February seems to have been the month for storms throughout the UK. While we seem to have escaped the worst of them, the wind has been relentless with days on end of gales and horizontal rain/hail showers. Not exactly ideal walking conditions, even for me!

I’ve been busy working on my social media posts for Facebook and Instagram, trying to think of new and different posts to share with you. I try to plan a month in advance for social media and do a mix of scheduled and live posts.

Gyre Woods, Orphir
Gyre Woods, Orphir

I had a very productive Zoom call with the director of the Orkney International Science Festival earlier this month, and I have already started to work on my programme of wildlife walks which will take place during the festival (1st – 7th September). I am hoping to try out a couple of different ideas for walks, so watch this space for more details.

I had an interesting meeting with a new client who is looking for Bespoke 1:1 walks to help build up their fitness and stamina. This is something new and a bit different for me, but I am very much looking forward to working with them.

Orphir Bay
Orphir Bay

February Walks

I’ve not done so many walks this month due to the rather inclement weather conditions, so the walks that I have done, have been on the rarer nice days, but also included some surveys which needed doing.

Midland Hill, Orphir
Midland Hill, Orphir

My regular monthly WeBS survey took place on a beautiful, calm, sunny day in Orkney – a rarity this month! Although we didn’t see anything unusual it was just lovely to be out, and be able to hear the calls of the birds clearly without the noise of the wind in the background.

Houton Bay, Orphir
Houton Bay, Orphir

On the last weekend in February, I walked my OBBS (Orkney Beached Bird Survey) sites. This is now an annual survey where beaches/coastlines are walked looking for dead birds and signs of oiling on the beaches. In Orkney, it used to be done monthly due to the oil terminal on Flotta, however it is now just done once a year in line with the rest of the UK.

I cover 2 beaches – Orphir Bay and Waulkmill Bay. The beaches need to be walked at low tide, and involve walking along the high tide line looking out for dead birds. Any dead birds need to be identified where possible and checked for signs of oiling. We also check the beaches for signs of oiling and any other dead marine life. This year, due to the presence of Avian Flu, we were under strict instructions not to touch any dead birds that we found.

Thankfully, we didn’t find too many dead birds and there were no signs of oiling on either of the beaches.

I also keep an eye out for other wildlife and found some Goose Barnacles on a piece of driftwood at Orphir Bay along with a very healthy looking clump of Scurvy Grass, and a nice shell. It was also on this beach that I spotted a Grey Wagtail feeding in amongst the seaweed – always a treat to see on my local patch.

Wildlife seen in February

My wildlife watching opportunities have been limited due to the weather, however, the female Sparrowhawk that I have mentioned previously is still hanging around. I spied her perched on a pallet in the neighbour’s garden and managed to get some footage of her.

It is the time of year when Spring is in the air, and the birds start to become more active. Our local Oystercatchers can be heard calling throughout the night now, and I heard my first Skylark singing on the 25th February – it is always such a joy to hear them!

As a volunteer with the RSPB I have the opportunity to get involved in many different roles during the winter months. One of these is the Harrier Roost Count, which is done once a month between October and March. It involves standing or sitting, watching a hillside for Hen Harriers coming into roost. We need to count how many grey (males) and brown (females/juveniles) come in, and we also need to keep an eye on where they land, and if they move again. On this occasion, we had 2 grey and 4 brown birds and we also saw a Merlin and a Sparrowhawk, so it was well worth getting cold for!

Westray

I took the opportunity to join my partner on a working trip to Westray. If you’ve read these posts before, you will know that I sometimes tag along for the day and go wildlife watching/walking while he is working. Westray had been on our list of islands for a while as there have been a group of Glossy Ibis present on the island since December, so we were really hoping they would still be there. We were in luck, as we were driving along the road, my partner spotted them in a field right by the roadside!

What a fantastic sight to see! There were 9 birds, and they were really confiding. Some of them had very striking colours and for me it was amazing to hear them calling, something I have never heard before. You can hear the call in the video below.

Aberdeen

We managed a trip Sooth to Aberdeen where we were meeting up with family. Although it’s not our typical type of holiday, I was looking forward to getting some year ticks – Carrion Crow and Magpie were on my target list. As the plane taxied on the runway at Aberdeen Airport, I spied a Carrion Crow out of the plane window – result!

We did see plenty Magpies and were able to add both Great & Blue Tits to our year lists too. While enjoying a walk along the beach at Aberdeen, we were surprised to see Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers feeding on the sea wall, but even more surprise to see a Sanderling on the walkway!

We enjoyed a lovely visit to Duthie Park and the Winter Gardens – I would highly recommend if you are visiting Aberdeen, or have time to spare before catching the ferry to Orkney.

As we move into March, I think we are all hoping for some better weather so that we can get out and about in the fresh air a bit more.