It has been an unusual winter for us so far, with fairly calm weather, the odd day of gales and lots of snow! We don’t usually get too much snow here and when we do it doesn’t last long, however this month has been a different story. We had a bit of snow on the 9th/10th February along with a cold snap. It was lovely for walking, cool, crisp conditions and a lovely light.

Gyre Road in snow
A snowy Gyre Road, Orphir

There was more snow to follow on Valentines weekend, (13th/14th February) with heavy snowfall along with gale force winds which led to severe drifting in some areas. The main Kirkwall to Stromness road was closed by the local police for a period overnight. Here’s a link to the Orcadian and a story about the weekend https://www.orcadian.co.uk/oic-thank-community-spirit-after-wintery-weekend/

Icicles
Icicles, Orphir

I was busy keeping the birds fed during this spell, all the usual suspects were enjoying the food – House Sparrows, Starlings, Dunnocks and Blackbirds. But it was also nice to see the Greenfinches returning, along with a Robin and it was a real treat to see a Chaffinch – a rarity for my garden!

Garden Birds
Chaffinch, House Sparrows & a Blackbird

Thankfully the snow has gone for now, and we have had a fairly calm, mild spell of weather. Spring is definitely in the air now, I have lots of bulbs through in the garden, and because of the calm spell, I am getting a good show from the Crocuses, Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and Irises.

Winter Aconites & Snowdrops
Winter Aconites & Snowdrops
Dwarf Irises
Dwarf Irises

In order to give myself a challenge, I have signed up to Walk All Over Cancer in March. This involves walking 10,000 steps every day in March to raise money for Cancer Research UK. I will post some updates on my progress on my Facebook page, and you will also be able to read about it in my March news post.

Walks & Wildlife

Pink-footed Geese
Pink-footed Geese, Orphir

During the snowy cold spells, there was still plenty wildlife to see while I was out on my daily walks, plus there are signs of Spring appearing. I heard my 1st Skylarks singing on the 21st February. That is a bit later than I usually hear them, but perhaps the cold weather delayed them.

There have been plenty of geese about recently, and with snow coverage in many fields they tended to congregate on the fields which were still green. This video shows a mixed flock of Pink-footed and Greylag geese which were disturbed by a passing lorry. Can you hear the higher pitched “wink wink” calls of the Pink Feets?

Most of my walks have been around my local patch partly due to the weather and my reluctance to drive in the snow. I’ve had a few walks over the Scorradale road, where I’ve been lucky enough to see a small flock of Redpolls flitting about in the trees, but these ones in the photo below were rooting around the ground for food.

Redpolls
Redpolls, Orphir

Most of the local Rooks were posing very nicely for me one day, all lined up on the fence, but there’s always one who has to be different!

Rooks
Rooks

There have also been flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares on my local patch during the cold spell which I often encountered whilst walking. The Fieldfares weren’t keen on having their photos taken, but I did manage to get a short video of some Redwings.

Redwings feeding

There are some wildflowers appearing now, I have seen Lesser Celandine in flower, in the more sheltered ditches, Pink Purslane in the woods and of course daisies, dandelions and gorse. I spotted these Dead Man’s Fingers on one of my recent Hidden Gem walks, they are a type of fungus which grows on dead wood.

Dead Man's Fingers
Dead Man’s Fingers

On a recent walk at the Sands of Evie, we were lucky enough to spot lots of waders along the beach which included Ringed Plovers, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, Dunlin, Oystercatchers and Curlews. This is a beautiful walk, and is somewhere I would like to include in my wildlife walks when I restart them again.

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper, Evie

As we move into March, the weather has remained very calm and still. Although it is nice, I also feel like we are due a big winter storm, and it could happen yet.

Keep safe everyone!

Dunnock
Dunnock