Birds and Birdwatching on Hoy
The importance of Orkney for its breeding birds is reflected in the fact that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has at least a dozen reserves in the islands: the spectacular, mountainous, reserve of Hoy is just one of them.As the RSPB themselves say of the Hoy Reserve:
Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.
This is the best time of year to spot hen harriers on the moorland. Seabirds arrive during May - look out for puffins at the Old Man of Hoy and bonxies (great skuas) on the moorland. Primroses and Arctic alpines are flowering. Emperor moths emerge from their cocoons. New leaves start to emerge on the native trees in early May.
June is the best month to visit the seabird cliffs. Red-throated divers can be seen on the Sandy Loch and stonechats on the moorland. Look out for amazing insects such as green tiger beetles and common hawker dragonflies along the footpaths. Wonderful for wildflowers on the Post Road footpath (between Sandy Loch and Rackwick), including three species of heather, seven species of orchid, cotton grass, ragged robin, sundews, yellow rattle and St John's wort. Whales and dolphins can be seen around the coast.
This is an exciting time of year to spot migrant birds - almost anything can turn up! Look out for redwings, bullfinches from northern Europe and bramblings, plus flocks of barnacle and greylag geese overhead. Grey seal pups are born around the coast during October. Flocks of wading birds feed around the shore. Autumn colours of deer grass and rowan berries decorate the moor.
A quiet time of year on the Hoy reserve, though there are still some interesting species to spot. Mountain hares look dazzling in white winter coat on the hill tops. Wintering birds such as long-tailed ducks and great northern divers can be seen around the coast.
2011 Cantick Head