May has been an interesting month for weather – we’ve had everything – wind, rain, sun and even snow! I’ve gone from wearing shorts one day, to winter woollies the next, and then back to shorts! Orkney remained in lockdown until the 28th May, when Nicola Sturgeon confirmed we were moving into Phase 1. Now, I can meet with 1 household as long as we remain outdoors and 2m apart, and I can travel approx. 5 miles for my daily exercise. It is nice being able to meet up with friends again, albeit one at a time. I have continued to explore more of my local patch, finding more walks that I haven’t done before and I finally made it up my local Ward Hill in Orphir. I have also explored a new bay which is tucked away, see photo below.

View of Bay of Myre and Hoy
Bay of Myre, Orphir

This month, I was involved with organising a Virtual Garden Bioblitz with Orkney Field Club. It was great to be involved with setting this up and gave me something different to focus on. The bioblitz was over a 24 hour period from 12pm on Saturday 30th to 12pm on Sunday 31st May. It was a huge success with lots of people taking part. We had various experts on hand via our Facebook group and on Twitter to help with identification. I learnt so much about the insects in my garden, now I just need to try and remember it!

Wildlife News

May is a great month for wildlife, although I am still missing the seabird cliffs, and more importantly Puffins. But there is plenty time yet for me to get out and see them as they are here till the end of July.

There are lots of wildflowers out – Spring Squill, Kidney Vetch, Thrift, Birds Foot Trefoil, Sea Campion, Lousewort, Cuckooflower, orchids, etc. I was very excited to find some Mountain Everlasting on one of my patch walks but I have been waiting for a less windy day to go back and photograph it.

Wildflower Spring Squill
Spring Squill

It has been a great month for birds, Arctic Terns have been arriving back, and my local flock are back in the bay. Locally, I’ve seen both Sand and House Martins which are both new to my patch list, and of course the Swallows are back. The Eiders are very entertaining at this time of year, if you listen to them oohing, it sounds like they have just heard a juicy bit of gossip! Click here for a listen

I have also seen some more unusual birds – a Glaucous Gull flew past me at eye level, and there was a flock of approx. 40 Knots down at the bay, one of which had been ringed in the Dutch Waddensea in 2018! My best find of the month, had to be a Short Eared Owl – once common in Orkney, but they have been in short supply in recent years, so it was a real thrill to see one!

May is also a good time for insects, there have been lots of Green Veined White butterflies in my garden, and the cotoneaster is just humming with bees and insects. On a walk up Houton Head, I was lucky enough to find this beautiful Emperor Moth sunning itself on the heather.

Emperor moth on heather
Emperor Moth