Snowy Road
Snowy Road, Orphir

Unusually, for Orkney, the weather in January has been fairly calm, with some lovely frosty and snowy days. There has been the odd day of gale force winds, but nothing too wild and we certainly haven’t been affected by any of the storms experienced in other parts of the country.

I attended a couple of webinars this month, organised by VisitScotland and Business Gateway. These have been set up to help tourism businesses like myself, find a way through this pandemic.

Sundog
Sundog, Orkney

On a walk this month, I noticed there were 2 bright spots either side of the sun, one of which I managed to get a photo of on my phone. When I returned home, I discovered they were called Sundogs. This website explains what causes them https://www.atoptics.co.uk/halo/dogfm.htm

Wildlife & Walks

I met up with family for a walk at Marwick Head on the 2nd of January. It was a lovely day, albeit a cold Northerly wind. It was a bit quiet for birdlife, and unfortunately I spotted a Stoat along the clifftop. Stoats are not native to Orkney and are a threat to many of our breeding birds – Short-eared Owls, Hen Harriers and waders like Curlews, Snipe, Redshanks, etc. The Orkney Native Wildlife Project has been set up to eradicate Stoats and other non-native wildlife from our islands.

Stoat
Stoat, Marwick Head, Orkney
Marwick Head, Orkney
Marwick Head, Orkney

The next day involved a local twitch to see this gorgeous Velvet Scoter in Finstown Bay.

Velvet Scoter
Velvet Scoter, Finstown

I recently enjoyed a spot of birding and wildlife watching on a frosty and sunny day. Frost and snow on the seashore is a bit of a novelty here! The winter months can be a good time to see our elusive otters and within a couple of minutes, I had spotted a female otter swimming towards the shore with a fish, where she was greeted by her cubs. See the short video below. They are such a delight to watch and I never tire of seeing them.

I also got really nice views of a Great Northern Diver fishing close to me as I wandered along the shore.

Although it’s a bit early for most wildflowers yet, there are signs of life appearing with leaves of Lesser Celandine and Scurvy Grass. I found this Pink Purslane flowering quite early on the 30th January, and some of the early crocuses in my garden have buds, although are not fully open yet.

Pink Purslane
Pink Purslane

On the 31st January, while out walking there was a Robin singing away and the Blackbirds in the garden are getting frisky. I spent an hour on Sunday morning participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, I had 10 species, which is good for my garden.

I’ve also been very lucky to have a flock of Golden Plovers and Lapwings in the fields around my house. The Golden Plovers look really stunning in the soft winter light. Keep an eye on my Facebook page for updates on them and other wildlife sightings. https://www.facebook.com/wildorkneywalks

Returning from a walk the other day, I got a brief view of a raptor disappearing into a dip in the field, was it a Sparrowhawk or a Peregrine? When we walked round, I had a quick scan of fence posts, then noticed a pile of white feathers with a Peregrine in attendance. It had taken down a Common Gull and was plucking away at the carcass.

It is not often you get the chance to watch such a powerful hunter for a long period of time. I was so impressed by the size and beauty of this female Peregrine and it was a real privilege to see her devouring her last meal of the day. One of those wonderful wildlife moments that take you by surprise.

January drew to a close with a calm spell of weather and a few snow showers. I wonder what February will bring?

Keep safe everyone.

Hoy Hills
View of Hoy hills from Brodgar