Wednesday 28 January 2015


Despite the Met Office Yellow warning for snow coming into effect from 08:00 this morning, a part from a few brief sleety showers so far there hasn't been much of the white stuff about.

While sitting in my home office this afternoon finishing off my submission for the Orkney 2014 bird report, I glanced up to see a very pale, very speckled looking female Blackbird having a go at a piece of apple out in the rear part of the garden. Close by was another female Blackbird, for comparison, who was a lot more like you would expect to see.

Grabbing the binoculars for a closer look I had just got focused in on her when another bird walked across behind her. Adjusting the binoculars to see what it was I did a double take as it was none other than our visiting Water Rail. For once the camera was at hand to get some record shots, the quality isn't too good as I was shooting through a dirty window in my haste to catch it on camera before it disappeared.

Water Rail
It stayed out in the open for about five minutes before being spooked and disappearing into cover behind the byre. Hoping it might go round the back of the byre and reappear on the other side I moved to the living room to take up position. After half an hour there was no sign of it but I did see a Sparrowhawk fly across the field and land briefly on one of the fence posts, giving me another new species for the 2015 Burray list.

Sunday 25 January 2015

The Rail returns

This weekend was the RSPB Great British Birdwatch. Yesterday had been fairly quiet in the garden so in any given hour slot there would only have been a handful of Blackbirds, a couple of handfuls of Starlings and may be a few Greenfinches.

Today didn't fair much better with the only addition being a Robin in the afternoon.

However, whilst waiting for Stan this morning I was once again stood in my sun porch when from under one of the Fuchsia bushes on the edge of the lawn out walked the Water Rail. Unless there is more than one hanging around the garden I haven't seen this bird since the last time Stan called round on the 4 Jan. Maybe I should get him to visit more often!! So it was good to know that it was still about.

This afternoon Barrie popped round while he was out and about and we had a quick walk round the garden when I spooked the Rail from one corner. It promptly ran up the fence line behind some bushes and disappeared into the undergrowth. Unfortunately it was too quick for Barrie to see it.

The wind is due to pick up again at the start of the week and there is  series of cold fronts moving in mid-week. The Met Office has already issued a yellow warning for snow from 3pm Wednesday through to midnight Thursday so it will be interesting to see what turns up looking for food as the temperature drops.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Tuesday 20 Jan 15

The White-billed Diver, which seems to be a regular winter visitor, was off the Cara Road turn-off on South Ronaldsay again today.

Over at Barrier 4 two Short-eared Owls were seen near to the sand extraction pits and 12 Snow Buntings on the beach itself.

Monday 19 Jan 15

Barrie was out doing his WeBS count on the 19th Jan and he had a good variety of birds including the Glaucous Gull, still at Burray Pier; about a dozen Snow Bunting at the Burray end of Barrier 4 Beach; a single Puffin on the Flow side of Barrier 4, this elusive bird had a very red lower bill; a Guillemot also on the Flow side of Barrier 4; five Great Northern Divers and finally the Whimbrel in its usual place behind the Sands Hotel.

Tim Dean's bird watching group saw three Common Scoters and a Little Auk in Echnaloch Bay.

9-18 Jan 15

A bit of a round up of sightings for the period 9-18 Jan.

On the 9th single Glaucous Gulls were seen at Echnaloch Bay and Barrier 4. The one at Echnaloch Bay was seen again on the 10th.

On the 10th three Goldfinches were seen flying West over Water Sound.

A single Song Thrush and a Robin at Millfield on the 17th with at least 20 Blackbirds in the fields in the surrounding area.

There was a single Glaucous Gull off Burray pier late morning on the 18th.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Three more for the year list

As I was working from home this morning I had breakfast slightly later than usual which meant it was just starting to become light while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. Hoping I might get another glimpse of the Water Rail that was in the garden last Sunday I was looking out of the sun porch window and spotted movement on the lawn. It was a lot smaller than the Water Rail and by its movement it was identified as a Robin which I hadn't seen in the garden since the turn of the year. It was soon joined by a Dunnock, another species not seen since the turn of the year, so that was two new species for the year list and I hadn't even had my first brew of the day.

Later in the morning a flock of 10 Greenfinches appeared in the rear garden and they took a short break sheltering from the wind and rain in a Rosa Rogosa bush and were also feeding on the ground around it. Not seen that many Geenfinches in the garden in one go in quite a long time so that was good to see.

This afternoon I had to go into town and as I passed Echna Loch I spotted a single Mute Swan. I was expecting to add Mute Swan to my list on the New Year's Day bird watch but the pair that had been on the Loch were no where to be seen. So that gave me my third new species for the 2015 list for today.

Also on the loch were some Wigeon and Tufted Duck. I didn't have time to stop and take a closer look.

On the other side of the road there were a few Great Black-backed Gulls still feeding on what's left of the seal carcasses was up onto the Echnaloch Bay beach.

Along the cliffs on the North side of the bay the number of Fulmars has increased to about 60.

There is some severe weather forecast for here over the next couple of days so the chances of getting out bird watching are fairly slim, but I'll be keeping an eye on the garden in case there is anything taking shelter from the wind and rain.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Sightings - 6 Jan 15

News from Barrie, two Glaucous Gulls still down at Echnaloch Bay and also three Common Scoters out on the water.

There were two Black-throated Divers off of the Bu Beach and there was a Short-eared Owl near the Bu.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Garden surprise and other sightings

I was waiting for a lift just after midday and as I stood in our sun porch I caught the movement of a dark object out of the corner of my eye. I thought it was a Blackbird so kept an eye on the low stone wall that it had disappeared behind hoping it would reappear. When it did I was in for a big surprise as a Water Rail appear and sauntered along the edge of the lawn before disappearing into a bush.

When I got home about four hours later I had just gone into the sun porch after being dropped off and as I watched out of the window as my lift drove off the Water Rail reappeared in exactly the same spot as before!! So that was a new species for the garden list and it would be good if it stuck around and adopted our pond.

After being picked up we past Echnaloch Bay on our way to the afternoon's destination and close in to the shore were two Great Northern Divers, unfortunately I so was busy looking at them that I missed the three Black-throated Divers that were a bit further out into the bay.

Barrie was back from his short break over the New Year period and was back out on his Burray patch this morning. He reported that the Glaucous Gull and the Common Scoters were still at Echnaloch Bay. He also saw Snow Buntings and Pied Wagtails at the Burray end of Barrier 4 and a Jack Snipe at Westshore. The latter location also add a White-billed Diver which was out in Watersound Bay.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Thirty species and counting

After a few days absence over the switch from 2014 to 2015 the Pheasant which has taken a liking to our garden has reappeared this afternoon.

Also this afternoon after a brief visit from one of our friends as they were departing a female Hen Harrier took off from the long grass of our lawn, with what looked like a prey item in its claw, and headed over to our bit of heathery moorland.

These two take the 2015 species list to 30.

Friday 2 January 2015

Echnaloch Bay

Following on from the single Glaucous Gull I saw at Echnaloch Bay yesterday, there were two reported there this morning.

There were also three Common Scoters out on the water.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The 2015 Bird List started

As is traditional on New Year's Day, a birding session to kick the new year's list off and as usual it starts with the garden. Not that the garden was very busy at first light.

The first birds on the year list were four Greenfinches which arrived on the top of a bush next to the empty seed feeder!! With it soon filled they made a brief re-appearance before being chased of by the arrival of the Starlings. Over 80 of them to be exact and it didn't take too long for the feeder to be empty again.

A look from all the main windows of the cottage added four Blackbirds to the list and a solitary Rock Dove. A single female House Sparrow was spotted under the ground feeder.

Out in the field around the cottage there were single Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull. A quick walk over to our heathery moorland bit of ground in the hope of flushing a Snipe didn't work but did net an over flying Raven and 13 Greylag Geese which took off from a nearby field.

Then the rain set in for a bit and put birding on hold for a bit.

Once the rain cleared it was off down to Echnaloch Bay and Loch. There are at least three seal carcasses on the beach at Echnaloch Bay at the moment which are attracting a few gulls. Mainly Great Black-backded gulls, which on this occassion had four adult and four juvenile ones tucking in. But the bird I was looking for was one I first saw on the 29 Dec 14. A scan of the carcasses produced a blank for this bird but a scan behind the tide line picked it up and added a first winter Glaucous Gull to the list.

Other birds out on the water included 16 Long-tailed Ducks, four Eiders, four Wigeon and a single Shag. A scan of the cliffs on the North side of the bay picked out a solitary Fulmar while a long the beach there were three Oystercatchers, three Redshank, four Rock Doves and a very well camoflagued Common Snipe. A flock of over 100+ Lapwing flew out over the bay on several occassions.

Switching across to the otherside of the road attention turned to Echna Loch. Tuckedin the corner close to the road as a Little Grebe. Twenty Tufted Ducks and 7 Mallards added to the list, while other birds on the loch included four Great Black-backed Gulls and 9 Wigeon.

Next stop was the South end of Barrier 3. As I pulled into the small parking area there was a single Hooded Crow sat on a nearby fence post. Other birds for the list included a Grey Heron, two Curlew, seven Red Breasted Mergansers and a male Goldeneye. A single Oyster catcher and 20 Long-tailed Ducks provided a supporting cast.

A drive round the back of the Fossil Centre and across to Barrier 4 only produced several fields with Greylag Geese in and from the car park at Barrier 4 only Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers were seen.

A quick drive around the village only added a Collared Dove to the list, giving me a total of 28 species to start the year.

Happy New Year - 2015

Happy New Year everyone and thanks for following my blog in 2014 and I hope you will continue to follow it during 2015.

As always I'm happy to recieve any birding news relating to Burray that I can include in my blog. If you have any interesting photos of birds seen on Burray and you are happy for me to include them on my blog, full credit given, then send me a message.

I don't usually make any New Year's resolutions but the one thing I have decided on this year is not to do the Patchwork Challenge (PWC) but rather spend what birding time I have looking around more of Burray. Whilst the PWC has been good and focussed my birding on my declared three square kilometre patch it means that there is a lot of Burray I haven't explored so this year I'm making the whole of Burray my patch. I will still keep a tally of the species on the blog.

So happy birding to your all I hope you have a great year.

December News

I'm afraid it is just another brief summary again this month.

On the 3rd Dec there were two Chiffchaffs at Westshore and the wintering Whimbrel was in its usual place behind the Sands Hotel.

On the 11th Dec a single Little Auk was seen on the road at Echnaloch Bay before it got light. The observer didn't see any signs, on their way back, that it had been run over so hopefully it made it back into the sea.

On the 13th Dec Barrie had two Jack Snipe, one at Westshore and the other in Burray Village. He also saw 18 Common Snipe on the shore at Westshore.

I decided to go for a little Boxing Day stroll around the Millfield area on the 26th and saw 10 Blackbirds, one Dunnock, eight House Sparrows, nine Redwings, one Robin, one Snipe, 300+ Starlings and a Wren.

A single first winter Glaucous Gull was seen feeding on a dead seal carcass on the Echnaloch Bay beach on the 28th Dec.  

A quick trip down to Echnaloch Bay on the 29th Dec gave me a life tick in the form of the first winter Glaucous Gull, just in time to be added to my Patchwork Challenge list for 2014. There were also eight Great Black-backed Gulls, a mixture of adult and juvenile birds. All were feeding on the two seal carcasses on the beach.

To close the year I'd just like to say thanks to all of you who have been following my blog, to those that have sent me news and comments and I hope you will continue to follow this blog in 2015.

I have made a New Year's resolution to be more proactive in posting news of sightings in 2015. So watch this space!!

November Summary

Details coming soon