After a busy month in June, enquiries eased off at the beginning of July but it did give me a chance to catch up on some much needed admin work. I have been able to attend some webinars this month, which were organised by Business Gateway. These have included a variety of subjects including Photography for Online Businesses, Instagram for Business and Search Engine Optimisation.

I have been busy working on a programme of daily wildlife walks for the Orkney International Science Festival. The programme for this year’s festival was announced last week, and I have been writing descriptions for each walk, for both the website and tickets. I have also created special Terms & Conditions for Science Festival bookings. Check out the website for more information and to book.

Swanbister Bay
Swanbister Bay, Orkney

July has been an incredibly dry month in Orkney, in fact we had a very dry Spring followed by a dry summer, and this has resulted in a water shortage! Scottish Water have been asking Orkney residents to be careful with water usage, so we have been trying to conserve water where possible. It’s a good excuse to only wash the dishes once a day, however, the garden vegetables are suffering. I am pleased to say, that as I write this, it is raining today – never have I been so happy to see rain falling!

Walks & Tours

Although enquiries have been a bit quieter this month, I have still had a few walk bookings with some Evening Wildlife Walks and a couple of walks at Mull Head. Mull Head is a local nature reserve, and a really lovely area to walk with a nice variety of seabirds, waders, wildflowers and at this time of year, butterflies and insects. There is always the chance of seeing cetaceans too, and on one of my walks we saw a couple of Harbour Porpoises.

Mull Head, Deerness
Mull Head, Deerness

I have been working on some Bespoke walks that I have booked in for August. One of these is a linear walk from Yesnaby to Stromness. For this, I have arranged a taxi to take us to Yesnaby, and we will then walk along the coastline back to Stromness. This stretch of coastline has stunning scenery and views, as well as a lovely variety of wildflowers, butterflies and seabirds. There is always the chance of seeing cetaceans along the west coast too, as we did a few weeks ago walking in the opposite direction from Stromness to Yesnaby.

Risso’s Dolphins, Yesnaby

The 2nd Bespoke walk that I have been working on is a day trip to Hoy with a family. For this, we will use the passenger ferry that runs from Stromness to the North of Hoy, and take the minibus service to Rackwick. From here, we will enjoy a wildlife walk to the Old Man of Hoy and back to Rackwick. This is a really lovely walk to do with great views of the Old Man of Hoy, and a nice variety of wildlife to be seen along the way.

Rackwick, Hoy

Orkney Island Trips

I have managed a few island trips this month although only to 2 islands, with us having 4 trips to Hoy and a trip to Stronsay. Some of these, my partner was working on the islands, so I go along for a walk and then we meet up and spend the rest of the day wildlife watching.

Wildflowers
Wildflowers, Orkney

Stronsay is a beautiful island, with lots of lovely beaches, cliffs and walks. On a day out to Stronsay, I was walking past a field with Sedge Warblers calling and Snipe drumming, when I heard a Corncrake calling! Orkney is at the most northerly point of the Corncrake’s breeding range and we do get a few each year, but as they tend to prefer calling late at night, I don’t always get to hear them. It was wonderful to listen to it calling, and when I got home I reported it to the Conservation Officer with RSPB Orkney.

Stronsay beach
Stronsay beach

National Dragonfly Week was the 17th – 25th July this year, so my partner and I managed to fit in 3 trips to Hoy during that time surveying various sites. My partner is the county recorder for dragonflies, and he organises a guided walk every year during National Dragonfly Week. Obviously, this wasn’t able to go ahead last year, so it was great to be able to do it this year with 8 people coming along. Despite the overcast conditions, we did manage to find the 6 species of dragon and damselfly you would expect to see at this one site on Hoy. Here’s photos of 3 of the species we saw.

Orkney has 8 species of damselfly and dragonfly but not all are easy to see due to the habitat/locations where you can find them. We were chuffed to find 7 species on the last Sunday of National Dragonfly week, and surveyed some new sites. The 8 species you can find in Orkney are – Large Red, Blue Tailed, Common Blue and Emerald damselflies, and of the dragonflies – Black Darter, Common Hawker, Golden Ringed and Four Spotted Chaser. The only one we didn’t see on the Sunday was the Four Spotted Chaser as they like to share their pools with Red-Throated Divers which are a protected species.

I was really pleased to get some nice photos of Common Hawkers resting on vegetation, and I was even more delighted to see my 1st Golden Ringed dragonflies in Orkney! Having seen them south earlier this year, it was fantastic to see them here in Orkney and be able to recognise them as they whizzed past.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly
Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Orkney Wildlife

I love to see the wildlife changing from month to month, and especially the different colour combinations of the wildflowers. In July, you can find Grass of Parnassus flowering on the clifftops, while the rare Primula Scotica is in it’s 2nd flowering of the year. It’s also a time for Devil’s Bit Scabious and Wild Angelica. Grass of Parnassus is one of my favourite wildflowers, it’s such a beautiful flower with an exquisite name. On recent walks, I have also seen lots of Yarrow and a couple of the tiny Frog Orchids.

The wealth of wildflowers provide a real haven and food source for our insects. This month I’ve seen lots of Common Blue and Meadow Brown butterflies, both in the garden and while out on walks, as well as Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells, Large Heath, Green Veined White and Large White butterflies.

There are also a few caterpillars around just now, I saw my first Vapourer Moth caterpillar recently, and I have also seen Northern Eggar Moth and Emperor Moth caterpillars.

This summer, I have really enjoyed watching the variety of insects and hoverflies in my garden, and I am slowly getting to know and recognise some of the hoverflies that I regularly see, but it’s not always easy to photograph them as they are constantly moving. Here’s a video I took of a hoverfly – Rhingia Campestris (aka Big Nose) in a Rosa Rugosa flower.

Many of the seabirds are now coming to the end of their breeding season, and I am pleased to say that they seem to have had a better year. Most of the Guillemots and Razorbills have fledged with their chicks, but there are still Puffins and Tysties (Black Guillemots) on the cliffs, a well as Fulmars with their cute chicks, or fluffballs as I like to call them!

Fulmar Chick
Fulmar Chick

As July came to an end, I managed to fit in a nice walk with a friend, walking from Black Craig back to Stromness, and we saw some beautiful wildflowers, some of which were new to me – Tansy, Adder’s Tongue and some Field Gentians.