November started relatively calm and quite mild with us getting a bit more of autumn than usual. However, the weather returned to what we would normally expect at this time of year with some autumnal gales and heavy rain. We have had the odd day of glorious sunshine though, and we do get some dramatic seas and skies at this time of year.

Scapa Flow
Scapa Flow, Orkney

Business wise, work has quietened down in terms of actual walks, but I have been very busy with admin work. As I mentioned in the October News post, I am evaluating what I offer in terms of walks, prices, group size, etc. I have started working my way through this and have made progress with my new pricing structure and group size. I am reviewing the walks I currently offer and I am now in the process of developing a walks programme for 2022. Once I have it all finalised, I will update the website in time for any 2022 enquiries coming in.

I also like to do some of the Business Gateway courses/webinars at this time of year. This month I have done courses on Google Analytics and Social Media Analytics. Both of these are very useful for me in planning content for my website and social media accounts. They are also courses that I try to do every couple of months as I always learn something new.

Perth
Perth

Perth Trip

At the beginning of November, my partner and I headed south to Perth for a couple of days. The reason for the trip was to see Talisk in concert at Perth Theatre. If you’ve not heard of them they are well worth a listen!

The trip was also well timed for the autumn colours and we enjoyed some lovely woodland walks at Loch Garten, Quarrymills Park and The Hermitage.

There was an impressive amount of water after lots of heavy rain. Many of the burns and rivers were in spate and there was flooding in some areas. The video below shows the River Braan at The Hermitage, Dunkeld.

We were able to add a few species to our year lists including Magpie, Crested Tit and Red-legged Partridge, but it was also fantastic to see and hear so many different woodland birds. In the hotel grounds, we enjoyed watching a small group of Bullfinches as we were eating our breakfast, while at Quarrymill Park we saw lots of Treecreepers, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins, and some Grey Squirrels.

Walks

I have done a couple of walks this month with the same couple, the first being the Seal Pup Walk. As we were going mid-November, we were there at the peak of the Grey Seal Pupping season and saw 90 pups at a variety of different ages from new-born, to pups which had already moulted. There is also lots of interesting behaviour to see among the adults at the colony.

Grey Seals
Grey Seals

The couple had also requested a day on Hoy which we did as a Bespoke Wildlife Tour. We were incredibly lucky with the weather as it turned out to be the best day of the week. There was lots of wildlife to see including Harbour Porpoises, Grey Seals, Hen Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Stonechats and Fieldfares.

My partner and I had a lovely walk at the RSPB Hobbister reserve recently on a beautiful but cold day. The path does get very wet and water logged during the winter months which can make walking a bit tricky, but I did manage to keep my feet dry! It is a lovely walk through a moorland track and round a bit of coastline by Scapa Flow, sometimes you see nothing and other times you can see lots. On this occasion, we were lucky, and before we had even got out of the car, we had seen Red Grouse put up by a hunting Hen Harrier, and a Merlin hunting a Meadow Pipit – wow! On the walk we saw Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Ravens, Fulmars, Tysties, Long Tailed ducks, Red-throated Divers and the Hen Harrier a few more times.

Wildlife

I’ve seen some interesting wildlife this month, not just in Perthshire, but Orkney too. We went on a “twitch” to see the Little Auk which had been reported off Scapa Pier. It was a bitterly cold Sunday morning, but we enjoyed a brisk walk down to the pier. Along the way, I spied some Hooded Crows on the shore, but on closer inspection, one was much darker in appearance than the others. I did wonder if it was a hybrid Hooded/Carrion crow and this was confirmed through Facebook later that day. This is the first time I have identified a hybrid myself, so I was quite chuffed.

We did eventually spot the Little Auk in amongst the waves from the pier, but we got much better views of it and a second one closer in on the walk back to the car. It was constantly diving for food so getting a photo was tricky but I did manage this short video.

I have had lots of garden birds coming to the seed feeder and apples that I put out, mainly Blackbirds, House Sparrows, Greenfinches and Starlings, but I also occasionally get Redwings, Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks. One Saturday morning, we were sitting enjoying breakfast when I glanced out the window and spied a female Sparrowhawk sitting on a fence post – this could explain why the feeder has been quiet recently! We watched it until it flew off chasing the Redwings which had been feeding on cotoneaster berries.

Later that day, as the light was fading, I glanced out the window again and noticed that the bird bath had moved. We were both a bit puzzled as to how that could have happened, until I noticed a female Sparrowhawk in my neighbour’s garden, tucking into her last meal of the day which looked like a Blackbird. I suspect that the Sparrowhawk caught the Blackbird unaware while it was at the bird bath, and somehow managed to move it. All very exciting for a Saturday afternoon, and much more entertaining than the rugby match that you can hear in the background below!

My WeBS was quiet this month which I am blaming on the weather conditions. Although it was a bit calmer than the weekend, there was still a strong wind, but I did get nice views of Long Tailed ducks and Slavonian Grebes together.

At the end of the month we were treated by the weather gods to our first really big blow out of the winter, Storm Arwen. Where I live, I am slightly protected from the NE’ly winds but it was still pretty windy and bitterly cold, with hail stones and squally showers. But the east coast of Scotland and the north of England were far worse hit than us with power cuts and fallen trees.

We had a bit of snow on the ground over the weekend so I made sure there was plenty of food out for the birds and fresh water too. If you follow Wild Orkney Walks on Facebook, you will have seen the video I got of a Brown Hare in my garden.

Brown Hare, Orphir

Over the weekend, there was a report of a Turtle Dove in a garden in Orphir village, so as it’s within walking distance, it seemed like the obvious choice for our Sunday walk and we reckoned it wasn’t a “twitch” as we walked there and back. With snow on the ground and blue skies, the countryside was looking really beautiful. There was gorse in flower and still a few berries around for the birds to eat.

When we got to the village, we found the garden where the dove had been seen, and after a bit of searching my partner spotted it sitting in the trees at the back. We watched it for a wee while, and got a record photo, before setting off back home for a nice hot bowl of soup.

Snowy Orphir

So we end November on a high note, I wonder what December will bring us?

Talisk