October started with a day trip to Shetland. When I say day trip, it does involve getting the overnight ferry from Kirkwall to Lerwick. Although it was a bit of a cold, grey day, it was still lovely to get away albeit just for a day. We found a lovely bit of woodland at Kergord, and managed a quick walk on Meal beach in-between showers.

Woodland
Kergord Woodland, Shetland
Shetland Beach
Meal Beach, Shetland

The following week started with a recce for my Seal Pup walk which I restarted on Thursday 8th October. While doing the recce we saw 3 pups with lots of mums hanging around, both in the sea and on the beaches. It was a beautiful day with huge flocks of Song Thrushes and Redwings busy feeding in the fields, plus nice views of a Hen Harrier and a Merlin zipping past chasing it’s lunch. We saw a couple of late Red Admirals fluttering around the cliffs, and some flowers like Yarrow and Devil’s Bit Scabious still hanging on.

I also managed a day trip to Westray to do a bit of birding and walking. It had been a good week for migrants so we were hopeful of a good day’s birding. Our total for the day was 64 species which included Yellow Browed Warbler, Goldcrests, Blackcaps, Wheatears, Robins, Redwings, Water Rail, Kestrel and many more!

Female Blackcap
Female Blackcap (Photo Graeme Walker)
Beach on Westray
Westray Beach

The Orkney Field Club, which I am on the committee for, had their AGM online this year due to Covid-19. After the AGM had concluded, a committee meeting was arranged via Zoom to nominate the office bearers and decide on the various roles/tasks. The previous Chair and Secretary had both stood down, so we now have a new Chair, and I have taken on the role of Secretary. Take a look at our website and Facebook page to find out more about us.

It has been a quiet month for bookings, but I did have one family brave a wet Friday morning for a seal pup walk and we counted 39 pups!

Grey Seal Pup
Grey Seal Pup

Walks

I’ve enjoyed a mix of different walks this month, some old favourites like the Orphir Bay walk (see my Hidden Gem walks) and the Seal Pup walk which I never tire of doing. I had a lovely autumnal walk at Brodgar and a wander around Stromness with a friend too.

Yellow Brain Fungus
Yellow Brain Fungus (Photo Graeme Walker)
Beech Leaf
Beech Leaf

I managed to fit in a trip across to the Holm of Houton this month when the tide was low enough for us to cross, around the time of the New Moon. Although a very small island, it does give you a different perspective of the surrounding area and Scapa Flow.

I have managed to fit in 4 walks this month to see the Grey Seal Pups, and remember that I offer this walk right through to the end of December, so there is plenty time yet to see them. I count the pups on every walk, and at the end of the year I send my records to the county recorder. So far, we started with 3 pups on the 5th October and by the 29th October there were 61. The 61st pup was literally born in front of our eyes – just amazing to see!

Grey Seal and pup
Newborn Grey Seal pup with mum
Grey Seal Pup
Grey Seal Pup moulting

Wildlife News

As mentioned above, the beginning of October was a fantastic time for migrants and there was a huge fall, unfortunately while we were in Shetland. However, going out birding in the days to follow was fantastic. There have been huge flocks of thrushes – Song Thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares, I even saw a Ring Ouzel!

I have had Goldcrests in my garden, identified by sound initially as there were too many leaves on the trees to see them, but I have had good views of one this week feeding in the Sycamore tree.

I’ve noticed lots of Stonechats around this month, on just about every walk there are Stonechats, and they are such lovely wee birds.

Female Stonechat
Female Stonechat (Photo Graeme Walker)

Our other wintering birds  have started arriving – Long Tailed Ducks, Goldeneyes, Slavonian Grebes and I have seen a few Great Northern Divers in Scapa Flow.

I’ve had a couple of days out birding, one going round the East Mainland and the other the West Mainland and was lucky enough to catch up with the Little Auk which had been reported in Echnaloch Bay.

I also love to see the more common birds, and at this time of year you can see huge flocks of curlews and other waders in our fields. Here’s a wee video of some Curlews and Golden Plovers which I saw near Marwick.

October is drawing to a close, and with gales forecast for the weekend, I think we can say goodbye to our autumn colours which have lasted a bit longer than normal this year.

Autumn Leaves
Autumn Leaves (Photo Graeme Walker)
Rosehips
Rosehips (Photo Graeme Walker)
Trees
Autumn Trees