Culture

Stronsay Recent Bird Sightings

By John Holloway

Although most of the interesting and unusual sightings here on Stronsay are discovered around the farms and dwellings – and particularly in the gardens – there are some amazing records of birds seen on and around the shoreline in Whitehall Village over the years.

The Great White Egret on the beach alongside the play-park by Raymond Dennison in June this year was a classis example of ‘birds might turn up almost anywhere’.

Several other rare species in the UK have been recorded from that small stretch of road, including:

  • a Great blue Heron on the beach (American species)
‘The Great Blue Heron discovered feeding opposite the Playpark in Whitehall Village.’
  • Black-eared Wheatear on the road
  • Tree Creeper in the Monk’s Garden behind Morven
  • Waxwings feeding on rose-hips in the gardens along the roadside
  • and both Hawfinch and Blue Tit attracted to the bird-feeders in Mirland some years ago
  • A Spotted Crake present in late Spring 1989 could be heard all around the village, it’s ‘whiplash’ call keeping several residents awake!
  • Oh yes – and the most exotic sighting of all – the Bee eater of late Spring 2015………….which was seen catching bees in several gardens including the Hotel and later in Tam Chalmer’s garden in Whitehall.

Two species which are regularly seen along the ‘Village Street’ are Black Guillemots and Rock Pipits, the former present all summer around the piers in their dapper mainly black breeding plumage, and Rock Pipits which are present throughout the year, pecking for insects and other ‘morcels’ of food along the tarmac road.

The last month has been very quiet regarding migrant species, and only a handful have been recorded on the island. Donald Omand (Lower Samsons) has recorded Barred Warbler, Rosefinch, Blackcap and Brambling in the area, and Ant and Clare at Gesty Dishes found a Yellow-browed Warbler close to their house on 17th Sept. There have been just a few other migrants elsewhere, including 2-3 Willow Warblers, one Pied Flycatcher at Airy, and two Stonechats near The Mill. There have been far less ‘Greenland’ Wheatears around the roads in September this year – perhaps a big influx is just around the corner!

Several raptor’ species have been recorded during the last month (all probably ‘one of each species’) : Merlin, Sparrowhawk, Hen Harrier and Buzzard. Swallows and Sand Martins have both reared good numbers of young this year, and there has been a noticeable increase in the numbers of Sandwich Terns off-shore in early Autumn which also suggests a better breeding season. Pied Wagtails seem to have had a good season with several seen feeding along the tarmac roads during the last few weeks, and the local Linnets have certainly had a good breeding season in the island gardens. A flock of 50 or more Linnets is not unusual anywhere right across the island at this time of year.

Ant and Clare watched a pod of 5 or 6 Risso’s Dolphins in Holland Bay in midmonth, but the group had soon moved off southwards – perhaps heading back to the area around Shapinsay where a pod of that size had been seen recently on several occasions.

One other sighting of interest was of a Humming-bird Hawk Moth in the garden at Park Cottage on 9th Sept – with plenty of Red Admirals all around the island during the very welcome warm spell of weather in mid-month.

September has so far been very disappointing regarding migrant species from the east. The weather forecasters kept promising us winds between SE and NE but very little materialised, If a warmish airflow from the east does materialise during the next month have the binoculars at the ready!

Thanks again for all the calls. John & Sue

Many thanks to the Stronsay Limpet for permission to republish their article in The Orkney News

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