RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch & local bird life in January

Firstly may I just point out that taking a real interest in the Birdlife and breeds of birds indigenous to Orkney is a new & growing interest of mine and I am novice in this subject.However to spur me on  I am in the process of starting a bird ‘log’ book in The Grainstore, with 2 pairs of binoculars, and books to help identify bird species, so guests can also take part if they wish. Our property is ‘out in the sticks’, with moorland & agricultural land surrounding us and not far from inland freshwater lakes. Our nearest RSPB reserve is at Cottascarth, which as the bird flies is just over the hill, probably only a mile or so away.

In January, especially around here, with the agricultural fields the predominant bird species is Greylag Geese. In fact they are regarded as a pest destroying the grassland, and consist of residential geese that are here all year round & migrating geese. We have them around us in large quantities in one field or another all the time during the winter months. Also noticeable on the lochs and even along the coast edges are ducks and wildfowl wintering over. I have been watching over the fields around us & in the garden but all seems very quiet on the birdwatching species front at the moment – or I’m looking in the wrong places!

Greylag GeeseSome weeks ago I decided to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on 28-30 January ‘17. Our garden is nearly ½ acre with a waterfall on one boundary and an arched stone bridge on the other. When we bought the property it took the form of a steep, wild slope going down from the back of the property to a burn, with outcrops of tiered rocks giving it some natural terracing. After 5 years of hard work it is now terraced with traditional stone walls & getting to look something like a well loved garden ought to.

So I thought about where to observe the bird life for this ‘Big’ event, which was to last an hour. It eventually came down to the fact that the wild birds on our premises are more attracted by the original ‘farmyard’ where our livestock get fed rather than the garden! So on Sunday morning, binoculars in hand, Orkney bird species book available, a mug of tea & comfy chair I sat down at the back door to watch the birdlife. Well after an hour I had seen a lot of birds, mainly of the same 2 species, probably 50+ sparrows & 14+ starlings, 5 sea gulls and a pigeon. Very disappointing, to say the least. Not even a hooded crow!

So that’s it. At some point another bulletin. Maybe our more expert guests can offer some sightings for me to report. One thing I have noticed though – the starlings are already building nests. Maybe spring is on its way!

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