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Birdie Group - February 2018

by Sally Hallam - 08:34 on 05 March 2018
U3A Birdie Group Outing to the West on February 14th
 En route from Kirkwall, flocks of Redwings were spotted in fields just before Finstown. Despite a forecast of 60 mph gusts and rain or sleet, five members arrived at the Ring of Brodgar Car Park  for the February outing. From Brodgar, two cars were taken to the Mill Dam of Rango. Parking was provided by the Grieve family, many thanks to them. The group walked along the track and then sheltered by a stone wall to reduce the effects of the wind. The group was hoping to see the Pallid Harrier which had been reported there, but unfortunately it did not appear. Two juvenile Whooper Swans could be seen on the loch as were Mill Dam’s specialty, two Shelducks, along with various wildfowl. A good view was had of a Brown Hare which ran past. 
The group then returned to their cars and made their way towards the Loons Hide. Just before getting to the hide, about 20 Greenland White-fronted Geese were spotted near to where the road took a ninety degree turn. Their white blazes at the base of their bills and black markings on their bellies could clearly be seen with binoculars. Their orange beaks identified them as the Greenland race.
At the Loons hide, most birds were hiding out of the wind but two new species for the day were seen: Curlews and Lapwings.
The next stop was Marwick Bay where Starling, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Herring Gull were seen. The waves were very impressive there with spindrift forming on top of the waves due to the high winds.
On the way to the next stop at Birsay, four more species were seen including a blackbird flying along a hedge. One reason to go to Birsay was to see Glaucous Gulls, which had been seen near to where the burn drains into the sea. After parking in the village, the group made their way down the footpath to the burn. It was especially windy there and sleet was falling horizontally! Two Glaucous Gulls were seen quite close in as well as a turnstone and an eider.
The next venue was Skaill Bay but little was seen there. However, the Loch of Skaill was more fruitful including Whooper Swans in family groups, pochards, tufted ducks, goldeneyes, teals, mallards and red-breasted mergansers. Also, a struggling Slavonian Grebe  seemingly determined to cross the loch despite swimming into the wind! The fields near to the Strathborg picnic site held large numbers of feeding birds including Rooks, starlings, lapwings and at least four Ruff.
The last stop was towards Yesnaby where a Hen Harrier ringtail was quartering the relatively sheltered rough ground either side of the road.
Then it was back to the Brodgar Car Park to sort out cars after a successful birdwatching outing, despite the weather. At least 33 species had been seen. Many thanks to Liz for suggesting the route taken and encouraging us to get out despite the weather.

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