August has turned out to be a busy month with a good mixture of wildlife walks including two Bespoke walks, a few recces, and some island trips including an adventure to an uninhabited island – more to follow on this later, but here’s a clue.
I have been busy doing more admin work for the Science Festival walks, which includes a post on my website about the background work involved. I have also finished the last of my recces for the Science Festival with walks at Burwick, Flotta and Gruf Hill.
My own walks this month have included Swanbister, Orphir Bay and I did the last of my Evening Wildlife Walks mid August, just before the nights started to draw in again. The Evening Wildlife Walks have proved to be popular this year, and so I hope to offer them again next year from mid May to mid August.
I had 2 bookings for Bespoke walks which I mentioned briefly in my July News. The first was a lady who wanted to walk from Yesnaby back to Stromness. We met in Stromness, where I had arranged for a taxi to take us to Yesnaby, and from there we enjoyed a lovely walk back to Stromness.
The other Bespoke walk was with a family who wanted to walk to the Old Man of Hoy. This trip started with the ferry crossing from Stromness, and included the local minibus service to Rackwick, from where we started the walk. It was a lovely walk with lots of fantastic wildflowers, insects and birdlife to be seen. We ended the day with a visit to the local café for some much needed coffee and cake.
Towards the end of August, I took a young family round the Orphir Bay walk, one of my short Hidden Gem walks. The young boys (aged 4 & 6) were very interested in the wildlife we saw and were a delight to be out with. Family prices are available for most of my walks, so please do get in touch if you are interested. It’s fantastic to see young children engaging with nature!
Two of my island trips this month were recces for walks on Hoy and Flotta but I did manage to fit in a visit to Sanday whilst my partner was working there. It was a great day out with some fantastic wildlife sightings. Driving along the road, we were surprised to see this Merlin sitting in the middle of the road plucking a bird. The video was taken through the windscreen of the van, but it’s still an impressive sight, and very rare to get such a good view of one.
The most exciting visit to an island was the uninhabited island of Sule Skerry! This is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time, and I was just thrilled to have the opportunity to go. The boat trip out there was approx. 2.5 hours, and even on a calm day there was still a good bit of swell. Landing on the island was interesting, as we had to transfer to an inflatable then scramble ashore, and the same for the return. But it was well worth the effort as we spent 2 hours ashore where we got great views of the Gannet colony, and also saw Puffins, Fulmars, Bonxies (Great Skuas), Turnstones, and lots more.
One of the group also “spotted” the call of a Storm Petrel coming from below a rock. I love this call, and I hadn’t heard it since I was on Shetland in 2017. We did also see Storm Petrels from the boat on the way out to Sule Skerry.
There’s still a fantastic variety of wildlife to be seen in August – cetaceans, butterflies, moths, wildflowers, birds, etc. I’ve seen lots of amazing wildlife this month, but the best experience by far has to be the trip out to Sule Skerry where we saw Storm Petrels at sea, and I got a lifer – Sooty Shearwaters!
On Flotta, we sat and watched some Porpoises which were milling about in the one area and it is lovely to still be seeing Arctic Skuas both on Flotta, and down at my local bay, harrassing the remaining Arctic Terns.
There are still a few caterpillars around – Empereror moth, Northern Eggar moth, Fox moth, Ruby Tiger moth and White Ermine moth. I saw a new species of moth this month – a Rosy Rustic (photo below)
Up till recently, I hadn’t seen any Painted Lady butterflies this year, but we did see about half a dozen up in Birsay, and I have seen a few on my local patch walks. I am still seeing Green Veined Whites, Large Whites, Meadow Browns, Common Blues and Red Admirals when out and about.
On the trip to Sanday, mentioned above, I spent a bit of time sitting by a beach watching the variety of waders busy feeding. The wader migration tends to start at the end of July once they have finished breeding. On this bit of beach there was Knot, Sanderling, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Redshanks. This video shows some of the species busy feeding.
Today (31st August), I decided to have an afternoon for myself, and a break from admin work so I took myself off to look for some dragonflies. The first site I tried at Russadale was still completely dry, even after the rain we’ve had recently. Feeling a bit despondent I went up to the Birsay moors. As I arrived at the pool, the sun came out as did the dragonflies! There were several Black Darters, both male and female, some had paired up for mating and I also saw a pair egg laying. To top it all off, there were 2 male Common Hawkers buzzing about – which left me with a real buzz!