By John Holloway
Many thanks to the Stronsay Limpet for permission to republish this article
What a difference a couple of years make! The island bird-life is almost back to it’s best. There have been noticeable increases in all the breeding ‘waders and ducks’, and Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails have all returned in good numbers. The big question now is: ‘Where have they been for the last decade or so?’ – or perhaps ‘Where have they come from?’ They cannot possibly all be the same birds that ‘vacated the premises’ when the Greylag Geese took over!
There have been a few interesting sightings as usual in mid-summer this year, including a Short-eared Owl, first seen at Ward Hill on 2nd July.
What was almost certainly the same bird posed perfectly on a fence-post as I passed by in the car after receiving a phone-call from Dave Miller. There is no evidence of breeding this year although the species has bred on Stronsay in the past, but there has been confirmed breeding of a few pairs of Reed Buntings and Sedge Warblers around the lochs etc., and good numbers of Sand Martins in the sandy cliff face in |Mill Bay. Over 20 of the latter have been seen perched on the wires above the Mill Stream – alongside similar numbers of the local Swallows.
One species which bred in good numbers until the late 70’s – the Corncrake – has been heard on several occasions this summer at a few sites, but there is no evidence of successful breeding.
Some wading birds are now heading back south after breeding in the Arctic regions, and several have stopped off to feed on there journey south: 75 Dunlin and a Greenshank on the Bu Loch, and a dozen or so Black-tailed Godwit at Matpow – where the tern colony has been successful this year although some of a large (30 or so) party of Greylag Geese were seen on the island among the young terns on 25th July (today) – just as the young terns are on the verge of fledging. Fingers crossed!
One to look out for in Whitehall Village: There have been several recent sightings of what is almost certainly an albino House Sparrow in Whitehall Village. It has been seen by Debbie in the Hotel to the west; Jean at Glenmanna to the east, and several sightings in between! Check bird tables and sparrow flocks!
Re last month’s Limpet: A few very interesting sightings at 2-3 sites on Shetland Mainland in early June (around 6th) were of a Great White Egret – surely the same bird as that seen on the beach in Whitehall Village by Raymond Dennison on 3rd June. (Raymond watched the bird fly off high and northwards over Papa Stronsay).
Long-eared Owl in the garden at Slap a few years ago. Generally ‘greyer’ than Short. More likely to be seen outside the breeding season, but feeds almost exclusively at night. There was a regular day-time Winter roost of 8 or 10 of the species among the trees in the Samsons lane garden one Winter in the late 80s and another smaller group were present at Breck for some time in the early 90’s’