One of the things that Orkney ‘does’ is birds. There are a lot of them about, and the islands are home to many of the less usual British species.
Most of the real rarities, though, arrive during the spring and autumn migrations, when birds around the world are on the move. If the winds are in unusual directions at this time, the birds can be blown off course, so that odd westerly winds bring us Siberian species, while easterlies bring North American species.
Over the past couple of days, South Ronaldsay (the island where I live) has played host to a Sandhill Crane. This is a Northern American species, and this specimen is only the third to have been seen in the UK.
But it doesn’t stop there. One rare bird equals a Lot of Twitchers. For the past few days the place has been crawling men (yes, almost all twitchers are men) in full waterproof gear and carrying long sighting scopes and cameras with obscene lenses….
The crane has been very thoughtful, keeping up a daily routine over the greater part of the island. He has not been shy and seems unabashed by the fuss he is causing.
Speaking in the shop this morning, someone said the bird was spending a lot of its time in a field near them. What is it like?, someone else said. A very dull sheep was the reply….
Still, it is keeping the beds filled, and no one can complain about that!