Tuesday 1 January 2019

A new year and a new start (again)

It's the 1st of January 2019 so it's time to wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope you all have a great year of nature.

As 2018 finished with gales and some heavy rain in the last couple of hours, the new year started with strong winds that slowly decreased as the morning progressed.

Having got off to a good start last year with my blog, it didn't continue throughout the whole year due to a number of other things going on making time to add to the blog short. I do want to go back and at least put something in for the months I have missed, hence the monthly placeholders in the blog listing.

This year I want to try and do better with the blog and I'm also planning to spend a bit of time looking at the other flora and fauna within my property here on Burray so I will post about what I find. After a friend of mine, who is also a Burray resident, started looking at what was in his garden last year, it became clear that there is a lot of natural history being under reported here in Orkney. So hopefully in 2019 we can contribute some useful data to the various recorders to give a better picture of what is here in Orkney and whether any of it is new to the islands. 

Is this a sign? My Oxford Dictionary of English app on my mobile phone says that today's word of the day is 'Birdwatching'!!

Better get out there and see what's about.

The 2019 lists started at 8 am when I opened the cottage door and took a listen. Despite the noise from the force 6 wind it wasn't long before I heard and saw the silhouettes of two Greylag Geese flying over the cottage, quickly followed by 12 more.  It nearly an hour and a half, after a non-exciting first sunrise of the year, that the next birds to be seen were a small group of Rock Doves, regular visitors to the garden. Looking out towards the third Churchill Barrier a flock of 11 Starlings were struggling against the wind as tried to fly over some of the fields.

Movement out of the corner of my eye bought my focus closer to home as a female and male Blackbird both entered my ground trap to feed on the seed and apple that I had put out. Both were ringed so I left them to their breakfast. Looking back out towards Barrier 3 I spotted a Gannet flying over the sea along the Flow side before it pulled up, turned and dived into the water. Despite the distance, the bright white plumage with black wing tips and the manner of flying made it easily identifiable.

To the West of the cottage a flock of 12+ Greylag Geese were feeding in the field. To the East a single Lapwing was seen flying past Hillhead and down the hill. I suspected I would be seeing more of them on my way out later. Attention was quickly bought closer to home as a small flock of Rock Doves flew quickly pas the cottage and out over the small area of heather we have. In hot pursuit was a Sparrowhawk but despite its chasing the doves evaded attack and the Sparrowhawk was seen carrying on over the fields towards the village.

Mid-morning a Raven was seen in a field to the North of the cottage foraging on the ground. I suspect it had company, as usually they go around here in small groups, but they were over the brow of the hill and out of view.

An un-ringed Blackbird appeared in my ground trap, grabbed a piece of apple and quickly dragged it outside of the trap before I could drop the doors.

Just before midday we set off to visit a couple of friends in St Mary's village just the other side of the first Churchill Barrier. As we set off down the hill to the main road we passed a small building plot which had three Hooded Crows feeding. In the field on the other side of the road was a flock of eight Lapwings and 20+ Starlings.

Next a quick stop in the lay-by to take a look on Echna Loch. There wasn't too much about because of the strong wind but still managed to add an adult and two juvenile Mute Swans, a single Great Black-backed Gull, five Tufted Duck, a smart male Goldeneye, two Common Gulls, five Mallard and four Wigeon.

On the other side of the road the wind was coming straight in off the Flow into Echnaloch Bay so the sea was quite choppy making it difficult to spot things. A single Great Black-backed Gull and two Common Gulls out over the sea was about it. But just as we were driving off a single Curlew landed on the shore.

Next up was a quick detour round the back of the Fossil Centre as I had spotted a large flock of birds on the field next to it. As well as eight common gulls and approximately 70 Lapwing the was a flock of at least 220 Golden Plovers.

A quick stop next in the lay-by at the Burray end of Barrier 3 produced three more Great Black-back Gulls, another Gannet, a Curlew, a female Eider, a male Long Tailed Duck and a Shag.

Once over Barrier 2 a quick check of the Shag's congregating on the Lamb Holm pier for any colour ringed birds but none of the seven present had any. While checking a pair followed by a flock of seven Jackdaws flew past.

While crossing Barrier 1 we passed an adult and two juvenile Herring Gulls sitting on the concrete blocks and two female Eiders and a Great Black-backed Gull out on the sea.

While at our friend's house we saw House Sparrows, Collared Doves, a Wren, a Dunnock, a Greenfinch and some Starlings.

So at the end of the first day of the year my totals were 21 for the Burray list and 28 for the Orkney list.

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