Stronsay Recent Bird Sightings

By John Holloway. Republished here with kind permission of the Stronsay Limpet

There have been very few migrant bird species this Spring, but a handful of island rarities have been seen, including a ‘calling’ Cuckoo in the Millgrip/Rothiesholm School area. A Rook (common on Mainland Orkney but rare here) was seen near the Fire Station, and – amazingly, the second Avocet (following last year’s first) made a brief stay on the Bu Loch on 25th April (see photo).

Both Wryneck and Icterine Warbler were seen at Lower Samson’s (Donald Omond) but small migrants were few and far between!

Two Glaucous Gulls have been seen, a first-summer male Hen Harrier has been seen regularly and Sand Martins have arrived in very good numbers at the colonies in Mill Bay and Rothiesholm. A Common Rosefinch was seen briefly on the reserve on 15th June. Sighting of the year (decade!) was unfortunately too brief to alert other observers – a Long-billed Curlew (breeds in NW Canada) seen feeding in the flooded area between Castle and Linkshouse on 27th April (see photos).

It took a lot of research to confirm the identification! The bird was clearly bigger than our ever-present Eurasian Curlews, having a longer and ‘straighter’ bill, and much of the plumage was washed with a rich reddish-cinnamon colour (rufous?) as can be seen in the attached photographs taken looking into the sun.

Other ‘wild-life’ seen include Pygmy Shrew in the ‘Castle’ garden on 4th April; 3 White-sided Dolphins in Mill Bay on May 20th, and a Humming-bird Hawk Moth seen by Hazel in the Airy garden on 23rd June.

One big plus this year has been the mowing (council and residents – great stuff!) of some of the roadside verges, resulting in the emergence of (purple) orchids which have been lying dormant during the ‘no-cutting’ phase. (Many Skylarks formerly nested in the short grass by the roadsides).

Thanks for all the calls. John Holloway

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