Well, I think the most exciting thing to have happened this month, was getting my first Covid vaccine! NHS Orkney have been holding mass vaccination clinics, initially at the Balfour Hospital, but then using the Pickaquoy Centre. I was very impressed with the organisation of this, both in advance and on the day. NHS Orkney produced this video to guide you through what to expect.
I was absolutely delighted to get mine on Saturday 20th March, even though it meant missing part of the Six Nations rugby! I have to admit to suffering from some side effects in the week after which included a sore arm, and extreme lethargy, but it’ll be worth it. The second vaccine should follow in approx. 8-12 weeks time.
You may remember from my February post that I had signed up to Walk All Over Cancer in March, walking 10,000 steps every day. I have to say that some days were easier than others, and of course I had no idea when signing up that I would be getting my Covid vaccine during March, which did hamper my efforts for a few day. However, at the end of the month I had walked 310,936 steps, so I achieved my goal of 10,000 steps per day and raised £345 for Cancer Research UK.
The weather in March has been a mixed bag, and more typical of an Orcadian winter with a mixture of weather, some windy and wet days, but some lovely sunny Spring days too. We’re still waiting for a big blow, which may be coming Easter weekend if the forecast is to be believed.
As I write this, it is still unclear when I will be able to re-open and I am following the updates closely. Restrictions will be easing on mainland Scotland from the 26th April, when they will move from Tier 4 to Tier 3. There is talk of holiday accommodation opening up, and travel restrictions being eased, so the tourism sector can re-open. However, the situation for the islands, who are currently in Tier 3, remains unclear, and discussions about what might happen here are still ongoing. My hope, is that tourism will also be able to restart in Orkney.
Walks in March
I have enjoyed lots of lovely walks this month, and as I was aiming for 10,000 steps per day I was walking 3-5 miles most days. The first weekend in March, my partner and I explored our local patch with a longer walk (20,000 steps). We took a walk up Houton Head and along the Scapa Flow coastline, then cut up a farm track to join the main road. From here, we then headed up Scorradale, to the trig point on Midland Hill, which is above Houton. Instead of coming back down the road, we ventured along a track, which took us down past some old crofts to the main road.
On a walk at Marwick, I did a slightly bigger circular route taking in the cliffs and RSPB reserve. Down at the bay, I got good views of cormorants and swans in the choin, and I saw a few Brown Hares in the fields.
Other walks this month, have included Yesnaby, one of my favourite bits of coastline. No matter what time of year there is always something interesting to see there including some very colourful lichens.
Newark in Deerness, is a lovely stretch of beach and coastline with views over to the uninhabited island of Copinsay. I have had 2 walks there this month, both on beautiful sunny days. Unfortunately, this is a stretch of beach where many creatures can wash up dead, and on one of our walks, we found several dead seal pups, a porpoise and lots of auks (guillemots and razorbills). Although this is sad to see, it is nature taking its course and these carcasses will be a valuable food source for other wildlife during the winter months.
It is not all doom and gloom though, there is lots of other lovely wildlife to see, and depending on the state of the tide, it is a great place to see a variety of waders and wildfowl.
On my recent walks, I have been thinking ahead to the summer season and new places I could take visitors for walks, where we can get off the beaten track. I will update these on my website and Facebook page, so keep an eye out for further news on this coming soon.
Spring has definitely sprung this month and there has been lots to see whilst out and about on walks. The Brown Hares have been very active and I have seen hares on most of my walks and from my kitchen window. When I walked at Marwick recently, I counted no less than 14 hares on a circular walk. Many were mate guarding, where the males protect their female, however, there would usually be a 3rd hare nearby, likely to be another male hoping to get a chance to mate with the female.
March is a good time to see hares boxing, I always thought it was the males fighting with each other for the chance to mate with the female, but it is the female fighting off unwanted attention from the males. They are such wonderful animals, and always a joy to watch, however I did find filming them rather tricky especially when they were running as they are very fast! Here’s a video I took of Brown Hares in a field at Marwick.
The wildflowers are starting to add some colour to the verges and countryside now, and it is very much a yellow time of year. Around my patch, there is Coltsfoot, Lesser Celandine, Marsh Marigolds, Primroses and Dandelions – all yellow! Of the non-yellow flowers, there are Daisies, Butterbur and Scurvy Grass.
I have seen a few early Bumblebees around the garden, mostly busy around the Willow catkins and the Flowering Currants. There are also lots of catkins on the Alders this year.
I really love it when the birds start singing, on my patch I can hear Curlews bubbling, Skylarks and Stonechats singing, the display calls of waders like Redshanks, and Oystercatchers pleeping at night. Below is a video I took of Skylarks this month, if you listen closely you should be able to hear both their song and their contact call.
On my local patch, the Slavonian Grebes are moving into their summer plumage, and the Tysties (Black Guillemots) have been in summer plumage for a while. A Raven nest which I found last Spring with young in it (they successfully fledged 4 young last year) is occupied again, so fingers crossed they are successful this year.
Despite, their being snow and gales forecast for Easter weekend, it is pleasing to see and hear nature coming alive again after the winter. I will leave you for now with this short video of a pair of Mute Swans I saw recently.
Stay safe and happy April!