At the moment, birds migrating north for the breeding season continue to transit through Orkney. This weekend's weather had the local birders all of a-flutter, as several days of south easterly winds were followed by Saturday's island-wide fog, ideal conditions for a 'fall', where large numbers of migrating birds seek landfall.
Messages on social media hinted at the treasures liberally sprinkled across the isles: Red-rumped swallow, Bluethroat, Avocet, Dotterel, Wood warbler and Marsh harrier. Meanwhile at Tense Towers, our local House sparrows and Starlings occasionally loomed out of the fog.
Sunday brought slightly better visibility and rain, though by afternoon this had turned to showers and sunny periods. With cabin fever setting in, I chose a convenient break in the weather for a wander down to the shore to see what was about.
The grass verge of one property en route was alive with the sound of buzzing insects. Here were clumps of Greater knapweed and Bluebells, providing pollen and nectar for hoverflies and bumblebees. One particular bee, possibly a Buff-tailed, looked quite drookit from the previous shower.
And I think this one is a carder of some sort...
As I walked past some rough pasture, adult Lapwings were alarm calling, a sure sign that there were young chicks about. I did manage to spot a fleeting glimpse of a wee fluffy bundle amongst all the vegetation.
Down by the shore, a pair of terns were newly arrived. But were they Common or Arctic? I studied them for ages, but couldn't decide. Later, I perused my ID books and watched a helpful video on the BTO website, but was still unsure. In the end, in desperation, I posted this photo on social media...
and received several replies confirming that they were Arctic terns. And one reply that just said "That is exactly how I feel about the whole tern thing!"
It was high tide, and at the water's edge were a few groups of waders: Turnstone, Ringed plover and these Dunlin...
They were quite easy to spot, unlike this small flock further up the beach...
Raindrops curtailed my ponderings, so I set off back up the hill as the weather worsened, with my optics tucked under my coat for protection. This was a shame, because a small bird was flitting through the vegetation ahead of me, working its way along the ditch at the side of the road. With the brief views I had, I think this was a Sedge warbler, so I'm now hopeful of hearing its frenzied, jazz-inspired song in the coming weeks.
Then it was back home to dry out and fire up the kettle, before commencing the afore-mentioned tern and ternabout.
Oh, the terns are lovely... thank you.
You're very welcome. They were definitely worth a soaking!
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