From Records of a bygone age by Ian Cooper
The ‘Improving Lairds’ and the Learmonths of Housebay: Robert Followed by His Son Donald Horne Learmonth
“uniformly of the finest quality of deep land, a good clay loam, and they are farmed in a style that cannot be surpassed anywhere in the kingdom.”
“Once again there have been a few unusual migrants in late May and early June, but which species we are likely to see is always impossible to guess.”
One fine summer’s evening many years ago, on Thursday 15th May 1862, James Brown, a blacksmith from the cottage of Hunday in Stronsay, and farm servant Peter Miller, also from Hunday, decided to go on a fishing trip off the nearby headland of Burgh Head.
“Since we arrived on Stronsay in 1987 we have been waiting for one particular bird species to turn up here.”
“A couple of weeks ago, I decided I would need to do my bit to preserve one of the old Orcadian traditions and go to the spoots.”
“A brilliant male of this species arrived on the Reserve during a spell of warm easterly winds”
“Pied wagtails were late arriving, but one bird of the European race (alba – very rare here in Spring) was discovered feeding among the ponies at Ha’breck.”
Strictly speaking this isn’t a record of a bygone age at all, as ‘gaan tae the spoots’ is still a pastime enjoyed by a dedicated but seemingly ever decreasing group of folk, although apparently not taken as seriously as in days of yore.
“As might be expected in late Winter, most of the interesting sightings have been of ‘water birds’ and ‘birds of prey’ but a few early migrant ‘land-birds’ have been see, including 2 male Chaffinches in early March. “