It would seem that, even this far north, the Spring migration is well and truly under way. This is a good and pleasing thing.
Local birders have been reporting sightings of Hawfinch in a few gardens and the Bird Observatory on North Ronaldsay has experienced an increase in migratory species, blown across the North Sea on easterly winds.
However, it's all fairly quiet in our neck of the w.... er... dochans? Bare earth doesn't attract many birds and I don't think Stone Curlew make it to Orkney! I am starting to hear more territorial birdsong, but it is limited to a Blackbird and a Greenfinch. But being outside in the garden does allow sounds from farther afield to reach my ears. Whilst turning over the soil, I am accompanied by the calls of distant Oystercatcher and Lapwing. I never tire of hearing the skirling notes of the Curlew. Starlings chatter and mimic from their perches on the roofs of the nearby farm barns. An almost ever-present sound is the plaintive mewing of Common Gull, and occasionally but somewhat bizarrely, a Peacock, which seems to live somewhere to the east of us.
There's plenty of life in the soil too, which is a pleasant surprise. No shortage of earthworms and all manner of ground-dwelling invertebrates. I remarked upon this fact, this morning, whilst visiting the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) office in Kirkwall, only to be told that, in some parts of Orkney, the New Zealand Flatworm has decimated native earthworm populations. Crivens! We will have to be careful when moving new plants into the garden, to try to minimise the chances of accidentally bringing this alien predator to our doorstep.
I was also warned to keep an eye open for Stoats, because although they are seen infrequently, they are a fearsome predator of ground-nesting birds. Many of the species of birds that choose to rear their young in Orkney are already declining in numbers. The last thing they need is another mammalian egg and chick thief. Stoats are not native to Orkney and are likely to have been introduced, either accidentally or misguidedly. Hmmm, one creature's island paradise is definitely another's nightmare from hell.