Many thanks to The Stronsay Limpet for permission to republish their article in The Orkney News.
By John Holloway
Many species of bird make themselves easy to observe, some can make observation rather difficult whilst others can make even a reasonable view of itself virtually impossible!
The Water Rail is a perfect example of the latter! The species is a bird of marshy areas and at least one or two pairs probably breed on Stronsay each year – the Matpow, Mei-kle Water and Bu Loch the most likely areas. A typical view would be of the rear end of a bird scuttling away through dense vegetation on its big feet and long legs – never to be seen again!
So it has to be said that Brian and Christine at Cliffdale were extremely lucky not only to see one pecking for grubs etc. along the top of their garden wall, but also for the bird to stay and ‘pose’ for them right outside the conservatory window!
The breeding success story of the year here on Stronsay seems to be the increase in Sand Martins throughout the summer – the two main colonies being in the sandy cliff-faces of Mill Bay and Bomasty Bay.
Swallows too appear to have had a good season and it is hoped that Corncrakes are on the rise, as there were several birds calling this summer and 3 young birds were seen by Don Peace near the Airstrip around 20th August.
One other success story was reported by Donald Omand at Lower Samsons, where Lesser Redpolls nested – the first breeding record on the island since 2015.
A juvenile Robin was seen at Samsons lane in late summer but there had been no reported sightings of adult birds on the island in the breeding season.
Yet another Short-eared Owl was found ‘injured’ by the roadside by Jim & Fran Miller and quickly taken into care, but after a quick transferal to ourselves and then Jean at Glenmanna it was given a ‘once-over’ and found to have no broken bones or other obvious injury. Since then there have been several more sightings of the species, including two together at the Matpow Loch. Perhaps they have nested on the island this year?
There have been very few small migrant waders this year during migration – the most unusual being a Green Sandpiper at the Bu loch.- but good numbers of Curlew, Golden Plover and Lapwing have been present – particularly in the fields of recently cut grass.
One interesting sight has been here at Castle where a Skylark has taken up residence in the drive for the past two weeks or so. Skylarks are almost impossible to find in late Summer/early Autumn as they appear to moult their flight feathers during this period and become flightless for a time.
3 or 4 Wheatears have been seen in the last few days – a sure sign that Autumn is on the way. A brown ‘ring-tail’ (juvenile or female) Hen Harrier was seen by Sue on 19th.
Thanks for all the calls John & Sue Holloway.