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.

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