Unusually for Orkney, we have had quite an autumnal October, with the leaves turning before they are blown off the trees. We’ve had a mixture of weather, but on the whole it has been quite mild. There has been the odd gale and lots of rainbows, so we can’t really complain.

Bookings and enquiries have slowed down a bit but I have had some interest in my Seal Pup walks, and for the duration of the school holidays I had a special offer on for children.

Grey Seal Pup
Grey Seal Pup

During the quieter times, when I’m not busy catching up with admin, I like to attend some of the courses that Business Gateway put on. They are all free to attend, and are still being run as webinars, instead of face to face. While I sometimes enjoy the anonymity of online courses, I do miss going along to a course with other folk, as they were always a good chance to network with other small businesses. It’s not quite the same online, and often they are national rather than just Orkney specific. This month I attended 2 courses – Cloud for Business and Going Green for Business.

Part of the admin work that I am doing over the next few weeks, is a review of what has/hasn’t worked since I started in 2019 including group size, pricing, and a complete evaluation of the walks that I offer to see which were the best/worst sellers. I am also hoping to add some new walks to my website ready for the season starting in 2022.

Cotoneaster Berries
Cotoneaster Berries

Walks

My walks this month have either been at Brodgar or to see the Seal Pups. I did enjoy a lovely walk with clients at Brodgar earlier in October, when we were lucky enough to see an Otter!

“We spent a wonderful 2 hours, starting from the RSPB site at the Ring of Brodgar and taking in sea and freshwater habitats while we wended our way back to the start. Megan’s skill in spotting wildlife was amazing as was her knowledge of birds, mammals and the wildflowers and habitats. With her help we were able to see and observe an otter, seal and hare as well as a variety of birds. Megan’s friendly approach as well as her local knowledge made for a very enjoyable and informative afternoon.” (Review left on Trip Advisor)

Ring of Brodgar
Ring of Brodgar

I have also done a few Seal Pup walks, and I will continue to offer these walks up till the end of December. Every time I do this walk, I count the number of pups that we see, and at the end of the year I email them to the county recorder for mammals. On the 1st walk that I did in early October we saw 4 pups and on the 27th October, when I had a family booked on the walk, we counted 59 pups! I would expect this number to rise over the next couple of weeks. As well as the pups, there is plenty of other action to see with both male and female Grey Seals on the beaches, and pups at a variety of ages from newborn, to moulting.

Other walks that I offer during the autumn/winter months are my Hidden Gem walks and A Walk on the Wild Side at Yesnaby, which is a great walk to clear the cobwebs.

Rainbow over Birsay
Rainbow over Birsay

Wildlife

October has come up trumps with a huge variety of wildlife including some rarities. In the garden, there’s been lots of different fungi appearing including a slime mould known as Dog Vomit Fungus. It does live up to it’s name, appearing to look like dog vomit, but some folk also think it resembles scrambled eggs. I’ve had it in my garden before, but in a different area.

There have been some late insects in the garden, including bumblebees, craneflies, caterpillars and a Silver Y moth which was feeding on the hebe flowers.

Silver Y Moth

I’ve started putting food out for my garden birds again, and treated them to some new bird feeders. These have attracted the usual ‘locals’ (House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Starlings and Blackbirds), but I am pleased to say that the Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens are back, they are usually just winter visitors. There have also been some more unusual garden visitors – Siskins, Redwings, a Song Thrush and some Bramblings.

Siskins

There have been a few rarities turn up in Orkney this month, including a Surf Scoter, Mediterranean Gull, Little Egret and a Varied Thrush! While I have ‘twitched’ most of these, I have to admit that I am a little reluctant to twitch the Varied Thrush at the moment. I don’t consider myself to be a twitcher as such, and certainly wouldn’t drive to the opposite end of the country in the hope of seeing a rare bird. But I do like to try and see rare birds that are more accessible to me, ie within Orkney. The Varied Thrush is on the island of Papa Westray, and is only the 2nd British record for this species, so there is a big twitch happening, with planes and boats being chartered. For me, this takes away from the enjoyment of watching a bird, so, if it is still there this time next week then I may consider a day trip to Papa Westray to enjoy the island’s wildlife and walks.

Surf Scoter, Bay of Skaill

It’s not just rare birds that turn up though, there was also a report of a Vagrant Emperor dragonfly in Kirkwall. My partner is the county recorder for dragonflies, so we had the opportunity to go and see it. It had been brought into the family’s house by their cat, and remarkably wasn’t injured. Vagrant Emperor’s are a dispersive species, and the only species of dragonfly to be recorded in Iceland.

Vagrant Emperor dragonfly
Vagrant Emperor dragonfly

On the same day that we went to see the Vagrant Emperor, we had previously been down to see the Seal Pups, and enjoyed a nice walk a bit beyond the pupping beaches. While trying to decide where to sit and have a picnic, my partner spotted some large splashes which turned out to be Risso’s Dolphins, so it turned out to be a very good day!

Coastline
South Ronaldsay coastline

There have been a few late wildflowers out during October with Yarrow, Devil’s Bit Scabious and some Bell heather still blooming. A sign of the mild autumn perhaps.

I will leave you with this lovely wee video of a Grey Seal Pup, they really are so cute to watch!

Grey Seal Pup