Sunday 18 May 2014


It was just before 7 o'clock this morning when I went out to top up the bird feeders.

I was greeted by the usual sounds of the Curlew, Lapwings and Skylarks and from over the hill the cockerels. There were Sparrows and Greenfinches in the bushes too. Then I heard a call that was very familiar but from a bird that is described as an uncommon passage migrant in Orkney. There had been a few recent reports of this species being seen at various locations around Orkney but no reports as far as I was aware from Burray.

Then I heard it again - Cuckoo, Cuckoo. I grabbed the binoculars and started walking down the track in the general direction of the call to a spot where I could get a good view of the area down the hill towards the village. The bird continued to call and using the old cupped hands behind the ears technique I was able to determine that the bird was to the West of the village and not lurking around a few of the gardens with good cover.

I continued along the footpath trying to get a better fix on where the call was coming from but after ten minutes of calling it stopped and that was that. No visual on the bird.

About an hour later I saw one of the local dog walkers that often goes around a large area of my patch. We had a quick chat about what was about and when I mentioned th Cuckoo they said that they had heard one the other evening but thought they were hearing things, so were a bit relieved that someone else had heard one too.

So that is a new species for my patch and for my Burray list.

So far in May

On the 1st, a late afternoon stop off at Echna Bay had 15 Oystercatchers, 1 Redshank and 2 Mute Swans. The swans had Yellow Darvic rings 245 and 251. Subsequent enquiries showed that they were both ringed on the Loch of Harray on the 28 Jul 08 as adult females.

A White-billed Diver was reported in various locations within Water Sound on the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th.

A late afternoon stop at Echna Bay, on the 5th, produced 2 Oystercatchers, 3 Common Gull, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 28 Long-tailed Ducks and 1 Arctic Tern.

In the garden at Millfield a Blackbird nest with 5 eggs was found on the 6th. By the 17th the eggs had hatched and there were now 5 chicks which were ringed.

A walk from Millfield up to the trig point, on the 6th, produced 2 Blackbird, 6 Common Gull, 5 Lapwing, 4 Oystercatcher, 2 Curlew, 2 Skylark and 1 Snipe. In addition Eiders, Long-tailed Duck and Greylag Geese were heard.

There were reports on the 8th of 2 Red-throated Divers at Barrier No 4. At Echna Bay there were 1 Great Northern Diver, 1 Shelduck, 3 Oystercatchers, 1 Rock Pipit, 2 Mute Swans and 1 Swallow. On the other side of the road on Echna Loch there were 5 Mute Swans, 15 Tufted Duck, 2 Common Gulls, 3 Mallard, 3 Long-tailed Ducks and 1 Greylag.

April Round Up

April kicked off with reports of two Goldfinch at the Bu on the 2 Apr.

A single Sand Martin was seen over Echna Loch on the 3 Apr.

There was a single Siskin in my garden on the 4 Apr and also a single Goldfinch down at the Bu.

Mist was the order of the day on the 5 Apr but that didn't stop Paul H from the Hope (St Margaret's Hope, South Ronaldsay) reporting five Sandwich Terns flying over head in the Burray direction. Didn't hear of any reports of them being heard/seen here. I was lucky enough to see a female Hen Harrier flying over my garden just before I set off on a business trip for a few days.

On the 7 Apr Barrie had a Goldfinch turn up on his feeder at Westshore.

On my way into work just after 07:30 on the 8 Apr I saw a single Swallow perched on an over head cable between the turning to Littlequoy and Echna Loch. This was my first for the year and a sure sign Spring had arrived. It was species 58 for my Patchwork Challenge (PWC) list.

An interesting report on the 8 Apr of a calling Corncrake heard over the last couple of days by at least two people. It was heard on the Eastern edge of the village in the vicinity of the ditch that runs from Echna Loch, under the road and down to Watersound. The ditch runs through a thick strip of rough ground and the bird has been calling fairly close to the road.

On the 15 Apr Barrie reported seeing one Goldfinch, two Siskins and one Wheatear at Westshore with three Slavonian Grebes offshore from his garden. There was also approx 150 Pink-footed Geese flying in NW direction.

Barrie had a male Brambling on his feeders at Westshore at tea-time on the 21 Apr with four more the following day. Later on the evening of the 21 Apr he had a Whimbrel on the shore. He said that it might be the wintering bird that is usually seen 400-500 metres away.

There was a Black Redstart at Ness on the morning of the 23 Apr and Barrie's Brambling count was now up to five. 

A male Redstart was seen again at Ness on the 25 Apr and was presumably the same bird seen by Barrie on the 23 Apr. The were also 15 Slavonian Grebes on the West side of Barrier 4. In the evening Barrie reported two Ring Ouzels feeding together at the Cemetery along with a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. While on Bu beach there was a Common Sandpiper and a Whimbrel. His Brambling count was now up to at least eight birds.

On the morning of the 26 Apr Barrie's Brambling count was up to 10 and they had been joined on the feeders by either a Common or Lesser Redpoll. It wasn't immediately obvious which one but I think in the end he decided it was a Common Redpoll.

On Apr 27 Barrie reported two Mealy Redpolls and 10 Brambling on his feeders. I was able to join him and Linda to see them along with the Greenfinches, House Sparrows, two Wrens (one of which was collecting nesting material), three Blackbirds and a Collared Dove. The Brambling and Redpoll giving me PWC species 59 and 60.

Barrie also had 12 White Wagtails at the Burray end of Barrier 4 beach. Elsewhere, he had four Blackcap, two Chiffchaffs and a Willow Warbler.
After leaving Barrie's I headed West away from the village seeing a Collared Dove, three Greenfinches, a single Redpoll, four Linnets, a Pheasant, two Meadow Pipits, two Skylarks, a Wren, a Great Black-backed Gull, five Blackbirds, a Wheatear (PWC species 61), a Dunnock and a Wood Pigeon (PWC specis 62)

On my way home from work on the 29 Apr I stopped off to see what was about in Echna Bay and on Echna Loch. Starting with the bay there were two Ringed Plover, two Oystercatchers and two Mute Swans which had yellow Darvic rings on their left legs but they were too far away to read with the bins. Out in the bay it was rather quiet with just three Red-breasted Mergansers. A Great Skua (Bonxie) came gliding along the edge of the bay for PWC species 63.

Across the road on the loch there was a male Mallard, four Mute Swans, 10 Tufted Duck, two Common Gulls and between 450-500 Long-tailed ducks.

On the afternoon of the 30 Apr Barrie had five Brambling on his feeders who were joined by two Goldfinches.

Tim Dean rounds of the month by reporting a 'stunning spectacle' on Echna Loch on the evening of the 30 Apr with 680 Long-tailed Ducks!!