April has been an incredibly busy month and the time has just flown by! I’ve been gearing up for the season starting at the beginning of May, but I have also managed to fit in a few walks during April as and when enquiries have come in.

Lambs
Westray Lambs

On the 1st April, I attended the Islander magazine launch which took place in the Kirkwall iCentre. The magazine is a fantastic source of local information with the added bonus of being free. It is available digitally or you can pick it up from various local outlets. I keep a few copies in my car in case anyone asks for one. If you take a look at page 87, you can find my advert and an article that I wrote.

I have created a new page on my website “Walk Availability”. Here you can find any existing bookings that I have for mixed group walks including the date, time, location, price and number of places available. I update this regularly as and when new bookings come in. It is not all of my availability though as I also have Bespoke walk bookings in my diary. For any walks featured on this page, I am also adding them to my Facebook page as events.  

The other work I have been doing on my website this month has been adding new photos to the main Home page and also the About section. I have also been working on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) keywords and phrases.

Woolly Bear caterpillar

The Orkney Nature Festival announced their 4 day programme on the 20th April and it looks like it will be a fantastic weekend. I will be leading a wildlife walk at Burwick on the morning of Friday 20th May, and the other event that I am directly involved in is the Orkney Field Club’s Russadale Ramble on Saturday 21st May. Both of these events still have spaces on them.

Russadale, Orkney

I have been continuing to work on my programme of walks for the Orkney International Science Festival, and have been busy emailing descriptions and photos for my walks to the festival director.

As part of my preparation for the season, I gave my office a much needed tidy up and clean. I rearranged a few things and checked the stock of my leaflets and business cards. If you have a business and would like some leaflets, then please do get in touch with me. I’m happy to deliver or post them out.

April Walks and Island Trips

The more fun element of my preparation is the recces that I do for each walk. Every year, before a walk starts, I like to do a full recce to double check the distance, timings and more importantly the risk assessment. It is also a good opportunity for me to take some photos of the landsape and wildlife for use on my website and social media.

Below are some photos from my Burwick and Flotta recces.

Bag the Bruck

Every year in Orkney, there is an event called Bag the Bruck which happens over the course of a week, usually in April. This is a time where various community groups get together to clean up our beaches and countryside. I organise Bag the Bruck for the Orkney Field Club, and this year we met up at Orphir Bay (part of my Hidden Gem Short & Long walks) to give it a much needed clean. We filled over 20 bags of rubbish over the course of approx. 2 hours so the beach is certainly looking much better, however I felt like we only scratched the surface. We also helped at another Bag the Bruck event at our local beach and again over 20 bags of rubbish were collected.

Most of what we were picking up is small bits of rope/string/plastic and mainly marine/fishing litter. These are the things that birds will pick up for nesting material (see Gannet photo above), or worse mistaking it for food. They can get caught in the birds feet or legs, or round their heads and beaks, and some will try to eat them. It really is heartbreaking.

Westray

On a cheerier note, I enjoyed a day trip to the island of Westray. I had a nice walk at Tuquoy where I saw my first Sand Martins of the year. Later in the day we went to Noup Head where we saw Gannets, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars, Shags and Bonxies (aka Great Skuas).

On the way back down from Noup Head, we did a double take, as there was a Woodcock standing out in the open in a green field – it was obviously aware of us and had just frozen to the spot, only flying off when I attempted to get out the vehicle. Such an amazing sight of what is usually a secretive bird. My previous views of them in Orkney have been as they fly off from almost under your feet!

Woodcock
Woodcock

Wildlife seen in April

The garden birds are busy singing away – the male Blackbird is starting about 4.30am, with the Wren joining in a bit later. The local male Stonechat can often be heard singing and there is also the sound of a Willow Warbler nearby. I’ve had a nice variety of birds in the garden joining the regulars, with visits from Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow pipits and Siskins- both male and female.

Male Siskin
Male Siskin

While out at Mull Head, for the recce on Good Friday we saw our first Bonxie (Great Skua) of the year and our first Puffins – great to see both of them back.

Bonxie (aka Great Skua)

On patch, it’s nice to see the Wheatears back down at the bay and the Lesser Black Backed Gulls have returned to the fields.

Wheatear
Wheatear

There are lots of wildflowers out now too, while doing my Burwick recce I saw Primroses, Dog Violets, Scurvy Grass and Red Campion, whilst there were buds on the thrift.

It was a lovely calm day for my WeBS count, and amazing to hear all the sounds so clearly. There were a group of Great Northern Divers in the bay which you can hear in the video below.

Towards the end of the month we did our Orkney vole survey as part of the Orkney Native Wildlife Project. We do this survey twice a year in April and September, out at Mull Head. You wouldn’t believe how much fun it is crawling around on your hands and knees looking for evidence of vole activity which includes searching the vegetation for clippings and poo!

As a treat, we booked to go to Hoy on the last day of the month and were delighted to see three species of raptor – Hen Harriers, a Merlin and White-tailed eagles as well as our first Cuckoos of the year!

Here’s a short video of some of my local Eiders calling – I just love hearing them at this time of year!