Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ric: Autumn Begins

It’s been a while hasn’t it? My excuse: the lack of updates is due, in part, to recent staff holidays: I spent a few days on Orkney Mainland trying to ignore birds and being force-fed history and culture by my visiting family who seem to be under the impression that these are alien concepts to me; Mark and Fleur headed home to the balmy latitudes of Cornwall to catch up with family and friends, leaving a certain high-maintenance miniature ‘dog’ in the care of Alex.

I returned to North Ron just late enough to get out of ‘Bag the Bruck’, a mass litter-pick to remove as much rubbish as possible from the island’s coastline, but not quite late enough to get out of the evening dance in celebration of the newly tidied beaches. The enormous quantity of flotsam, jetsam, odd wellies and other miscellaneous junk that had been collected during the day was most impressive; the islanders had done a fantastic job of clearing the place up and deservedly made the most of the free bar (yes, a free bar) in the evening.

For me, and the rest of the ornithological staff, it is time to switch back into full-on birding mode as the busy migration period begins. A good fall of Wrynecks and other migrants on Wednesday jump-started my autumn efforts with dawn to dusk birding, partly in horrendous weather conditions, as Paul and I tried to cover as much of the island as possible. It was a fantastic day though, that showed just how exciting birding here can be when the right conditions occur. Caught slightly short-staffed while a certain nearby island produced an impressive sequence of rarities, it does feel like we have been struggling to keep up with the Joneses during the last few days; but it’s certainly been enjoyable finding all the common and scarce birds that we’ve had and we must be due our next rare any day soon.

Probably not today, though. The gale-force northerly winds and incessant horizontal rain that is literally rattling the windows out of their frames as I write this have made most practical bird-related activities fairly futile and more or less impossible. This morning we resorted to a safari-style Land Rover cruise around the island looking for birds from the comfort of the vehicle, although even this was difficult in the poor visibility. Otherwise, it looks like a day of window fixing, paperwork, tea drinking and football watching – until five o’clock, when Alex and I have decided to expend some energy with a preprandial jog through the raging tempest as far as the lighthouse and back. And, if that is not punishment enough for one day, Mark and I are considering a night of wandering around in the dark catching and ringing waders. If you’re mad enough, you can find things to do on even the most unpleasant days.


  1. It's strange how the seasons are perceived in different places. For pretty much everywhere else in the UK, Autumn is a time of mellow fruitfulness and changing colours, as the leaves fall from the trees. I hadn't considered the different indicators on North Ron, but am heartened that the "mobile hide" technique is alive and well.

    And I thought it was only the Samaritans that were rung in the middle of the night!

  2. Brilliant Samaritans joke! I'll store that one away for future use.