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Birdie Group - October 2017

by Sally Hallam - 08:06 on 24 October 2017

A select group of seven folk gathered at Sandwick Community Centre for October’s Birdie Group Walk on October 18th, led by Sally. Two cars containing all the participants were taken along to the Strathborg Picnic site from where the walk commenced. The first stopping point was near the old stone cottage at the east end of the Loch of Skaill. We saw a long-tailed duck, a moorhen, some tufted ducks, a slavonian grebe and a male goldeneye duck. Some reed buntings were flitting around in the reedy area below the cottage. A wren popped up, searching for insects within the stone wall surrounding the garden. A further stop at the west end of the loch, a little further on, showed that there were many birds at the far west end of the loch. Luckily Ailsa had brought her telescope (Thanks Ailsa) so we were able to view them. After some debate, it was agreed that some of the swans nearer to Skaill House were whooper swans, the yellow on their beaks occasionally catching the light. Greylags were on the nearby fields and mute swans were also on the loch.

The group took the next turning right, along a minor road past an old red telephone box. A brisk walk up the hill helped to keep the group warm as the light wind was surprisingly cool. Despite scouring the landscape little else was seen until the group turned off left down to the Mill Dam footpath. Skylarks, more than seven, were heard singing over the cut fields, not the full breeding song but recognisable nonetheless. On top of a group of bushes to the right of the track, a stonechat took a typical pose. As hoped the large flock of more than 100 twites were still staying around the old “bird crop” field. Good views of these lovely birds were obtained, seeing them feeding on the crops. Periodically, the large flock took to the air, flying around but inevitably going back to their food source.

There were a few birds on Mill Loch including wigeons, mallards and mute swans. Then the group encountered a short section of path which was very wet and muddy. Once through this and back on solid ground, the group walked to the main road, turned left and were greeted by the sight and sound of two whooper swans flying low, “whooping” as they went. After a short way along the main road, the group then made their way down a track to a fishing hut, giving a view of the west end of Harray Loch. The owner of the nearby house came out and informed us that otters had been seen along this stretch of the loch side. Two slavonian grebes and a group of wigeons were seen on the loch. A common gull roost was seen in the fields and a curlew flew over. A flock of over one hundred golden plovers were see behind us flying over and into the fields. Unfortunately, no otters were seen and the group made their back to the main road and back to the community centre. In the wet field near to the community centre was a black-headed gull and as we drew near, a snipe exploded from a muddy wet area near to the road.

A total of 28 species had been seen by the group in about two and a half hours on the two and a half mile walk. 

Thanks to all who participated, apologies for the very wet, muddy section of footpath due to the continual wet weather over the last month. Luckily, the weather forecast had been accurate with only one short shower which had finished by the time we put our hoods up!"

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