I made it back to work on Friday, with the result that my first meaningful wildlife encounter of the week occurred not in the gloriously open vistas of an Orcadian Spring, but in a dark, cramped loft. It was a close encounter, although regular readers can probably predict the actual words I uttered at the time. It's a spider from the genus Steatoda, more commonly known as a False Widow spider.
By Saturday afternoon, we were feeling better, so took a trip down to the old kirk. As soon as we stepped from the car, we spotted a male Wheatear perched on a grave stone, quietly running through his musical repertoire in sub-song. This was our first Wheatear of 2017.
In the ditches by the roadside, the Coltsfoot, Dandelions and Lesser Celandines had been joined by Marsh Marigold. A profusion of golden yellow welling up from the ground in a floral homage to the warming sun.
More signs of Spring were visible on Sunday with a fly-by Sand Martin as we wandered along a West Mainland track. However, the highlight of the morning was a distant view of a food pass between a male and a female Hen Harrier, way over on the opposite side of the valley. The below photos aren't great, just horrendous crops of images that weren't in focus anyway. For reference, the male is predominately grey, whilst the female is mainly brown and sometimes only visible against the background due to the white patch at the base of her tail.
The male approaches across the hill side, bearing a gift of food.
The female appears, seemingly from nowhere, to investigate the suitor's offering.
She closes in as the male extends his legs to offer the gift.
Food pass complete, the male banks away.
He resumes hunting (top) as she carries away the gift to consume elsewhere (bottom). Presumably, she is also testing that the male is a sufficiently attentive partner and a good hunter, factors that will have a beneficial effect upon her raising a brood this year.