Thursday, July 22, 2004

The garden remains my bird and wildlife tonic during my hectic work periods (this year seems to have been nothing but one long hectic work period so far!).

Today the garden was hooching with stuff. Tree and House Sparrows did their usual battles over the seed feeders, and a new batch of juvvy Greenfinches are quivering in order to attract the attention of the their parents. A Green Woodpecker heard calling early morning is only the second garden record.

As the day heated up the garden insects took centre stage. A Small Skipper evaded my camera and it was simply too warm to get anywhere near the Brown and Southern Hawkers which seem very happy with the aerial soup of insects over the front and back gardens.

One species did sit around long enough for the camera, and that was the first record of Ringlet for my fenland garden. I've not seen this species on the fen previously, although I suspect nearby Conquest Drove (1/2 mile away) has enough tree cover to hold this species. If it ain't wandered across from there, then Conquest House (1.5 miles) or Holme Fen (2.5 miles) are the next likely spots.

Ringlet - a new garden butterfly

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

It's been non stop since I got back from Orkney and no time to get out birding or insect watching. Still, the garden provides plenty of entertainment. Today a Small Skipper has been bombing around sipping from any flower it can get to, and the couple of juvvy Great Spots are still bouncing around the feeder trees defending the peanut feeder!

No sign of any second broods of Treeps, but a dozen or so birds feeding the garden daily with the usual couple of Turtle Doves. Its actually quite nice to be back!

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Day ten of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.
Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  
Our last day on the beautiful islands of Orkney, and true to form this week, another overcast one. After breakfast we head into Kirkwall and spend a relaxing couple of hours enjoying the distinctive Orcadian jewellery of Okran, Ola Gorie and in particular, Sheila Fleet, whose studio workshop we visit after the town. At the studio we get to see how they enamel the jewellery which is applied in liquid form using a quill.
After many of us have succumbed to the delights of Orcadian jewellery, we go to find a lunchtime picnic spot. On route we come across another Short-eared Owl hunting the rough grassland of the airfield. The owls of Orkney are surely to be one of the everlasting memories of the holiday. We arrive at the Taing of Clett where we have our lunch. Some go for a short stroll around the bay before the inevitable – transfer to the airport. At the airport we check-in our hold luggage and while enjoying a cuppa, we hear an announcement: “can passenger Liz Holder come to the luggage reconciliation office please”. Oh no! What has Liz done? Off she trots and within a few minutes she is walking back towards us to much ribbing about what the airport authorities had found in her luggage. Then comes another announcement rings out: “can passenger Steve Dudley come to the luggage reconciliation office please”. Cue laughter!
The mood is sombre as we face the journey home. Postcards are written and posted and we go through the final holiday rituals. For Orkney, Short-eared Owl is voted as species of the trip, Skara Brae as the place of the trip and Chris’s Mid Howe hat episode (sorry Chris!). But for the trip as a whole, Shetland sweeps the boards, with Storm Petrel (species), Noss (place) and Mousa (magic moment) taking the honours. When asked who preferred Shetland over Orkney, it was 11 votes to Steve’s (always different!) one.
We take the short flight to Inverness where we bid each other farewell and safe journeys.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Day nine of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.
Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John, Margaret & Terry.  
Rain! It's the first morning we've woken to a crying sky, and with it howling wind. Mary is the latest member of the group to be stricken with the lurgy, so after breakfast Steve runs her into Stromness for some cold remedies.
Today is a real archaeology day, with as many birds as we can find slotted in between the sites.
Our first stop is within spitting distance of the hotel and is from this site that the hotel draws its name. The Stones of Stenness are around 5000 years old and four of the original 12 stones still encircle a square hearth. This small henge whets our appetite for the major monument we are to visit later.
Maesehowe is next. As we wait for our guide, we admire the tranquil setting, looking across grass and barley fields to the nearby lochs, an Arctic Skua drifts over us and a couple of Linnets bounce around noisily.

We enter the tomb by stooping along the long, low passageway. The tomb itself is large and high and is simply staggering. In each corner stands a 'mini' standing stone around which the walls are built. Three chambers lead off the main tomb, and the weight of some of the slabs which form the roofs of these chambers are immense - over 15 tonnes! The tomb has a history of being broken into, and there is no knowledge of what happened to the burial remains from the tomb - this has been lost to time.

The tomb has other secrets to reveal, though. Around the tomb is the graffiti of Norsk raiders. Writing in runes, they reveal their lives and wit of their age. We are told about how on during the winter solstice, the sun sets between the two great hills of Hoy, and aligned directly in the suns path is the nearby Barnhouse Stone, over which the suns rays pass and lead directly up the passageway and rests on the back wall of the tomb. Wow! Now that must be something to experience, and thanks to the wonders of modern technology we all can from the comfort of our own homes this winter - live on the web!
After some considerable retail therapy (well, they have such a good selection of books!), we head off to the Ring of Brodgar. Pulling up in the car park, Ray spies a young Linnet sat on the roof of the car next to him! Quite bizarre.

We enter the ring and walk round this impressive, huge stone circle. Only 36 of the 60 original stones remain standing. Each stone was set 6 degrees from its neighbours in a perfect circle surrounded by a 9m wide ditch. It's huge! The stones themselves can rise over 3m from the ground and are immense when stood alongside them. Its quite crowed during the day time, so Steve promises a less crowded visit for those interested that night to experience the sunset at the circle.
We head north-west and at the Loch of Skaill we find a good selection of duck including the trips first Pochard and quite a lot of Goldeneye sat amongst the Tufted Duck.
We are at Skara Brae, and after talking to the centre staff, decide we just have time for coffee (and cake!) before we visit the site before the arrival of the afternoon coach parties. Good move!
In the replica house, Steve gives the group a brief introduction to the house of man living here around 5000 years ago. And what a house! Directly opposite the entrance is an impressive and dominating, two-tier dresser where the family would have placed their most treasured possessions. The hearth was set in the floor in the middle of the room, around which seating stones were arranged, including the 'master' seat in front of the dresser, facing the entrance for the head of the house.

Around the edges of the room are the sleeping compartments. Stone slabs set up right in the ground defined the separate sleeping areas for each member of house. Little chambers in the walls, including one for each sleeping cell, would have been used for storage, and the three water-filled 'baskets' set in to the ground, made from stone and clay, would have been used for soaking limpets for fishing bait and possibly as a means of keeping some items cold.
Everyone is knocked out with the site itself. No one expected man to be so advanced as they were 5000 years ago, with their intricate houses and building.
And what a move it was to get in before the coaches. As we are leaving the settlement, a constant procession of people is filing in - hundreds of them! Most pay a visit to Skaill House before we join up again for lunch in the car park spread out on one of the grassy areas (sheltered from the wind by the minibus!).
After lunch we revert to birds and head for The Loons RSPB reserve and spend an hour in the new hide. The pools right in front of us hold Coot (including lots of young) and Moorhen, and several Sedge Warblers are seen banging around the reed fringe opposite. On the water a group of young Black-headed Gulls beg constantly to their parents who seem to be taking not a blind bit of notice! There are Curlews and Lapwings in all directions, lifting occasionally, sometimes a ghost, other times reacting to a passing Bonxie (well wouldn't you!). The odd Teal wings its way across marshes.

Over to our left there is a constant mobbing. The Common Gulls seem to have taken a disliking to something which by the looks is sat on the ground. The gulls mob it constantly and have been doing so for over half an hour when we leave the hide. We stop further along the road to see if we can see what they are so concerned about - a Great Black-backed Gull, that's what - who pays no notice at all to the Common Gulls' constant kerfuffle!
At the nearby Loch of Banks, we find a single Little Grebe and two Grey Herons standing sentinel-like along the reed edge. Just as we are leaving, a great mob of birds is chasing something across the marsh. It's a Hen Harrier, which doesn't hang about in light of its pursuers!
We arrive back at the hotel early to give everyone some extra time to unwind and at least think about packing! To our amazement, the single table (not there at breakfast) has been reinstalled by the hotel staff for us.  
After dinner some of us brave the chill wind to visit the Ring of Brodgar at sunset. What an experience! The light is fantastic, with clearing sky to the west, turning fiery pink and red providing an impressive backdrop for photographing the stones. There's no doubt about it, it's a completely different experience visiting the stones at dusk than in broad daylight, and this is surely when ceremonies would have been performed, in the half light. Very eerie. We eventually draw ourselves away and back to the hotel. To the astonishment of some, the hotel bar is closed (and it's only 11.15pm!).

The Ring of Brodgar at sunset - one of the most magical places on the planet

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Day eight of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki. 

Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  
Overcast and windy seems to be the weather pattern for Orkney. After breakfast, we head southwards across Mainland and at Tuskerbister stop to view the moorland area. Over the next 45 minutes, two plus Short-eared Owls put on a five-star performance. Once bird in particular likes to hunt around an old ruin, landing frequently to despatch its prey head first down its wide mouth. Chris is enthralled by this bird and stays glued to a scope watching its every move. A female Hen Harrier joins us and it too hunts the open area right in front of us before delivering an item of prey to a fledged youngster on the opposite hillside. Fantastic! A nearby hovering Kestrel is our first for the trip!
We move on, but within a mile, and alongside the Loch of Kirbister, we are stopped in our tracks by another hunting Short-eared Owl right by the road. It's making its way towards us, so we pull off and wait for it to flap lazily, effortlessly past us. As it gets level with us it stares right at us! Eye to eye with a Shortie at 50ft is pretty cool!
The loch itself holds only a handful of Greylag Geese so we move on to Waulkmill Bay. A couple of young Stonechats give us the run around but several eventually see them, but parking up for the loos, the bay below us dotted with birds. Tystie, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, and . . . a Black-throated Diver! Wow! A summer-plumaged bird actively fishing. So its all out, scopes up and watch away. What a corker!

A spanking, if a little distant, Black-throated Diver
We pass through Hobbister RSPB reserve, adding another female Hen Harrier and a Kestrel to the days total and on to Scapa. It's out of the vans again to check the beach, where Ray soon picks up a lone Bar-tailed Godwit and four Sandwich Terns sat on the beach.
We lunch at the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm, and crossing the other Churchill Barriers we head for South Ronaldsay clocking up another couple of Short-eared Owls.
Our main destination is the Tomb of the Eagles. On arrival we are given a brilliant introductory talk during which we get to touch some of the excavated artifacts (over 4000 years old!). We learn how tough life was for Neolithic man before going down to see the tomb itself. En route to the tomb, we stop off at the Bronze Age house also found on the site and are told about how Bronze Age man cooked meat by placing hot stones into a ground vat of water.
At the Tomb of the Eagles, we take it in turns to enter the tomb along the low and narrow passage on a trolley! It's an ingenious way to get people in to the tomb, and soon half of us are inside this breathtaking chamber. The tomb is stalled with three chambers. After excarnation (using the local White-tailed Eagles), the skeletal remains were placed on the tomb floor. They would later be ‘tidied’ with the skulls places in one of the three chambers, and the remaining larger bones in the other two. The claws of eagles were used as totems with the burial. One skull chamber has been left with some of the original skulls inside which certainly adds to the atmosphere.
We walk back to the car park along the coast enjoying the auks and cliff-nesting Rock Doves.
After money is spent in the gift shop, we are off back northwards. We pick up a House Martin as we pass back through Scapa, but as we approach Maeshowe, one of the finds of the day drifts past us – a male Hen Harrier. Stunning! It drifts off westwards across the hillside opposite our hotel! We wonder if we’ll see him again?
We again arrive back at the hotel in good time for people to unwind and have a drink before dinner. No single table as requested, so Steve and Ray take things into their own hands and soon, a single table spans the far end of the dining room! As the group arrives for dinner there are disapproving looks from the hotel staff at Steve and Ray’s handiwork, but much appreciation and words of thanks from the group.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Day seven of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.
Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John, Margaret & Terry.  
“Happy Birthday Steve!” was the chorus at breakfast, as the group gave Steve a warm birthday greeting and a lovely card of his favourite Orcadian archaeological site – the Ring of Brodgar.
After breakfast we headed for a winding drive across country to Tingwall, taking in some of the standing stones to get our bearings. Just past Brodgar, Steve tells his car to look out for owls, and as if pre-ordered, a Short-eared Owl lifts from the lochside grass and begins to float around the open grass fields. What a start! And only minutes later we are watching a female Hen Harrier quartering fields near Dounby. This is great!
We arrive at Tingwall and board the ferry – backwards! Our vehicles are boarded first and we have much fun watching others nervously reverse on to the ferry. “Just how much room does a small car need?”. We stay in our cars for the crossing, watching the less than wave-dynamic front of the ferry slopping against the sea and water rushing under its ramp onto the car deck! We pass close to Wyre Skerries which is covering in lounging seals – masses of them.
We dock at the pier on Rousay and pay a visit to the heritage centre by the quay. This is a great centre covering many aspects of the island’s history and wildlife.
We make our anti-clockwise way round the island, passing under the dominating Knitchen Hill. The island is lush and green with wooded areas here and there. The hillsides are heather-covered and dark at a distance, but glow purple with small flowers on closer inspection.  

We head up to Ervadale on the east side of the island and take a track westwards in to the interior. We pass a mown field which has a round central area still standing, Steve explains that this is one method used to protect nesting Corncrakes, a handful of which still occur on Orkney. We find a suitable spot overlooking the Suso Burn and west up to the Goukheads (Orcadian for Snipe). There are Skylarks and Meadow Pipits all around us.

A couple of Pheasants pick around the fields but the real interest starts when Steve finds the first of two family parties of Red Grouse on the nearby heather moor. Ravens bounce around the moor, often sharing the old and crumbling buildings dotted all over with Hoodies and Rock Doves. Oystercathcers decorate fence posts – lines of them in places.

A female Hen Harrier is glimpsed in the distance before a Short-eared Owl begins a grand performance. It starts of distantly and disappears before returning much closer. At one point it is pursued by Common Gulls which drive it closer to us and we can see its orange eyes. “I’m happy,” comments Chris. “I just wanted to see their little faces,” she adds. Just after the owl is lost, John asks Steve to look at a speck above the hill opposite “Peregrine!”. Although distant, we all get on to it but they can hardly be called great views. Shame.
After lunch we venture up to the Wasbister in the north of the island. The fields are green, have grass or barley, and the cut fields (for silage) are stuffed with birds. Hundreds of Oystercatchers, Rock Doves, Lapwings, gulls and Starlings – it’s a beautiful wildscape. At the loch we come across another one of those flocks of freshwater bathing Kittiwakes – like butterflies dancing over the loch. A pair of Mute Swans have cygnets and a sleeping swan draws “that isn’t a Mute” from John. And he is right. It lifts its head and it’s a Whooper! Well done John!
We then switch to archaeology with a visit to Mid Howe. Here is a burial chamber to impress. The 4000 year old tomb now lives within a modern building to protect this important treasure form the elements. The 23m long tomb is divided into 12 compartments known as stalls by dividing stones up to 2.5m tall. When excavated in the 1930s (when the building was put up around it), human bones were found along with pottery artefacts.

It’s a truly awe-inspiring place, and visitors view it from both ground level by the tomb’s entrance, and along an overhead gantry which allows us to look right in to the tomb (which is roofless). The overhead gantry also allows those clumsy enough to drop things onto the ancient tomb! Oh dear. Whose is that hat? “Is that my hat?” shrieks Chris. I’m afraid it is! A slight feeling of horror grips the group before the funny side kicks in and “prehistoric man wore bobblehat” headlines emerging. But how are we going to get it out? We can hardly stomp across a 4000 year old structure to rescue a hat. Nor could we leave it.

Terry grabs Margaret’s walking pole and extending it to full length, leans off the gantry to flick the hat, expertly, off the top of the wall to where it can be safely retrieved later. Phew! Whilst we are at it, we relieve the tomb of a couple of items of litter using the spike on the pole. Good show chaps!
Next to the tomb is an unrelated Iron Age broch. This is another fascinating Neolithic site showing the amazingly advanced building of 3-5000 years ago. The inside of the broch is sub-divided into working, living, sleeping and storage areas, demonstrating an advanced cultural structure and social definition of the different facets of life at the time.
Catching our breath after the hike back up the hill to the cars, Ray spots a Peregrine taking a Starling. We all get good views as the Peg heads along the coastline and out of view, presumably to a nest where the Starling will be despatched to its young.
We make our way to Trumland Wood where from the road we listen to the trees in the hope of adding some woodland birds to the trip list. A couple of Robins (new bird!) tick from below the undergrowth, and one bird is glimpsed. A Wren dances around the shadows by the stream.
Arriving back at the quay we find a noisy, bustling place. It’s been the annual Rousay Island Boat Race and there are people and all sorts of floating craft everywhere! Some grab a cold drink to quench the thirst in the warm sun before we reverse back on to the ferry for our transfer back to the Mainland.
We arrive back at the hotel an hour and half ahead of dinner, so there is plenty of time to relax, grab a drink at the bar before going in to eat. Unfortunately, our request for one table has been ignored and we eat at three separate tables. Maybe tomorrow!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Day six of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.
Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  
Our last day on Shetland dawns a very fine one, with bright sun and bright blue sky. We drive south across Mainland to Sumburgh where on arrival, two Twite bounce over uttering their buzzy calls. We spend an hour seawatching for cetaceans with no success. There is plenty of activity, though, as auks, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Shags to and fro from the nearby seacliffs which are patrolled by large predatory gulls and skuas.
Liz and Chris venture up the lighthouse road in search of Puffins and come back with smiling faces, comments such as “they are literally feet away” and some stunning digi-pics.
We retire to the Sumburgh Hotel for a cuppa (and the odd cake) before back out to the Head for more seawatching. We walk up to the lighthouse where the seabird city is at its busiest. Puffins are by far the main feature and most of us spend most of our time with them. A couple of slopes are covered in these little, brightly coloured stars and their antics are wonderful.

Nearby, we see our only Guillemot chicks of the trip, and several Shag nests with young (of various ages) and some still on eggs. Just off the cliffs, an Arctic Skua was patrolling, pursuing anything with food which it invariably managed to eject from the carry. It was more than obvious than none of the Puffins coming in were carrying food. In total only 3-4 birds were seen successfully bringing in anything to their burrows. Another indicator of a very bad season.
At the lighthouse, the staff have put some seed out for the birds and two Twite are feeding among the sparrows. The Twite are flitting around us and come as close as 15 feet! Fantastic!
We walked back to the car park for lunch and more seawatching. Out to sea, there was an increasing ‘hurry’ of Kittiwakes and terns building up. They initially formed two small groups, but over about 40 minutes a great long line of feeding birds stretching along the length of the headland had been formed. We concentrated our efforts on this area in the hope that whatever the birds were feeding on may attract a dolphin or whale. But nothing. Margaret and Terry take a walk to the top of cairn overlooking the car park and spread themselves out on the soft grass in the sun. Very summery!
We pay a quick visit to Grutness Pier for the loos (and for an Arctic Tern to defecate on Steve and Terry – hey, thanks) before heading to Lerwick and transfer straight to the ferry. We won’t go into David’s dealing in out of date sea-sickness pills!
The five and a half hour crossing yielded few avian highlights, although Ray and David bag a couple of Storm Petrels and Ray and John a lone Manx Shearwater. The coastline views of departing Shetland, the sail past Fair Isle and arriving at Orkney though are breathtaking, and most of us spend much of the time on deck. Nothing prepared us for the contrast between the high and rugged Shetland profile to the much flatter islands of the Orkney Isles.
During the crossing we are treated to a delightful meal (waiter service and as much pud as you can eat!) and do our last Shetland checklist of the holiday. Storm Petrel is voted species of Shetland, Noss as place of Shetland and our night time visit to Mousa as everyone’s magic moment of Shetland.
Arriving in the Orkney group, we first past North Ronaldsay, Sanday and Shapinsay with the clifftop lighthouse of Copinsay to the south in the distance. We swing in to the Bay of Kirkwall and dock at the new terminal at Hatston. It’s 11.00pm, so it’s quickly to the hire cars and by 11.20pm we are at the hotel ready for new adventures on a new group of islands.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Day five of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.
Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  
We leave the hotel at 8.30am after another hearty breakfast (despite the hotel running out of some cereals, muesli and sausages – what else would we have to complain about if it wasn’t for the hotel’s catering!). The early morning blue sky and bright sun had given way to the more expected overcast grey sky.
We head north to Kergord – Shetland's largest stand of trees. The first lot of trees are quiet but the adjacent cut grass field is alive with gulls, Curlews, Rooks, Starlings, Lapwings and Oystercatchers.

John asks Steve to check three of the ‘curlews’, and sure enough, once a scope is on them, they are clearly Whimbrel. They strut around the cut lines of grass showing off all their bits for us all to see. Terry then picks up a Woodpigeon on the opposite hillside, so once everyone has had their fill of Whimbrels, the scope is repositioned so everyone can get it on their trip list! Interest is so high in the Woodpig that only Chris notices that there are actually two of them!
We move on up to the main trees where a singing Goldcrest is eventually heard by someone other than Ray and Steve. “Crossbill!” shouts Ray. We all listen, but we can’t hear a thing over the din of the farm machinery in the field by us, the calling cockerels, the cooing doves and chirping sparrows! We are just heading back to the vans when Terry asks Steve what the bird on top of the pines is. “Crossbill!” yells Steve, “a female”. But within seconds it flies before anyone else can get to them. Damn! With a ferry to catch, we have no more time give it so reluctantly head off north to Toft.
We arrive at Toft just as the 10.00am ferry is being loaded. Unfortunately, the large lorry in front of us takes up the remaining space so we have to sit it out and wait for the 10.30 boat (we had more time for that Crossbill after all!). The break allows us to enjoy the ferry terminal facilities and we are soon getting stuck into the obligatory ferry terminal Red-throated Diver, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin, Rock Pipits and a very obliging Wren singing its head off from one of the building contractors signs.
We arrive on Yell and head straight for Sandwick to view Southladies Voe. It's nice and calm and overcast – perfect Otter weather. Scopes are soon up and we are scouring every inch of the water and shoreline. Tystie, Red-throated Diver, Shags, Redshank, Ringed Plover, gulls – all picked out, but no Otters. A Raven bounces around the hillside opposite and a Rock Dove flies past providing us with some of our best views to date. Just by the vans Steve finds a diminutive Mountain Pansy.
“Otter! Otter! Otter! Otter!” hails Ray. There on the nearby little rock skerry sits an Otter. We all just get on it as it slips in to the water. It immediately starts to fish, and within seconds appears with an eel which is soon dispatched. It keeps feeding, each dive seeming with something, usually too small to see. It gets closer and closer with each dive until its right below us – any closer and it will be under the bank!

Thankfully, it seems to have found a line to fish along, and for the next five or so minutes continuously dives and brings up fish after fish, more often than not a bright red-finned fish (wrasse?). Eventually, the inevitable happens and it drifts out of sight under the bank below us. We try to reposition ourselves higher up the road but can’t see it.

Our new position also kicks off the nearby nesting Golden Plovers to call so we retreat back to the vans where we see the Otter has moved further along the coast and is even closer to us but back in view. Each dive is preceded by a ‘snorkel’ as it looks under the water, and with a slight arch of the back, it slides under the water surface with a characteristic rise of the tail as it disappears almost vertically with a splash.

When it has caught a small fish, it appears back at the surface rather slowly, chomping as it hits the air. But when it has a larger prey item, it bobs right out of the water vertically revealing its shoulders before sitting higher in the water, sometimes rolling on to its back and lifting its paws to handle the fish as it devours it. 

Otter enjoying a fish (or a prayer?)

We’ve been watching it almost continuously for about 45 minutes when a Danish car pulls up, and with a slam of a door and a loud “excuse me!” from one of the occupants, the Otter makes for open water and begins to swim away from us. It keeps fishing as it goes, and eventually reaches the far side. It moves along the rocks and then comes out of the water. Fantastic!

It jumps onto a large flat rock where it suddenly stretches out flat, cat-like, as if it’s trying to hide from something. After a few seconds it jumps back down off the rocks and begins to sniff and inspect the some of the numerous holes just above the tideline. Is it hunting for rabbits? It disappears in to the odd one only to reappear, sometimes from another hole. Eventually it slips back in to the water and continues along the shore. A Tystie and a Herring Gull soon shift when they see the approaching Otter: ‘nuff respect!’.
After a quick comfort stop at the ferry terminal, we head out to Loch of Littlester for lunch. No surprises today, as we’ve already carefully checked the contents of the hamper box before leaving the hotel (who says we Speyside guides are stupid!).
After lunch, we take an early ferry back across to the Mainland and head for the harbour lights of Lerwick, and Shetland Catch for a spot of gull watching. A first-summer Iceland Gull was reported yesterday, so it should be fun trying to pick it out among the huge numbers of gulls that hand around the fish quays and processing plants.
On arrival we indeed do find huge numbers of gulls, loafing on every rooftop, around the quays, the beaches and on the sea. We start to go through them all. Nothing on first sight. The sound between us and Bressay is teeming with auks, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Eider and Grey Seals. There are loads of seals right in the quay area around the ships.

“Iceland Gull!” shouts ray and he directs us to the quay on Bressay on the other side of the sound. Among the Herring Gulls is a clearly all-white bird wandering around the quay. It’s difficult to watch as it often disappears behind the larger Herring Gulls and railings. But this isn’t a first-summer bird, it’s clearly a second-summer. Is it a different bird to yesterday? Was yesterday’s bird a first-summer? Most get a look at it before it flies up with the other gulls as a man approaches them. We lose it. Damn!
We spend five or so frantic minutes trying to locate it. Steve wanders off to get a different viewing angle of the opposite shore. With bins, he spots a white-winged gull land on the sea not far from where the Iceland was. He yells and waves to the others and gets acknowledgement they have seen it. He scopes the bird and is amazed to find a first-summer Glaucous Gull! Wow! He sprints to the group and announces that it’s a Glauc and not an Ice.

Confusion. Ray does a double check in his scope and smiles in agreement. “We’ve got both Iceland and Glaucous” he announces. We all get a view of this huge (female?) brute of a gull, with a huge head and large pinky bill with a black tip before it drifts out of view. No sooner has it gone than second-summer Iceland is picked up back in its original location. More on and off views before it takes flight and lands on the quay. Now that’s more like it. But it too does a disappearing act when it chooses to sit out of view behind the quay! Grrrrr!
We turn our attention to the very entertaining Grey Seals below us, bouncing in the sea below the docked ships. A guy on one of the ships starts to throw fish out to them and pandemonium reigns! Seals ‘bottle’ as they sit as high as they can in the water to catch fish being thrown to them. It’s like feeding time at the zoo! “Iceland Gull!” shouts Ray. Terry has spotted a bird right below us – metres away! And what’s more, it’s a first-summer! Its yesterday’s bird, and there really are two Icelands here (as well as the Glauc). Fantastic. We get great views of this close bird as it picks its way along the shore in front of us and out of view. Wonderful stuff.

1st summer Iceland Gull - one of two Ices and a Glauc seen today!

What an exciting end to the day. We climb back in to the vans jubilant with our gull-watching exploits and head back to the hotel for another entertaining evening of Shetland fare and hilarious conversation.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Day four of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.
Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  
After another ‘full’ breakfast, we head into Lerwick and take the 9.00am ferry over to Bressay. Crossing the island we check the two freshwater lochs. The first is home to the Kittiwake Bathing Club with about a dozen birds ‘flutter-bathing’. Their two-tone plumage makes them almost appear ghostly and as each one leaves the loch, it stalls and shakes itself dry in mid-air. The second of the two lochs is home to a pair of Red-throated Divers, and swimming alongside one of the adults is a fluffy chick.
We park up on the hill opposite the island of Noss – our destination for the day. After donning all our warm weather gear, rucksacks containing our day’s provisions, bins and scopes, we look like a crack military force than a group of holidaying birdwatchers!
The walk down to the landing stage is littered with families of Wheatears ‘chacking’ all around us - the Shetland name of Steyne Chakker is very apt. A Shetland Wren performs brilliantly as it hops along a dry stone wall. A Raven is sitting on the ruins of a nearby building and as we approach it takes flight and is followed by four more which were hidden from view. Over the beach an Arctic Skua harasses the Arctic Terns and Ringed Plovers run around the grassy slopes above them.
We are ferried across to Noss by one of the wardens in the Zodiac four at a time. The terns, skuas and Eider (Dunter) occupy those waiting at either end until we are all safely delivered to the Noss information centre for our brief talk about the island and its wildlife.
We set off up the island and soon discover why Stinking Geo is so called. Not that the Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Turnstone seem to mind. Bonxies are everywhere – on the ground and in the sky. Over 400 pairs breed on the island which ensures nothing else gets any peace! Walking around the southern side we see more Wheatears and the odd Grey Seal. Even the low soil cliff banks here are covered in breeding Fulmars. In fact, Fulmar seem to nest almost anywhere with several pairs up under peat cuttings on the open moorland. Over the sea there is a constant traffic of seabirds toing and froing from the island.
We arrive at the first real seabird area of Cradle Holm, a broad sea stack standing c.200ft tall. Puffins are continuously flying to and fro from their burrows. Arriving birds are quick to disappear underground and departing birds are soon airborne and heading for the sea. A couple of birds on the stack eventually stand out in the open for us scope and enjoy to the max. On the lower ledges are several pairs of Shags with young – some fluffy and some close to fledging.

Five Twite (Linties) arrive around the clifftops, flitting around sounding their presence with their buzzy calls. It’s a family party with a nice bright male and four young. The male is a bit shy and departs for the stack, but the female and young hop around right in front of us giving us great views of these little finches. Although closely related to Linnets (also known as Linties) with their streaky gingery-brown plumage and punched-in tiny bill, they actually look more like Redpolls.
We head round to view the northern side of the stack where Guillemots (Lomvies) are lined up along their nesting ledges and a good proportion of them are the northern ‘bridled’ form. Razorbills are much less numerous as they prefer the more secure hollows, holes and crevices under overhanging boulders for their nests crape. The air is thick with birds, and the sea is dotted with auks and Fulmars. One Fulmar is attracting the attention of the Bonxies as it pecks at a floating carcass. Soon six Bonxies encircle the Fulmar and drive it away and claim the carcass for their own – bullies!
We arrive at Rumble Wick with the most spectacular of the island’s views looking across to the Noup of Noss. The cliffs are white with nesting Gannets and guano! The wind is in a favourable direction so our nostrils are only filled with the occasional whiff of guano from the updrafts.

We spend a leisurely 45 minutes having lunch and taking in the sights, sounds and smell of a Gannetry in full swing. Over 8000 pairs of Gannets breed here and it’s an awesome sight - the cliffs, sea and air are all full of these huge white birds. The clouds have dispersed and we enjoy lunch under a brilliant blue sky and full, warm sun.

For the first time this week, layers are being shed instead of donned! This allows us time to study the goings on of the Gannetry more closely - young birds attempting to land on the breeding ledges are soon driven away by angry adults; parents tend to their large fluffy white bundles laid at their large flipper-like feet; arriving birds are greeted with bill claps and growls, which is followed by bill touching and usually mutual preening; neighbour disputes are commonplace, with outstretched bill pointing at one another; birds adjusting their nests; and even some birds taking a nap (yes, in this noise!).  

The Noup of Noss - one of the best lunch spots in the world!

Where we are sat birds pass by within a few metres of us – Gannets, Fulmars, Bonxies, gulls, Arctic Skuas – all sweeping effortlessly past on the updrafts from below. At times, these updrafts are like escalators, lifting bird vertically up the face of the cliff and in to the sky. The air is full of feathers and other lightweight detritus brought up from the nests below on the updrafts with spinning feathers heading skywards.
We move on and take the gruelling walk up the steepest bit of the island up to the Noup. The seacliffs aren’t only home to birds, but are host to a wonderful array of flowers including Roseroot, Scots Lovage, Sea Campion, Thrift and Sea Mayweed. Rock Pipits and Starlings scour these faces for food, and the grassy tops are host to Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. Reaching the top, some of the ‘elders’ among us comment that it’s the younger members of the party to make it to the top last! The cheek.
We catch our breath at the top before descending down the northern side of the island. The many geos are stuffed with even more Fulmars and patrolling skuas and gulls. This side of the island is normally littered with eggs predated by gulls, but only a couple are found. This, together with not a single Guillemot egg or young seen on the ledges, in another indication of the failure of those seabirds which depend on Sandeels. Noss usually holds over 20,000 pairs of Guillies – but there is nowhere near this number present today.
In one geo we are lucky to find a lone Tystie sat up on a rock. It looks very nervous and ready to fly off, but we manage to get our scope up and on to it for all to enjoy super-close views of this cave-nesting auk. It settles and we get great views of its red feet, red inner mouth and the velvety texture of its brilliant white wing patches. 

A tasty little Tystie - second only to Puffin for aukish good looks

We pass by a very noisy Arctic Tern colony which erupts when a Bonxie comes over looking for a meal. The terns fill the air with their deafening cries as they chase off the intruder before returning to the boulder area.
We arrive back at the information centre weary from our walk, and are ferried back across to the Bressay side in three loads. The skuas are still harassing the terns, and the walk back up to the car park is again peppered with young Wheatears. We head straight back to the ferry to Lerwick where we make a quick stop for banks and tick off the King and Queen of Norway (we think!). We are soon back at the hotel and eager for our dinner (but have to wait over an hour!), but it is as entertaining as usual!

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Day three of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki. 

Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  
We descend to a late breakfast and don’t get away from the hotel until after 10.00am. It’s going to be a lazy day after last night’s late return. We wind our way down to Quarff and spend the next hour and a half searching the voe and nearby coastline for Otters. Unfortunately, there's no sign, but the usual assortment of coastline birds including Arctic Terns being chased by Artic Skuas (and vice-versa), Cormorants on the fishcages (popular!), Black Guillemots, Red-throated Divers and waders.

The main entertainment was provided by Hakki, a local, chatty five-year old who arrived on his bicycle and introduced himself, his brother (Haldin) and Mum and Dad (Valerie and Brian but he “just calls them Mum and Dad”). We thought we had lost him at one point, but he returned with Haldin to continue his performance (capped by his questioning of a holidaying couple nearby “What are you going in there for? What’s that wire across the gate for?”).
We leave Hakki and Haldin (thankfully!) and head southwards to Bigton to view St Ninian’s Isle and the sand-topped tombolo – the only one in Shetland. There are loads of Fulmars dotted around the voe, and the cliffs of the island are covered in nesting birds. We get our best views to date of Puffins (Tammy Nories), with several sat out on the water. A roadside stop for photos of the island provides us with Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Large White butterflies, and in Bigton we take the chance for some ice cream indulgence.
We arrive at a quiet Loch of Spiggie for lunch to find the hotel have excelled again in providing one too few rolls in the lunch box and no sugar for the teas and coffees (at least they consistently forget something everyday!).

We have lunch in the company of bathing gulls and terns with several of the Kitiwakes and Arctic Terns sat out on the fence posts drying off. Two Greylag Geese are stood on the far side of the loch and a wander up the road provides a couple of roosting Common Terns on the rocks. The fields are full of Oystercatchers who periodically take off and chase it other round in their inimitable noisy fashion (turn it down!).

We move round the loch to an area of shallow pools along the south side which provides much more interest. The most obvious bird is a Whooper Swan and whilst looking at it we find a group of four Wigeon, including a couple of smart males with golden foreheads. A Grey Heron stands sentinel-like along the pool edge, and a family  of Moorhens pick their way along the muddy ground. On the far side of the loch is a Mute Swan and a second Whooper is seen in the distance on nearby smaller loch. Ray then spots the first of three Goldeneye (two females and a male), before Steve yells “Quail!”. Ray, Terry and Margaret all hear it, but despite cupping our ears for some time, we don’t hear it again. Up to 40 Bonxies are bathing in the loch – one of the largest concentration we have seen, and a lone Raven drifts silently over.
We move on towards the Pool of Virkie, picking up another three Ravens in roadside fields. We arrive at Virkie to what at first glance appears to be a rather dead high tide pool. The single Redshank and Ringed Plover fly off as we get out of the vans. Steve quickly picks up four Shelduck on the far side, and closer examination of the shore reveals dozens of Ringed Plovers (including lots of juvvies) and several Dunlin. John calls a Common Sandpiper, but it duly disappears and none of us get on to it. A Swallow flies around the nearby houses and a couple of juvenile Pied Wagtails pick at flies along the high tide line. Wheatears are dotted around and another Raven drifts over (its turning into a good day for Ravens).
With the pool exhausted, and with the tide dropping, we make an end of day call in to Boddam Voe for another Otter watch. The voe is relatively quiet. A derelict building is busy with nesting Starlings and House Sparrows, but the shoreline is deserted. The hillside opposite holds a gang of six Ravens (told you it was a Raven day) and over at the top of the voe is a lone seal stretched out on a rock. We move along to get a better view of the seal which turns out to be one of the few Common Seals of the week so far. It stays put, outstretched on the rock occasionally wriggling its flippers or scratching an itch. Redhanks, Curlew and Ringed Plovers pick around in the seaweed around it.
With still no sign of Otters we depart for the hotel to relax and for some to enjoy a drink before another sumptuous meal, entertaining conversation and the day’s checklist.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Day two of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.

Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John , Margaret & Terry.  

We wake to an overcast sky with dark, threatening clouds in the west. Conversation over breakfast centres round most peoples’ first experience of the Simmer Din – 24 hour daylight!
Departure was delayed waiting for hot flasks to take with us, so we arrive at Toft for our ferry with only minutes to spare. No time for terminal birding and looking for Otters, it was straight onboard and onwards to Yell. The short crossing was calm with birds to look at in every direction. Our first sight of all the auks including quite close Black Guillemots (Tysties), Fulmars (Maalies), Shags (Scarfs) and many Gannets (Solan Geese) including several in full dive. Fantastic!
We drive straight across Yell aiming for our next ferry. The only deviation is when Steve is certain he glimpsed an Otter rolling just offshore in a voe below the main road. A side road just in the right place takes us down to a very convenient quay from which to search the shoreline. No Otter, but a really close Tystie and two Grey Seals out in the voe. Ray’s van chance in on a Shetland Wren (Robbie Cuddue or Speyside’s own preferred name of Scurry Mousie!) perched on a fence along the side road.
We arrive at Gutcher in plenty of time for the ferry so can spend some time searching the shoreline. House Sparrows and Pied Wagtails bob around the old quay while a large flock of Arctic Terns are sat loafing on a pool behind the Post Office. A couple of Rock Pipits are busy bouncing around the rocks (where else?) and two Red-throated Divers are feeding in the sheltered bay, 'snorkelling' with heads in the water before sliding underr in pursuit of their quarry.

A beach on a nearby island is covered in Shags which take to the water in unison. But not all are Shags. Two birds head back to the beach with as mall group of Shags and are clearly larger – Cormorants. A couple of Arctic Skuas (Skooty Allans) wheel about in the middle distance and a Golden Plover is found wandering among the sheep. Bonxies are ever present patrolling the mini cliffs on which Fulmars are breeding. Just before we get on the ferry three Red-breasted Mergansers (Herald) land in the bay giving us excellent views.
The 25 minute ferry crossing to Fetlar gives us more and even better views of all the auks and more Gannets diving headlong in to the sea. We arrive on Fetlar and driving across the island we pick up a whole host of roadside goodies including Hooded Crow, Wheatear (Steyne Chakker), a lone Golden Plover (Plivver) and a couple of Rock Doves. As we approach Funzie we pass the strangely named planticrubs, circular stone structures built to provide shelter for crops.
Arriving at Loch of Funzie (pronounced Finnie) a couple of Red-necked Phalaropes take off from the loch as we pull up. We are soon out of the vans and searching the loch. No phalaropes. One, two, no three Red-throated Divers were along the far shore where a large group of Arctic Terns was loafing on the pebble beach. The fact that we were finding so many groups of terns jut loafing around was a sure sign of yet another failed year due to lack of Sandeels. A single summer-plumaged Dunlin (Plivver’s Page) was bathing in the loch edge near the terns and a lone adult Kittiwake drifted across the loch and landed among the terns. Bonxies and Great Black-backed Gulls (Swaarbies) regularly floated over on the lookout for food and three Swallows zig-zagged by.
The northerly wind was biting so we retreated to the vans for a hot drink before wandering down to the hide overlooking the Mires of Funzie. As we approached Ray and Steve spot a small bird on one of the pools. ‘Phalarope’ they announce and quickly get scopes on to it. We each get a look at this male bird through the scope before quickly moving on to the hide. When we get there the male is feeding in the reed edge right in front us. “He’s lovely,” comments Daphne, whilst various “wows”, “fantastic” and “crackin’!” are also muttered. Steve and Ray explain about the reverse plumage and roles of the sexes in phalaropes, and about the history of the site, and how, by the 1980s the mires had dried out, and the RSPB had since restored them to attract breeding phalaropes.
Unusually someone was wandering around the mires being mobbed by up to three phalaropes. Carrying a ‘bird bag’ he was clearly a ringer and after a short while he seemed to concentrate his efforts on one area, bent down picked up something before sitting down. He had obviously found some young phalaropes and was now ringing them. During this, at least one male and a female came on to the pools right in front of us giving us brilliant views. The birds mobbing the ringer were making contact at times, before he turned and left the marsh. He came in to the hide to explain what he was doing and that he had successfully found and ringed two phalarope chicks, and they were from one of three nests they had on the marsh this year.
The mires held other interest too – Snipe, Redshank, Mallard and a brilliant ginger-headed Shetland Bee. An Arctic Skua causes commotion when it drifts over the mires trying to locate young waders to dine on. Two Redshanks are soon on to it and drive it off.
With hunger getting the better of us, we make our way back to the vans. On the way come across a blotchy young Wheatear along the fence line and see another Shetland Bee.
With one place just as exposed as the other on Fetlar, we drive up to the old airstrip for lunch. During lunch we are entertained by a pair of dark-phase Arctic Skuas wheeling around over the moor – synchronised flying at its best! Lunch over we move the vans along the airstrip to view the shallow valley and loch.

There are two Red-throated Divers on the water when suddenly everything takes up from the moor as a Bonxies comes over low. Two Whimbrel and a pair of Curlew are immediately attacking this big brown brute. Dunlin are heard but not seen, and as the Bonxie is driven off, birds begin to drift back to their respective areas, allowing us to follow one of the two Whimbrel back to earth. Scopes are soon trained on to this smaller cousin of the Curlew and we can see its much shorter, all dark bill. Whilst watching it stood alert in the rough grass, at least one young can be seen creeping around near it.
After a visit to the quay for loos, we head over to Tresta beach. Another loafing group of Arctic Terns on the beach holds a single Common Tern and we are able to do a side-by-side comparison of these two similar species. Around 40 Bonxies are spread out between the beach and a ‘bathing club’ on the edge of the nearby freshwater loch. A family of Ringed Plovers run around the beach below us, and are joined by a couple of Dunlin. In the voe there is Tystie, Eiders and Razorbills, and the hundreds of Fulmars are dotted around the grassy cliffs which rise high out of the voe.

Ray picks up a distant summer plumaged Great Northern Diver. Although distant we can still see its large size, thick black neck and head and white chest gleaming above the surface of the sea. We watch it for quite a long time as it drift slowly closer towards us, but when it begins to feed, it spends longs periods underwater and disappears behind the headland.

A pale phase Arctic Skua streaks past us and makes a bee-line for the terns. The whole flock rise from the beach and there are terns everywhere as the skua begins harrying them in the hope one has prey. They don’t and it loses interest and drifts off. A Shetland Wren sings from a nearby garden when ‘tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu-tu’ is heard. “Whimbrel” Steve and Ray announce simultaneously. We eventually pick up the bird, calling continuously, heading straight for them from the west and it passes directly overhead.
We get back to Oddsta in good time for the ferry, but we are packed on to the small ferry like sardines so we can’t get out to enjoy the sea views. It’s straight across Yell and on to the Toft ferry and before we know it we are back at the hotel.
We enjoy a sumptuous dinner before heading back to our rooms to get ready for our evening trip to Mousa. After such a cold day, it’s going to be a night to wrap up warm and get as many layers as possible on. Chris isn’t taking any chances, and informs us that she will be OK as “I’ve got my pyjamas on under all this lot!”.
At 10.30pm we are back in the vans and heading south across Mainland to meet up with Tom Jamieson, skipper of the Solan IV, the Mousa ferry. At 11.00pm we leave the quay and speed across the sound to the small island of Mousa. We land and take the 20 minute walk to the broch. The boulder beaches by the broch are bursting into life, with the churring and hiccupping sounds of Storm Petrels (Alamooties). At the broch some climb to the top of this 2000-year structure. It’s a fascinating place, and to think that ancient Man shared the building with Storm Petrels – wonderful! By the entrance, Tom Jamieson has located a sitting Stormie and using a torch with a special filter, illuminates the hole for us all to look in to. What a fantastic sight! A wee Stormie just sitting there on its single egg.
We spend the next hour or so watching the Stormies coming in to the broch and the nearby boulder beach. Birds whizz round at all heights, fluttering at their nest holes before disappearing inside. One bird keeps returning to one spot for over 10 minutes, seemingly fluttering nowhere near a nest hole! It gives us very good views though. In the half-light Snipe continue to drum and the odd gull patrols the coast in search of a slow returning Stormie to snack on.
We reluctantly drag ourselves away from the spectacle and head back to the bat and return to the hotel – at 2.00am! Still- it’s a late breakfast in the morning.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Day one of my Shetland & Orkney trip for Speyside Wildlife with fellow guide Ray Nowicki.

Guests: Liz, Chris, Joan, June, Daphne & David , Mary & John, Margaret & Terry.
Ray and I meet the group at Inverness Airport and we take the short flight to Kirkwall, Orkney (spying Short-eared Owl and Curlew on the Kirkwall airport) and then on to Sumburgh, Shetland. We are soon in the vehicles and travelling north across Mainland, taking in the new scenery and our first views of Great Skuas and Fulmars flying along the side of the road!
After checking in to the hotel, we head off along the Loch of Tingwall. Our first sight is one of the rarest to be seen anywhere in Britain – Whooper Swans with six cygnets. Around the loch shores we found Curlew and Oystercatcher, both with large young, and on the loch, Tufted Duck ducklings. Several Arctic Terns are sweeping to and fro, hovering, dipping into the loch for prey. One bird sits on a fence post for us to get a good look at it. The fields above the lock had recently been cut and where covered with loafing gulls and feeding Starlings. A few rabbits were dotted around.

At the loch’s island, the Black-headed Gulls have already fledged and the blotchy brown young are busy in the lochside fields searching for food. The Common Gull’s are just fledging and some young are sat out on rocks just off the island while some adults were still clearly sitting. On the same rocks, a lone female Red-breasted Merganser is sat out preening, her punky hair-do and orange legs easy to see.
A little further along the loch we stop to enjoy one of the brilliant loch side flower meadows. The area is covered with the bright pink of Ragged Robin and the yellow of Meadow Buttercup. Large Yellow Iris beds stand high above the meadows which also contain Marsh Lousewort, Marsh Stitchwort, Northern Marsh Orchid and Marsh Arrowgrass. The sheer number and intensity of colour of the flowers is fantastic.

Cartman with anal probe - a genuine Shetland hand-carved cement ornament

Above the loch, Fulmars are nesting on the crags below the towering and noisy wind turbines, and a couple of birds bathe in the edge of the loch just off the far shore. After admiring the hand-carved cement ornaments (I kid you not), Daphne spots a bird bathing and preening off the far shore. It’s the weeks first Red-throated Diver (Rain Goose). Scopes are soon up and we are enjoying better views of the preening diver, legs flapping, and the occasional glimpse of a red throat. On the nearby shore a lone Redshank flits around flashing its white wing patches.

‘Trrr-trrr-trrrr-trrr-trrr’. ‘Lesser Whitethroat!’ shouts Steve. He and Ray swing round and immediately latch on to it hopping around a bush in the nearby garden. ‘Trrr-trrr-trrrr-trrr-trrr’ - it sings its dry rattling song again. John gets a brief view, but despite its constant singing, we don’t see it again as it moves around the thicket of garden bushes.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

FOOTIE Greece 1 - 0 Czech Republic
Well who'd a thought it! The Greeks certainly had the Gods on their side and were worthy winners of another excellent Euro 2004 match. Let's hope the final lives up to expectations.
It's been another busy week with little birding or wildlife watching. Last weekend was taken up with a BOURC meeting and this week by moving the BOU office from Tring to Oxford.

Today tho, moth trapping overnight added some interest, with Dot Moth and The Clay added to the garden list. Also, driving along the Perkins Parkway in Peterborough a Hobby was mobbing a Grey Heron - good stuff!