|View from down the road from the house where we stayed|
|Scenes of Orkney - Grass, Sheep, Coast|
|Common Redshank all tucked in, but still showing a shank|
|Common Redshank coming in for a landing|
Our first dedicated birding destination was the Loons RSPB Reserve, featuring the first of several bird blinds that made this pair of Americans super jealous of British birding culture. The blinds we’re used to are dilapidated, bare, unwelcoming hovels, heavy on plywood and graffiti, light on everything else. Now we were enclosed with glass windows, provided spare binoculars and field guides, posters hanging on the walls, and none of it vandalized. We also have the perfect vantage for picking out cryptic Common Snipe.
|Barn Swallows - Notice the white bellies compared to the North American Barn Swallows|
|Happy as Loons at the RSPB Loons Hide|
|The beautiful mural in The Loons Hide|
We checked out some rocky coastline near Warebeth Cemetary, overlooking Hoy Sound. The resemblance to the Oregon coast was striking here, except the cormorants were Shags, the crows were Hooded, and the oystercatchers Eurasian. We could definitely use some wagtails along the Oregon coast.
|It was a bit chilly and windy|
|Enjoying the rocky, coastal views|
For all the Mute Swans we’ve seen we’d never “counted” them before due to their sketchy provenance. So it was funny that now that we were in the U.K. where native Mute Swans abound, we should run across… an uncountable swan! In this case, it was a Black Swan. Native to Australia, they were introduced to Europe, and especially to Britain, for ornamental purposes.
|Red Knots in Flight|
We stopped at Cottascarth RSPB, a well-known spot for Hen Harrier, and were successful, although it was so far away as to be near the limits of perception. But more importantly, check out this bird blind! It’s glorious. It’s part bird blind, part Hobbit home. Again, this is something that’s available to the public, without supervision.
|The sign leading to the hide to find Hen Harriers|
|"Do you know where to find the Hen Harrier, sheep?"|
|A lovely, quaint cottage-looking bird hide|
|The inside of this bird hide was just as beautiful with this lovely bird mural|
|Cozy and waiting to spot a Hen Harrier (successfully!)|
|Reminds me of Yoda|
|Red Knot and Ruddy Turnstone|
|Common Ringed Plovers|
|A shorebird party mix - Common Ringed Plover, Red Knot, and Dunlin|
Besides shorebirds, we were able to get right up on top of the Rock Pipits, who seemed much more adapted to people and city life than American Pipits, even landing on buildings. We were able to compare them to the Meadow Pipits we had seen earlier this trip. With such photogenic birds, it was hard having to leave.
We really enjoyed seeing the European corvids. They seem a bit more edgy than our North American ones. And they sound just as cool as they look!
This ended up being our shortest stay on our travels, but it was well worth the detour. Shoutout to our friend Kate for showing us all around the island and getting us to all of these fantastic places. Hopefully we’ll be back again when we can see the breeding colonies in their full glory!
|Harbor Seals playing a game of "Don't touch the lava!"|
|You guys... This Highland Cow!|
|Tufted Ducks at the Peedie Sea|
|View of Kirkwall|