It has been a few months since I have written a monthly post. I had an idea in my head for replacing the Latest News posts, however when I tried to write the first one I couldn’t decide how best to do it, so I thought I would step away and come back to it when the time was right.
I am also pleased to say that not only has it been a busy season for clients on walks and tours, but we have had a proper summer in Orkney this year!
August is always an interesting month for birds with the wader migration underway and depending which way the wind is blowing, you never know what might turn up. On an Evening Wildlife Walk at Marwick on the 31st July, there were Turnstones and Sanderling back already. It’s always nice to see our over-wintering waders back, however, it is also a sign that summer is coming to an end.
Just as we were setting off for a walk from Stromness along the west coast cliffs, we heard a call at the above us. I managed to get my Merlin app on, and with a quick view of it flying over us, we were chuffed to identify it as a Greenshank!
Most of the seabirds, especially the auks (guillemots, razorbills and puffins) had left the cliffs by the end of July, and I felt that the puffins had left a bit earlier than normal, but I am hoping that means they had a successful breeding season. There are still gulls, skuas, shags and fulmars to see around our coastline.
Closer to home, we’ve had a Wheatear in the garden and a Willow Warbler singing, along with the usual suspects – Rooks, Jackdaws, Starlings and House Sparrows. We have also seen Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Hen Harrier from our new house – not a bad start to the garden list!
The last two days of August were spent doing recces for the Brodgar Wildlife Walk and one of the Wader Walks at Newark Bay. At Brodgar there was a Ringed Plover on the shore of Stenness Loch, and a small group of approx. 10 Knots feeding on the shoreline. At Newark Bay, we had 10 species of waders – Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Turnstone, Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Knot and Dunlin.
It’s been a strange season for flowers, we started with a very cold but dry Spring which quickly switched to a hot, dry June. When I say hot, I mean hot for Orkney! Some flowers like Thrift seemed to go over quite quickly, however, on a walk at Mull Head on the 25th August there were still a few in flower so I think the rain in July and August has encouraged some to flower later.
My favourite flower, or at least one of my favourites, Grass of Parnassus has had a good flowering season, as has Primula scotica (Scottish Primrose). On the walk mentioned above, we saw a few Primula scotica still in flower, and that was on the 20th August. We also saw Frog Orchids and some lovely carpets of Eyebright, photos below:
The heather is looking beautiful this year, especially on the Mull Head walk where both the Ling and Bell heather have turned the moorland purple.
August is a month that I tend to associate with insects – caterpillars, butterflies, moths, damsel & dragonflies, etc and this year is no exception.
While out for a walk on our new patch, I saw several of these caterpillars on ragwort. I took a couple of photos with my phone so that we could identify it when we got home.
The Caterpillar ID book didn’t give us any answers, and neither did Google, so I posted it on the Orkney Insects Facebook group. A couple of local experts suggested it was a Silver Y moth caterpillar, but a different instar to the pictures in our ID book. This is a new caterpillar for me so I was well chuffed, and we did also find a couple in our garden.
Here’s some photos of other caterpillars seen in August:
We haven’t been able to do as many dragonfly surveys as we would have liked to this year but we did manage a couple of visits to a local pond where we saw lots of Black darters, Emerald and Blue-tailed damselflies.
I have seen a few butterflies – both newly emerged Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals, Green-veined whites and Large whites still on the wing, and towards the end of the month I was lucky to spot two different female Common Blue butterflies (my favourites) on the 4th barrier beach and also at Mull Head.