Tuesday 1 January 2013

Patchwork Challenge begins

As I didn't go too mad on the New Year's Eve celebrations I awoke at daybreak (around 8ish here in Orkney) ready to start my 2013 list and my Patchwork Challenge list. I thought it would be an easy start with a few species ticked off early on. Checking out the window there was the usual female Blackbird feeding on the lawn. As the light level got better she was joined by a few more Blackbirds and half a dozen Starlings. However there was no sign of the usual House Sparrows or the Greenfinches.

A quick look at the fields around the property didn't come up with anything either. Then a heavy rainshower moved in followed by a couple more.

While having breakfast 3 Greylag Geese flew over closely followed by 11 which landed in the field behind the house.

Then the Starlings started to arrive on the lawn with 43 the peak count. Soon after a Raven flew past to the North of the house.

By 11am the sun was out so it was time to do the first look around the patch. Setting off, the fields along the track to the road were deserted. Where were the Twite and the Fieldfare that had been there for the last few days? Even the Rock Doves were missing.

Heading down the hill was a bit more productive with the fields holding a mixed flock 40 Lapwing and 40 Golden Plover along with 14 Curlew, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls and 11 Common Gulls.

Next stop was Echna Loch which was holding 10 Mallard, 22 Wigeon, 11 Tufted Duck, 2 Goldeneye, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls, 11 Common Gulls and 20 Lapwings on the field to the side of the loch.

Echna Bay was fairly quiet with just a couple of Cormorant seen. However by this time there was a heavy shower moving through and the sea was also quite choppy.

I then headed for Littlequoy Farm. Along the way I added a couple of Redwings to my Patch List who were sitting quite clearly on the top of a stone wall. Again the fields seems void of birds a part from a few small flocks of Rock Doves.

Out in Hunda Sound towards the North end of Hunda were 7 Eider. On the Northern half of Hunda itself there were 2 Herring Gulls, 23 Great Black-backed Gulls and a Grey Heron.

Arriving at Littlequoy Farm apart from being greeted by the two dogs there was also a flock of 37 House Sparrows and a Wren appeared on the wall.

After exchanging New Year pleasantries with the farmer I headed down the track to the causeway across to Hunda. Roosting on the leeward side of the causeway were 17 Oystercatchers and on top of the causeway was a flock of 37 Lapwing and 8 Great Black-backed Gulls. A solitary Redshank was spotted over on Hunda just South of the causeway.

A short stroll to Wha Taing revealed a roost of 150 Curlew and out on the sea a flock of 170 Wigeon. On the shoreline there were 2 Rock Pipits.

As I was walking back to the car a solitary Fulmar whizzed past.

A return visit to Echna Loch revealed nothing new but out in Echna Bay I spotted a couple of Long-tailed Ducks bobbing about on the waves.

Next it was off to the Southern boundary of my patch. As I rounded the South Eastern corner of the patch there is a stretch of shrubs/trees which can be good for small birds. It wasn't long before I spotted a pale coloured bird flitting through the vegitation heading away from me. It kept popping out onto the outer twigs/branches giving me a tantalising glimpse then headingback into the undergrowth. Finally I identified it as a Chiffchaff.

I continued on down the road a bit further and caught glimpse of something gliding low along the bottom of a field. Stopping the car I was just in time to see the bird rise up above the field and turn. Immediately I recognised it as one of the familiar hunting birds here, a Short-eared Owl.

After watching it for a few minutes I went to the end of the road turned round and headed back. Then I spotted the Owl again, this time closer to the road and sitting on a convenient fence post.

I headed further back down the road when I spotted another Owl land in the field on my right. I wasn't sure whether this was a second Owl or the first one which had followed me down the road.

Having completed my round I headed home and contacted my friend Barry to let him know about the Chiffchaff as it was on the part of his patch that overlapped with mine.

He went and took a look and then rang me to say that he hadn't seen the Chiffchaff but had seen a Water Rail in the same area of vegitation. I decided to pop down and see if I could find the Water Rail. On my way I was treated to a Sparrowhawk flying across the road right in front of the car. Arriving back at the site of the Chiffchaff it didn't take me long to spot the Water Rail hiding in the undergrowth.

So at the end of first day of the Patchwork Challenge my total number of species seen stands at 30 and my score is 34 points. (Species seen shown in bold text).

Hopefully the Greenfinches will return to the garden tomorrow.


  1. Replies
    1. I was hoping for more. There were some noticeable absences from the list but they will get picked up as the year progresses.

      Need to get out for a look round as the were reports of a Long-eared Owl just outside my patch boundary while I was south but it would count if I'm on my patch when I see it or it decides to move into my patch which would be even nicer.