Sunday 6 January 2019

Two more R's and a Mipit

It's still very quiet in the garden so far this year, apart from a pair of Blackbirds (both ringed) and a few Starlings sand Rock Doves all the other species usually seen are noticeable by their absence.

Today really was the calm before the storm with very little wind and some welcome sunshine. I took the opportunity to take a wander up to the top of the hill behind the cottage and down the far side to some pools and heather moorland.

As I set off two Ravens flew over heading to the East. As I turned up the track to the trig point the honking of some Greylag Geese sounded the alarm to my approach and soon after two small flocks took to the air. Apart from a few Starlings the walk to the summit (I can't call it a climb as there is only about 20M of height between my cottage and the summit) was also very quiet. It won't be long before the Meadow Pipits return to breed.

As I passed the trig point and started to drop down the other side of the hill the land changed from grass fields to heather moorland. Usually there would be Meadow Pipits, Skylarks ans Greylags all calling and watching my every move but today there was nothing. As I got a bit lower the pools at the bottom of the hill came into view.

View of the pools

Closer view of the main pools

A scan with binoculars showed that these too very empty of birds. I got the feeling today wasn't going to be a very productive day but the year is young and there will be lots of opportunities to see something.

The area I was now standing in was once the site of a gun battery, part of the defence system for Scapa Flow. Apart from the remains of the gun emplacements all the buildings bar one are all gone and just the bases are left. As I approached one of the bases there were three Starlings perched on the top of a concrete post chattering away. Unlike most Starlings these didn't move away as I approached they just sat tight. Eventually one flew a short distance away but the other two stayed where they were until I was about six feet away then they took off, flew in a circle behind me and landed on the ground just in front of me. Then I remembered that this was the base that last year I hear a lot of chirping coming from a hidden cavity and I had watched the Starlings coming and going and bringing food in for the young. So they were back a getting ready for this year's breeding season.

Two of the three Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)
The walk back to the cottage was a more gentle climb rather than the steeper ascent if I had gone back the way I came. On the fence line I spotted a Hooded Crow and on the field behind it there were two Ravens.

About half way back to the cottage I heard the familiar call of a Meadow Pipit coming from the heather, so there was at least one back on suitable territory.

A bit further along the track as I was approaching Windyha (a bungalow) I spotted a Robin sitting in the bush by the gate. Then as I approached Saorsa (another bungalow) I spotted a young Rook foraging in the field.

Juvenile Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
As I walked the last few yards back to the cottage a flock of 10 Curlew flew overhead and disappear down towards the village.

So not a big list of species but another three added to the Burray year list and one to the Orkney year list giving me totals of 35 and 41 respectively.

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