September has been a busy month with a week of walks with the OISF, some promotional filming and an interview with Radio Orkney.

The weather has been unusual for September, perhaps it has been our Indian summer, but it has been warm, sunny and calm until this  last week when the weather has turned more autumnal and more like what you would expect at this time of year.

Houton Bay Sunset
Houton Bay Sunset

Before the Science Festival started, I was asked if I was willing to do some promotional filming out at Yesnaby for the OISF, so my partner and I headed out to Yesnaby to meet Fionn McArthur. I had an idea of what I wanted to say, but you never know how it’s going to come out until you start. I have to say that Fionn was excellent at getting me to say what I wanted to, and the end result was fantastic. https://www.facebook.com/orkneycom/videos/900526300846755

I have reviewed my Covid-19 policy and I will now take bookings for mixed group walks again after the success of the Science Festival walks. I have decided to keep the group size to a maximum of 6 people. I am still offering people the choice of a mixed group walk or just for one party, as everyone is coming out of Covid at their own pace. The prices will remain the same for this year but I will be reviewing my prices and walks over the winter. I will post an update on my website and social media once these changes have been made, so please keep an eye out.

Walking on Flotta (Photo Tristan Cameron Harper)

The Orkney Field Club recently sent out an email asking for members to email in any sightings they have had of Covid litter, ie masks, gloves, etc. I responded as I have seen masks littering our countryside especially around car parks and public toilets. Radio Orkney were doing a piece about Covid litter, as researchers in the Netherlands are recording case of it interacting with wildlife. Although I hadn’t seen any evidence of this yet, it is likely that it will happen as masks and gloves end up in our seas and on our beaches. Huw Williams from Radio Orkney did a short interview with me down at Orphir Bay, where we discussed the Covid litter that I had seen, and how it might impact on wildlife. You can find out more about this research work  https://covidlitter.com/ and you can also log any sightings that you see of wildlife interacting with covid litter.

Auks in Houton Bay

On a lighter note, my partner and I did our 2nd Orkney Vole survey of the year on the 21st September.  We do this twice a year as volunteers with the Orkney Native Wildlife Project, in April and September, and the purpose of the survey is to look for signs of Orkney Vole activity. We walk two 1km transects taking 25 samples per transect. At each sample point, we check for signs of voles which includes runs, clippings and vole poo. We also check the habitat/patch type, length of vegetation and % of bare, litter or green for each sample point. Never have I been more excited to find lots of poo – vole latrines! It was fantastic to see so many signs of the Orkney vole with clippings, poo and runs/tunnels seen. I even saw an Orkney Vole whilst answering a call of nature!

Orkney International Science Festival Walks

I was really pleased with how well the festival walks went, and I received lots of lovely feedback from both visitors booked onto the walks and the festival director. The weather did play it’s part, as did our fantastic Orkney wildlife and scenery. Our day on Flotta turned out to be an incredibly warm, sunny day with very little wind, which just added to the special experience.

I was sent this beautiful photo of 2 Brown Hares boxing by Nuala & David Tannahill, who came on the 1st of my OISF walks round Orphir Bay.

Boxing Hares
Boxing Hares (Photo David & Nuala Tannahill)

Other Walks

Things quietened down a bit after the Science Festival which is to be expected, but it has given me the chance to catch up on lots of admin work. I did have a couple of walks at Brodgar, which is a walk that I offer from October to April and as one of the Evening walks this summer. I like to go there when the footfall is a bit quieter so that you can really appreciate the wildlife and beauty of the area.

This month I have also been making preparations for my Seal Pup walk which will start again in October.

Island Trips

Island trips this month included Flotta (as part of the Science Festival), a weekend on Hoy and a trip to Shetland. The Shetland trip was just a quick day trip, with an overnight on the ferry, while my partner was working there. He had 4 jobs to fit into a day, before the ferry left Lerwick at 5.30pm, and this included a trip to Yell, one of the northerly islands. While he works, I have a potter/wander around doing a bit of birding and helping out with the driving too.

Wildlife

September has been another fabulous month for wildlife with lots of caterpillars being seen, and a couple of new moth species for me. I have posted a few photos below of some of the wildlife seen this month, all captioned.

September has been a month of firsts for me – Haworth Minor and Red Line Quaker moths, Devil’s Coach Horse on patch, Pebble Prominent and Poplar Hawk Moth caterpillars. Here is a short video I took of a Poplar Hawk Moth caterpillar having a good munch on some Willow leaves. You can see how camouflaged they are, despite their size!

Towards the end of the month, on a dry weekend, we strimmed the wildflower meadow. Just before strimming we found an Inkcap, the first I’ve seen in the garden, and the strimming/clearing revealed a nice clump of Autumn Crocuses coming through.