserve
I was privileged to be asked to the opening of the new hide yesterday and very impressive it is too! It’s a large, roomy building sporting a grass roof – bright green at the moment so it will be interesting to see this in winter. Eddie Balfour was the first RSPB Officer in Orkney, and before that he was the first RSPB “Honorary Watcher” for the county. In 1943 he started the first serious study of hen harriers, a study which is still ongoing through the Orkney Raptor Study Group. Apparently this is the longest-standing continuous bird of prey study in the world (joint equal with the golden eagle study started in the Grampians in the same year). I am sure Eddie would be pleased at how well the species is doing in Orkney and the fact that we are able to transmit webcam pictures of a hen harrier nest each year. The hide was opened by pupils from Firth Primary School, who had a hand in decorating the hide, and their lovely drawings of hen harriers adorning the walls were greatly admired. Also greatly admired was the magnificent mural by Anne Bignall which takes up a whole wall of the building. I have attached a photo of this but I could only capture a small section of the mural so you can use your imagination to picture the whole! Please go along and take a look at the new hide – you won’t be disappointed.
The hide was part of the Enjoy Wild Orkney project, funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, European Regional Development Fund and the RSPB. The hide is just one of numerous elements of the Enjoy Wild Orkney project, all of which contribute to improving the experience of wildlife for local people and visitors in our isles.
Congratulations to all involved in this project! Go along and take a look. The reserve is now much easier to find thanks to new brown signs, and there’s a new reserve car park, up the new tarmac road going up the hill from the Lower Cottascarth Farm yard.
Pauline W/RSPB Local Group Sec