I was out and about this week doing the WeBS counts on some of the Mainland Reserves this week and there was a noticeable change in the air, that spring is on it’s way...
At Marwick, the WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey) covers The Choin, the tidal pool by the car park and surrounding field. It wasn’t a very exciting count this time but it was very nice to see a few turnstone, rumbling about in the rocky areas and the group of 43 redshank poking about by a wet pool at the roadside.
The big count for me is the Loch of Isbister and The Loons (results below) which was lovely to do this time round. So far this winter most count weekends have been cursed with some really awful weather and turns it into a bit of a battle against the elements, with birds tucked in out of the way making it that bit harder to count them. A bit of sunshine that had a bit of warmth to it and barely any wind made a huge different to me and the birds, with a skylark singing on the way past and the sounds of a few migrant pink footed geese calls chattering in amongst the whistles and gentle peeps of the wigeon and teal drifting up to my vantage point made it a very enjoyable count.
Birds of prey were also taking advantage of the conditions and a male hen harrier was hunting over the site, regularly flushing the large flock of golden plover. They weren’t the only birds to be getting spooked though, a highlight of the count was seeing a peregrine (probably a female from the big size) take a lapwing and settle down and start plucking! Not so good for the lapwing but a nice meal for the peregrine.
It was also very nice to see the oystercatchers and shelduck back on site.
Green land white-fronted geese – 44, pink-footed geese – 10, greylag geese – 71, mallard – 55, curlew – 355, redshank – 10, lapwing – 292, teal – 428, wigeon – 408, oystercatcher – 20, coot – 3, tufted duck – 14, goldeneye – 11, golden plover – 842, greater black backed gull – 1, barnacle goose – 8, shelduck – 3, cormorant – 4, mute swan – 2, common gull – 11, herring gull – 2, snipe – 7, grey heron – 1, hen harrier – 1, peregrine – 1, skylark – 1!
Here is an update from Anne, painting in The Loons hide...
It’s the end of the first week of mural painting at the Loons. Having forgotten the binoculars three day in a row, sightings out of the window have been restricted to things directly in front of the hide or things big enough to see through raindrops and with poor eyesight. This still means plenty of Curlew, Lapwing and Snipe plus passing Hen Harriers. However the highlight of the week came not from any great rarity but from a humble Mallard, skating admirably upon the frozen pool before a slight loss of control resulted in a perfect execution of ‘straddle splits’. His wife looked suitable unimpressed from the nearby reeds.
This is the progress so far on the painting. It’s rather rough and ready still, with more under-painting to do before adding a bit more detail but the layout is slowly taking shape. As per the last post, visitors are very welcome to pop by. So far I’ve seen 2 people and a blackbird who hopped unwittingly through the open door.
Here are the Latest Happenings from Orkney Local Group secretary Pauline Wilson
Better late than never, I would like to wish you all a Happy & Peaceful Year. Let’s hope 2015 has some kind weather and good birds for us all to watch!
Big Garden Birdwatch
Speaking of bird watching, please note that this coming weekend (Jan. 24th & 25th) sees the Big Garden Birdwatch and I expect many of you have seen details of this in the press. It’s an ideal opportunity to involve all the family and to know that everybody’s results are really important in order for the RSPB to conduct an accurate count of what birds are around. I wonder if last week’s awful weather will affect the results? I seem to have just as many birds visiting the garden as before so I just wonder how they survive those strong gales and rain?
To participate simply watch the birds in your garden or nearby area for one hour and record the highest number of each bird species you see at the same time (not the total over the hour as birds may visit more than once). Only count the birds that land, not those flying over.
You can send the results online by visiting www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch by February 13th.
For more details visit the Facebook page of RSPB Orkney or the RSPB website.
Winter Bird Race – Sunday 1st March
Well, it’s that time of year again and our group chairman Dick Matson outlines details of this annual event:
The Winter Bird Race is only six weeks away on Sunday 1st March, so it's time to dust off your bins and get in some birdwatching practice before the Spring migration gets under way. The format will be as usual. We will form teams of 3 or more per car and drive round the Orkney countryside counting as many different bird species as we can find between 9am and 5.30pm and then meet up at a local hotel and compare our results. Bar meals will be arranged for those who wish to stay on for a good blether.It would be very helpful at this stage if you would let me know if you wish to participate -by phone on 751426 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org All are welcome to join in - even complete beginners - it is a fun day out with a chance to learn what birds are about and where to find them.
Don’t be afraid to have a go at this fun event! Even if you are a complete beginner you will have the opportunity to learn about different birds and their habitats. I have certainly learned a lot via the bird race and the ‘experts’ are only too keen to impart their knowledge!
Scottish Ornithologists Club Meeting – Thursday 5th February
The next SOC meeting takes place at the St. Magnus Centre, Kirkwall starting at 7.30 pm and details are:
“Seabird studies on the Isle of May: Spreading our wings after 40 years”, with Mark Newell
A summary of the seabirds and seabird work on the Isle of May, (a National Nature Reserve lying 5 miles off the Fife coast), over the last 40 years with a general background to the isle and its other wildlife. Mark will also provide an overview of expanding their work to take in other seabird colonies along the east coast.
RSPB members are very welcome to attend these meetings. A collection at the door goes towards room hire and cost of speaker.
Watch out for mini-festival
I am pleased to say that the RSPB Orkney team will again be coordinating a Nature Festival in May. The dates will be 13-17 May which is a Wednesday to Sunday. The Festival was set up in 2013 and 2014 with the Enjoy Wild Orkney funding but as this project is coming to an end in March the Festival will be shorter this year, but still very enjoyable I’m sure. I will let you know of details as soon as we have them – the full programme is likely to be available in March.
2015 Programme will be finalised soon
For the first time, the Orkney Local Group will get together with RSPB Orkney to organise the programme of events for 2015. This will prevent clashing of dates and destinations. When the outings and activities are arranged the information will be sent out to members together with contact details. Any ideas from members are welcome. Contact the RSPB Stromness office on 01856 850176.
You all know what I am going to say here I suppose. With the festive season over I know you will all have saved your used postage stamps towards the RSPB “Save the Albatross Appeal”. Please deliver these to SAS Business Supplies, 4 Laing Street, Kirkwall or to the RSPB Office in Stromness. Many thanks.
Hurray! An Otter!
I was visiting the RSPB Stromness office on January 19th. On my return home I spotted an Otter swimming at the Brig o’Waithe. Unfortunately I was driving at the time with a car close behind so couldn’t stop, but I was thrilled to see this creature. Keep your eyes peeled when you are passing this area as I believe a family of otters was seen there last year.
That’s all for this time. I hope you are all feeding the birds plenty – I know it costs a fortune what with apples, seed, nibbles, etc. etc. but it’s lovely to watch them as they feast on the goodies. I can even see my birds hanging around early each morning waiting for the back door to open!
Please send any items of interest to me at email@example.com for inclusion in future emails.
Best wishes, Pauline W, RSPB Local Group Sec