The Great Orkney Bird Shoot Photo Competition

Throughout the summer months of 2015, Stromness Museum asked the Orkney public (and further afield!) to bring our Victorian bird collection back to life!

On the evening of Friday, November 15, members and guests were not only be able to view the competition entries, which were judged by Orcadian wildlife photographer Raymond Besant, but see the museum’s latest acquisition – a rare cattle egret.

Short talks about the bird and the natural history collection were given by museum curator Janette Park, Alison Nimmo from the RSPB, and Peter Slater, Professor Emeritus of Natural History from the University of St Andrews.  The evening finished with the announcement and prize presentation to the winner of the photographic competition.

It was through the care and diligence of many local bird and nature enthusiasts that the rare cattle egret has made its way to the museum.    Found on the side of the road by Shapinsay residents, Lisa-Marie Muir, husband Darren and their children, while on holiday in Westray, the bird appeared to have a broken wing and was in distress.  Not wanting to alarm it further, they initially took photos and consulted local bird experts, Tim Wooton and Martin Gray, for identification and advice on what to do with it.

Both men identified it as a cattle egret – a member of the heron family never seen as far north as Orkney before.  They were given advice on how to capture the bird and care for it, and with help from Sam Harcus, Lisa-Marie’s father, the bird was kept safe and quiet overnight till it could be transported to the Mainland.

There, Tim Wooton took the bird to the vet, where its injuries were diagnosed as too severe and the chance of secondary infection too great for the bird to survive.  After it was euthanized, another local bird expert, Bob Simpson, suggested that because of the bird’s rarity it should be stuffed and mounted and given to the Stromness Museum.

The bird was sent to George C Jamieson, a professional taxidermist, who is regularly employed by the Museum for taxidermy work, and funded by the Stromness Museum Conservation Fund.

Janette Park said “Stromness Museum holds the ethnographic and natural history collections on behalf of the people of Orkney.  We are very grateful to all the Orkney residents involved in helping to care for and preserve this rare bird and for allowing the Museum to obtain it, where it’s now on display for everyone to see.”

She added: “Because collecting of specimens today can only happen when someone finds a deceased specimen and realises it may be beneficial t the collection, additions to the museum are not as common as in the Victorian days, when hunting and shooting of animals was more acceptable.  Our changing attitudes have meant that we rely on the diligence of local nature enthusiasts and experts.  Recent additions to our collection have been a sea turtle, honey buzzard and otters.  Our natural history displays are one of the few places left where you can see wildlife up close and study it in detail.  So we are delighted that this rare cattle egret will now be a part of that.”

The evening is open to all and donations to the Stromness Museum Conservation Fund will be gratefully received on the night.

This article first appeared in “The Orcadian” newspaper on Thursday 5th November 2016


And the winner of The Great Orkney Bird Shoot photography competition is....


Sandra Otter's photograph of Sedge Warblers in Westray. Congratulations Sandra, here's what judge Raymond Besant had to say about it:

'What I look for first of all is for the images to be technically sound, so, good exposure, sharp and nicely composed. There were quite a lot of nice portrait shots of birds so I was looking for something that had a little bit extra, some great light or interesting composition.

Sandra has captured a nice intimate moment, that's partly down to the chick being fed but also because she's at the same eye level as the subject, which gives a sense of really being there rather than just looking at an image. The strong diagonal lines, vibrant colours and the interesting behaviour that Sandra has captured combine to make it a worthy winner - well done!'

Sandra received a signed copy of Raymond's 'Naturally Orkney' book.