Wednesday 26 March 2014

One more for the list and one to find

A quick stop off at Echna Loch/Bay on the way home this afternoon had all the action on the sea side of the road today. Echna Loch was pretty empty with just a few gulls on it.

Over on Echna Bay were two Black-headed Gulls, two Great Black-backed Gulls, two Eiders, 20 Long-tailed ducks, 14 Wigeon, 2 Mute Swans and some good close up views of a Great Northern Diver. On the beach there were three Oystercatchers and new for the patch list this year two Pied Wagtails.

News in this evening from Barrie that a Woodpigeon was seen around Ourigaire this morning. That is a species still needed for this year's patch list so a small detour on the way to work in the morning maybe on the cards.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Around the garden

Last week the Greenfinches returned to the garden after being absent since just after the start of the new year. Three arrived at the beginning of the week and were around most days and this week their numbers peaked at six.

The pair of Blackbirds are still around but no signs of nest building so far that I have seen. There was also a second male appeared for a couple of days at the start of the week but I didn't see him towards the end of the week so presumably he has moved on or been chased away.

The Skylarks can be heard singing daily and it is quite impressive how they seem to be able to stay above their territory singing away even in a Force 7 wind!!

Lapwings are now displaying over the fields surrounding the house and Oystercatchers can now be heard calling away around the clock.

With the clocks going forward next weekend it will soon be time to get out for a bit of patch watching in the evenings.

Black-headed Gull

I always thought that the Black-headed Gull should be an easy addition to my patch list.

I was pretty sure that I saw them all the time on my travels around the patch and further afield and the Orkney Bird Report lists the species as a common breeding species, passage migrant and winter visitor.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking through my patch list for this year to see how I was doing and I was surprised to see that the Black-headed Gull was missing from my list. I guessed that I must have seen it and just forgotten to tick it off so I checked back through my note book and found that I hadn't made a note of one at all for this year either on or off my patch.

So now I was on a mission. It should be a straight forward look round the patch starting with a few obvious places and get it on the list. The more I looked the more blanks I was coming up with. I paid more attention on my commute to work and at first I wasn't seeing any further afield either!!

Then finally last week I started seeing a few appear with increasing numbers over the next few days. Still none on the patch though. Yesterday lunchtime on my way into town I spotted a solitary one sat on the shingle at Echna Bay and have now added it to my patch list for the year at species number 56.

Checking back in my notes for last year I found out that I didn't actually see this species on the patch until mid May, when it was species number 50. So I'll be taking a closer note of this species in future to see what their movements are over the year.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Echna Loch/Bay

Today we met up with some friends for Sunday lunch and a catch up on some birding news in general and relating to the parish of South Ronaldsay. This was followed by a quick visit to Barrie and Linda to drop off something and also to catch up on more local birding news. Still no sightings of a Short-eared Owl yet this year.

After that we headed across to Echna Loch/Bay for a quick look before heading home.

Echna Bay was pretty quiet. There were two Great Black-backed Gulls out on the water along with a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers and 50+ Fulmars along the cliffs. No sign of any Long-tailed Ducks today. Also there was no sign of any waders along the tide line.

On the other side of the road Echna Loch was pretty quiet too. There was a single Goldeneye and a flock of about 40 Tufted Duck. The star of the afternoon was skulking about in amongst the Tufties in the form of a male Pochard. This is a new species not only for this year but also for my all time patch list and my Burray list!!

There were two Greylag Geese in the field to the South of the loch but no sign of the Mute Swans today.

Week 3-9 March

Not a lot to report this week, there were a couple of male Siskins seen on the outshirts of the village on Tuesday (4 Mar) afternoon and the White-billed Diver is still around in Water Sound bay, favouring an area just off the end of the Cara Road.

On the home front a couple of House Sparrows have appeared in the garden this week so thats good news, just need some Greenfinches to reappear now.

Saturday 1 March 2014

Spring is in the air

Today is the first of March and the start of the meteorological spring.

It certainly lived up to it's name. I had an early start this morning and was out of the house at 7:15am. As I waited for my lift to arrive I was greeted by the sound of a couple of Skylarks singing away high up in the sky, giving me my 54th species of the year for the Patchwork Challenge. They were still singing late this afternoon.

This was followed by a nice sunrise and a glorious day of blue sky and sunshine and a gentle breeze.

There were two male Blackbirds chasing each other around the garden first thing and at lunchtime the Wren was spotted working its way along the low stone dyke in the garden.

After all the recent wind and rain a few more today's like today would be well received.

An auroral feast.

I know this isn't birding but it is nature related and worthy of inclusion in my blog.

It turned out that the auroral treat I mentioned on Sunday was just a warm up for bigger and better things that took place on Thursday (27 Feb) evening. With the sun still being a bit active I had been keeping my eye on various sources of data to see if we might get another chance to see some auroral activity.

Around 7:30pm there were signs that things were starting to stir so I took a look out of the living room window to see if I could see any signs in the sky itself and I could certainly some activity, so I decided to grab the camera and go outside to take a better look.


The sight that greeted me was fantastic, the sky was alive with reds and greens as the aurora danced about. I quickly popped back into the cottage to tell Claire to get her coat on and join me outside. Moving to the North end of the cottage out of the stiff cold wind we stood and watched the best aurora we had ever seen. It started off in pretty much the same area of sky as Sunday's but quickly spread further out across the sky, then it started moving forward until it was right over the top of us. Eventually we were actually stood facing South and still seeing the aurora.

Later in the evening, around 10pm the colours and strength of the aurora started to subside but now it was replaced by quick flashes of what looked like green wispy Cirrus cloud darting back and forth across the sky.

By 11pm I was getting cold and tired so called it a night. Social media was buzzing with reports of the aurora from all over Scotland and the following morning it was being reported on the BBC news as being seen as far South as Essex and South Wales. By tea time there were reports that it had ben seen as far South as Jersey!! So a pretty spectacular event. Interestingly one of the astronomers that's had commented on the event said that this aurora was only due to a glancing blow by the particles from the sun hitting the earth's atmosphere. I'd love to see what the aurora looks like if we take a direct hit.

Anyway until that happens here are some of the photos that I took during the event.

The Plough stood on end in the middle of the aurora

Looking North towards St Mary's village

Looking North towards St Mary's village
Looking South-West. Orion on the left hand edge of the photo
Looking South over the cottage
Looking North towards St Mary's Village

Looking North East

Looking West

Monday sightings

Barrie was out and about round his Burray patch on Monday 24 Feb 14 and reported the following sightings:

A Jack Snipe and 30+ Meadow Pipits at Westshore, 2 Whooper Swans on the pool beside the cemetery and a flock of 30-40 Rock Pipits on the Burray end of Barrier 4 beach.

He also saw his first Pied Wagtails of the year.