What a great start to the new year. Unlike most of the UK, Orkney saw the new year in with clear skies and a nice sunrise although there was a slight breeze (F5-F6). The weather certainly looked good for a trip out around the patch.
What would be the first species of the year? Last year it was the Blackbird, would it be the same this year? Or would it be a House Sparrow, Greenfinch or Starling. A look out of the window across the garden revealed nothing. That was a disappointing start so I moved to another window and on looking out onto the lawn there were two Rock Doves feeding under the seed feeder. Then four Greenfinches appeared on the seed feeder. A quick look along the Fushia hedge on the North side of the garden revealed two male Blackbirds lurking in the undergrowth.
Looking from the house across towards Echna Loch I spotted a flock of about 40 Lapwings and on the far side of Echna Bay I could see about a dozen Fulmars flying along the low cliffs. A solitary Starling flying over the garden took my tally to six species without leaving the house.
But if I was to see more then I would need to get out and about.
So I set off down the hill into the village. On the way I saw a Rook in one of the fields and four Meadow Pipits in another. Further down the road I got fairly close to a Curlew feeding in another field. I eventually reached the end of the road at the West end of the village and further up the track there was a group of eight Greylag Geese which took to the air when they spotted me.
Heading back towards the village a Wren crossed the road in front of me and a Great Black-backed Gull flew overhead. On a ruined house in the middle of a field where four Ravens.
I spotted Barrie the other birder on Burray walking down the road so we teamed up and went for a walk around the area where our two patches overlap. Although there were plenty of birds about I didn't see anything new.
After an hour we headed back to his new house where we did a tour of his garden and added House Sparrow to the list as well as Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Rock Pipit which were on the beach below his garden and Long Tailed Duck and Great Northern Diver which were out in the bay. The Turnstone was a new species for my patch list as it eluded me last year. We then headed inside for a brew and sandwiches. Whilst having lunch we did a bit of armchair birdwatching and added Robin and Pheasant to the list.
After lunch we headed to the beach running between the pier and the fourth Churchill Barrier. As we went through the village we spotted a couple of Collared Doves in one of the trees.
Round the back of the Sands Hotel was a Whimbrel, a regular visitor to this area. Out on the water there was a Shag, a Goldeneye and a couple of Red Breasted Mergansers.
A Song Thrush flew across the back of the beach and on the water's edge there was a flock of about 20 Ringed Plover. A few Common Gulls were flying about and a couple of Herring Gulls flew past. Towards Barrier 4 a Grey Heron was flying low over the water and there was a small gathering of about half a dozen Eiders on the water.
As we walked back along the rear of the beach we spotted a Reed Bunting skulking through the grass on the side of a small dune. This was another new species for my patch list.
By now the cloud was moving in and there was a chill to the wind. We decided to take a quick look over at Echna Bay/Loch
On Echna Loch there was a large gathering of Tufted Duck and in amongst them was a solitary male Scaup, the third and final new patch list species of the day. At the back of the loch were a few Wigeon.
Out in Echna Bay we spotted a Cormorant flying in.
The light was beginning to fade so we called it a day and I had started my 2014 patch list with a total of 38 species, eight more than 1 January last year and the same as I saw in the whole of January last year. It was also good to add three new species to my patch list on the first day of the year.