Spring 2018 Westray Wildlife

Firstly, this past winter has been quite good for bird of prey sightings. There have been a few Hen Harriers about on the island, as is usual in winter, mostly females but with the odd nice male present. Both Peregrine and Merlin have also been seen regularly whilst a Sparrow Hawk was seen in late December and single Buzzards in February and April. Both Buzzards were sporting wing tags and would be from the small Orkney breeding population.

Buzzard wing tagged

As usual, most of the geese present have been Greylags but Barnacles have been around including a sighting of 22 in January. Pink-footed and Greenland White-fronted Geese have also put in the odd appearance. A Snow Goose was present in the Swartmill area in early March. A handful of Whooper Swans remained over the winter. (Many stop off in autumn on their way south from Iceland but most head south into Scotland for the winter).

Snow Goose

Goldcrest and Chiffchaff arrived in mid April when Puffins were back on the sea at Castle O’Burrian.

 

 

Goldcrest

 

As usual, both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls from the arctic were seen this winter but were not as numerous as in some years. A few Jack Snipe have been seen but many more have no doubt been here as these birds don’t tend to fly up unless you nearly tread on them, unlike Common Snipe which are much quicker to fly. A Grey Plover has been around Aikerness since November and was still present in March. It fed on the shore when the tide was out but was seen on the airfield at high tide.

Grey Plover

 

In early February many Guillemots (Aaks) were on the ledges at Noup giving a taste of spring. Also on the theme of spring, a very early Wheatear was seen on 18th Feb. Small numbers of Sandwich Terns appeared in early April. In late March a Short-eared Owl was present in the Westside and in April a Hawfinch was feeding in Pierowall.

Hawfinch

 

 

There have been quite a few Otter sightings at various places in Westray this winter and early spring.

Otters

 

 

Flocks of Snow Buntings have been seen at several places especially near the Ouse. Stonechats were also in evidence this winter.

Swallows were seen on 21st April.

A Corncrake was heard calling on 30th April.  A Goldfinch was using bird feeders in Pierowall village around 5th May.

A Water Rail was seen crossing a ditch on 6th May. Whimbrel, Great Northern Divers and Sanderling were vying for attention in early May.

Don and Sandra Otter

 

 

 

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February Wildlife

 Common Seals have been enjoying the sunny days we have had on Westray .

 

 

Fulmars are claiming their territories on ledges around the island.

 

 

We  have been lucky to be enjoying the Hen Harriers which choose to spend their winter here. There are definately three individuals and possibly more.

 

A Fulmar riding the cliff winds at Noup as the sun begins to set. The Brough of Birsay on the West Mainland of Orkney is just visible in the bottom left corner.

 

Common Seals drying out in Pierowall, the main village of Westray.

 

The abandoned village of Netherhouses on the Westside during a sunny February afternoon.

 

Purple Sandpipers taking a pause from feeding with a Common Gull near to the airport on Westray during a high tide .

 

An immature Shag came onto the rocks outside the Westray Surgery to dry it’s wings giving exeptional views.

 

 

At least 10 Snow Buntings were feeding with Twite around some farm buildings.

 

Evidence of some of our sea-life was this dried out Starfish in the Bay of Tuquoy.

 

The Super Blue Blood Moon as seen from Westray.

Sandra and Don Otter

 

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Glaucous Gull

Glaucous Gull

 

We were lucky to watch this Glaucous Gull feeding on a beach on Westray. They arrive here  most winters along with the similar Iceland Gull. Neither of these birds have black tips to their wings making them quite distinctive.

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White-winged Gull arrival!

At last we have seen the beginning of the arrival of white-winged Gulls on Westray this winter. It began with an Iceland Gull being seen in Pierowall Bay, and now we have at least two  Iceland gulls visiting Skelwick Bay and Taft End beach. Two Glaucous Gulls were also seen on the north of Westray near the airport.

Iceland Gull

For a few days the cold air from the north held it’s grip on Westray, with minimal snow and some iced roads.

Sand O’Gill, Pierowall

 

The frozen Lochs pushed waterfowl like Wigeon onto the sea in the search for food.

Wigeon

One lucky observer watched an otter grooming it’s coat on the shore for about 20 minutes. Waders on Westray have included Jack Snipe, Grey Plover and Knot as well as the usual wintering flocks of Purple Sandpipers, Curlew and Sanderling.

 

Purple Sandpipers

 

Merlin sightings are increasing along with the occassional Hen Harrier, a nice male Hen Harrier passed across the fields in Skelwick. Snow Buntings are still around in small groups, an ever increasing flock of Twite, now exceeding 120 continues to feed on a couple of small fields planted especially with wild flower seeds. Common Seals haul out regularly in their favoured spots as the tide goes out.

Common Seals

Don and Sandra Otter

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Pierowall Otter

 Barnacle Geese

 

A flock of Greylag Geese were joined by 22 Barnacle Geese near the Old Kirk early in the week, the largest group of Barnacles we have seen on Westray.

 

Curlew

Curlew are still ever present, feeding in large groups in fields and at the shore.

 

Red-throated Diver

A Red-throated Diver in Pierowall Bay in calm waters gave lovely views.

Otter

Also, in Pierowall Bay, an Otter was fishing, diving repeatedly and occasionally coming to shore today.

 

 

The winter sunsets on Westray can be stunningly beautiful, this one only a few days ago.

                Don and Sandra Otter

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January 2018

  Greylag Geese

There are still many flocks of Greylag Geese feeding on the fields of Westray during this first week of January 2018.

 

Sea Urchin

A fully intact Sea Urchin was a nice find on one beach. Once they die, Sea Urchins can sometimes be found on the tideline.

 

Fulmar

Fulmars have been back from their disappearance out to sea to moult for a couple of months now, declaring their territorial rights noisily.

 

Golden Plover

Golden Plover flocks can still be found but in lower numbers now.

 

Ringed Plover

One flock of over 100 Sanderling joined this flock of Ringed Plover with a handful of Dunlin on a beach to the south west of the island.

 

Peregrine

A Peregrine posed briefly for a photograph near the Old Kirk, with Papa Westray behind.

A couple of Fieldfares have been noticed, one was with 20 Redwings. Two Otters were watched swimming and diving in Loch Saintear, where a Slavonian Grebe was feeding amongst Widgeon. A male Hen Harrier flew towards Cubbigoe in Skelwick on 8th January.

Don and Sandra Otter

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Late Autumn and early Winter

This autumn has brought in over 40 Whooper Swans from Iceland, which stayed for a short while with numbers changing, before they left on their journey south. A small handful remain over winter. Swartmill Loch attracted large numbers of other waterfowl as well, mostly comprising of Wigeon and Teal, but with Pintail and Gadwall also putting in an appearance, before heading off south too. A female Scaup was a welcome sight on 18th October.

Small numbers of Ruff were seen feeding by a pool on the Westside of Westray,up to a dozen on one occassion.

Two Yellow-browed Warblers were located on Westray, one in the village of Pierowall, the other on the Westside of Westray in early October. Blackcap,Goldcrest, Lesser Whitethroat and Dunnock all showed intermittently as supporting acts!

Small numbers of Snow Buntings have appeared periodically, including a nervous 7 near Noup Head lighthouse on 6th October.

Porpoise were seen in Skelwick Bay during particularly calm seas. Otter tracks can always be found on the beaches, they can be seen sometimes crossing the car park at the ferry terminal if you are very lucky!

Purple Sandpipers had begun to return by the 8th October at their usual favourite sites.

Great Northern Divers and Long tailed Duck can now be seen from the shore, joining Red-breasted Merganser, Shags and Goldeneye to name but a few. Fulmars have also returned now that December is here, after their disappearance out to sea for their moult.

Greylag Geese numbers have built up as they usually do over winter, Pink-footed Geese  are sometimes amongst them with the thrill of very small numbers of Barnacle Geese. Two Barnacles have been seen in fields by Roadmire and near the New Kirk, four were seen near The Ouse.

Twite have formed a flock of almost a hundred strong and can be seen along the road towards the airport in suitable feeding areas.

Grey Seals gave birth to their pups in October and November.

Good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits used Westray’s fields and certain beaches to feed, with smaller numbers of Black-tailed Godwits also around. Curlew flocks have built up using the fields to search for food, only outnumbered by Golden Plover, some Golden Plover flocks appearing to be about a thousand strong.

Fewer Common Skate egg cases have washed up on Westray’s shores this winter so far, withonly one being found at Rackwick.

Raptor sightings have increased as winter progresses. Peregrine, Merlin and Hen Harrier . Kestrel has not been seen so far in it’s usual haunts in December, but a lucky sighting of a Sparrowhawk at Ness was enjoyed  on Boxing Day. The Snowy Owl is back on Eday. We are hoping it will visit Westray too, as it did last winter!

One flock of 100 Sanderling was fun to see on one of the beaches on the south of Westray.

Sandra and Don Otter December 2017

 

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Autumn 2017

Redstart

The Autumn has brought a few interesting birds to Westray. A Redstart, two or three Stonechats, 30 or more Chaffinches with a Brambling and two Yellow-browed Warblers. Snow Buntings, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers have also appeared. The first Redwings have arrived.

Whooper Swans are beginning to reappear, we have Greylag Geese flocks in abundance now. Golden Plover flocks are drawn to suitable fields for feeding . One flock contained several hundred individuals. Small numbers of Ruff have also been seen.

Purple Sandpipers are now returning to spend the winter here and the island’s sandy beaches are ideal places to see flocks of Sanderling and Bar-tailed Godwits.

Raptors seen recently include Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel.

 

Snow Bunting

Chiffchaff

Merlin

By Sandra and Don Otter

 

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Seaview Self Catering

 

Seaview self catering accommodation is in the centre of Pierowall Village.

With a double bedroom and a twin bedroom, it sleeps 4.

Very short walking distance to two of the three local shops and also the main Post Office.

There is off road parking and a drying green.

Rapness Ferry terminal is 7 miles and the Westray airport is 2.5 miles, where you can go on the World’s Shortest Scheduled Flight between Westray and Papa Westray.

Sorry no pets or smoking.

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Elaine Rendall
Seaview Self Catering
Bucklesberry
Westray
Orkney
KW17 2DN
01857 677464

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Chalmersquoy Bed & Breakfast

Chalmersquoy Bed & BreakfastEach bedroom has high quality comfortable seating, tea/coffee making facilities, TV and free Wifi.

Dining Room – enjoy a cooked breakfast using local produce, fresh breads etc. Packed lunches and evening meals available on request.

Chalmersquoy Bed & Breakfast is situated on the edge of Pierowall Village in easy walking distance of all local amenities. There is also parking available.

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Chalmersquoy Bed & Breakfast Westray
Michael & Teenie Harcus
Chalmersquoy Accommodation
Westray
Orkney

01857 677214

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Boat Trips to the Holm of Papay

Papay Development Trust now offer a boat service to get to the Holm from Papay itself. The south tomb is an exceptionally large Neolithic chambered cairn, with unusual carvings on the lintels above some of the chambers. At the north end of this uninhabited island is a small stalled cairn, of even earlier date, which may well have been the burial place of the people who lived at the Knap of Howar.

Enquiries

Contact the Papay Ranger
for all bookings & further information
email papayranger@gmail.com
contact the Papay Ranger on Facebook
ring 0793 1235213.

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2015 Westray Connections Music Festival 28th- 30th August

The Westray Connections Music Festival will take place in venues throughout the island between 28th and 30th August. Details to be announced shortly.

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2015 Westray Regatta Weekend

The annual Westray Regatta will be held on Saturday 25th July, followed by the Island Picnic on Sunday 26th. A weekend of events is planned- visitors very welcome. Details to be announced here shortly.

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10th Papay Fun Weekend 17th – 19th July

A jam-packed weekend of fun featuring great food, all kinds of sport, crafting and sculpting, live music and dancing is planned in July on Papay. Organised by the Papay Community Association, The Papay Fun Weekend has something for everyone- visitors warmly welcomed! For more details see EVENTS or look up www.papawestray.co.uk/events- you can also call 01857 644 224 for further information.

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St. Magnus Festival comes to Westray and Papay

The trombone quartet, Slide Too Far, are set to visit Westray and Papay 22/23rd June as part of the St. Magnus International Music Festival. See Events diary and St. Magnus Festival website for details. Tickets (£6 / £1 under 16’s) available at the door.

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Concerts announced at The Graand Owld Byre

The first of this summer’s live music concerts at the beautifully refurbished Graand Owld Byre, Chalmersquoy, Westray have been announced. The dates are as follows:

Tuesday 16th June 8pm – local and guest musicians play a variety of music, followed by supper

Wednesday 24th June 8pm – Live music gospel concert to raise funds for a hospital in Pakistan, followed by supper

Tuesday 30th June 8pm- local and guest musicians play a variety of music, followed by supper.

Suggested donation £7 / £5 concessions.

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Links of Noltland Dig 2015

The archaeological excavation at Links of Noltland is underway again for the summer. Work this year will concentrate on the extensive Neolithic settlement and on a Bronze Age burnt mound. Visitors are welcome- working hours are 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday (larger groups should make contact in advance- tourism@westraydevelopmenttrust.co.uk). Artefacts from the dig can be seen at the Westray Heritage Centre- including the famous ‘Westray Wife’ figurine, the oldest human representation yet found in the British Isles. Keep up to date via our Facebook page (Links of Noltland) and the dig website (linksofnoltland.co.uk).

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Newcastle

Newcastle Self Catering - WestrayNewcastle Self catering accommodation in the heart of Westray next to Westray Golf Course and within easy walking of Pierowall Village, shops, swimming pool etc.

Noltland Castle and beaches nearby.

Sorry no pets.

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Newcastle

tel: 01856 872509

mobile: 07526804763

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Baking with Rita at the West Manse

Want to learn how to bake something new and chat with some local from Westray?

If you’re here on the 13th March you might fancy signing up for the Baking with Rita course at the West Manse.

Baking with Rita at the West Manse

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Chartless Rudderless Night @ Papay Listskjul

Friday August 15th 19.30 Exhibition opening with a live sound performance and artist talk.

Admission FREE

PAPEY LISTSKJUL (Papay Arts Centre):

SINCE 2007. A REVOLUTIONARY ARTS & HERITAGE HUB OF THE NORTH

Formerly known as Land Art Papa Westray is an Art Venue for around the year programme of exhibitions, concerts, film screenings, talks and a base for ARTIST’S RESIDENCIES in Papa Westray, Orkney.

For more information contact:

papeylistskjul@papawestray.org

tel: 01857 644 340

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The Apartment at Chalmersquoy

The Apartment at ChalmersquoyThe Apartment at Chalmersquoy has been newly renovated and comprises of an open plan kitchen, dining and living room. It has a sun porch with a breakfast bar overlooking the most glorious view of Pierowall Bay. It also has a bedroom with a double and a single bed and a showeroom. There is also a chair bed in the lounge area to sleep the 4th person.

Find out more at www.chalmersquoywestray.co.uk

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The Apartment at Chalmersquoy

Chalmersquoy
Westray
Orkney
KW17 2BZ

tel: 01857 677214

mobile: 07803 048189

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Ben End at Chalmersquoy

Ben End at ChalmersquoyThe Ben End at Chalmersquoy has been newly renovated and comprises of an open plan living room, dining and kitchen at a very high standard. Also on the ground floor is the shower room. Upstairs are two large bedrooms – the family room sleeping upto 5 and the twin room for 2. There is also a small toilet upstairs.

Find out more at www.chalmersquoywestray.co.uk

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Ben End at Chalmersquoy

Chalmersquoy
Westray
Orkney
KW17 2BZ

tel: 01857 677214

mobile: 07803 048189

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Newbigging

Newbigging WestrayNewbigging is a traditional 19th century “but and ben” which was renovated and extended to a high standard in 2011. It now provides attractive, modern, high quality self-catering accommodation, suitable for up to three couples, or a family.

A very short drive from Rapness ferry terminal, the house sits in an elevated position, providing unrestricted coastal and sea views over rolling farmland. It is perfectly positioned close to some of Westray’s best cliff and beach walks and is near to The Castle O’ Burrian, one of the best Puffin watching spots in Orkney.

Find out more at our website www.newbigging-westray.co.uk

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Newbigging
Tel: 01856 873151
Tel: 01856 875825
Mob: 07708 153334

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Westray Connections 2013 Video

Westray Connections 2013 was a great success and the short video below gives a flavour of the event and the acts that took part.

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Award Recognises Westray Archaeology Dig

Noltland Dig 2014

An archaeology project in Orkney has been recognised at a prestigious UK-wide awards ceremony.

The project at the Links of Noltland on the coast of Westray has been named Rescue Dig of the Year at the Current Archaeology Awards..

Commissioned by Historic Scotland and carried out by EASE Archaeology, it was said to have shed light on the domestic and ritual life in prehistoric Orkney.

The site includes the well preserved remains of more than 20 buildings..

Noltland Dig 2014Richard Strachen of Historic Scotland, the project manager of the Links of Noltland dig said: I’m delighted that this incredible project has been recognised with such a prestigious award .It is an endorsement of the national and international significance of the site, and the hard work of those involved in the project all of whom faced challenging conditions..” Links of Noltland continues to surprise us, and is greatly enhancing our understanding of the Neolithic and Bronze Age”

The award is backed by Current Archaeology Magazine.. Editor Dr. Matthew Symonds said: ” The Links of Noltland project saw off competition from some of the most exciting recent archaeological digs in the UK to emerge as the favourite in the prestigious “Rescue Dig of the Year category.

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The Islands of Orkney Brochure Cover Photo

We asked people on Westray to submit photos for consideration as suitable cover photos for the 2014 Islands of Orkney Brochure.

The entries were narrowed down to seven before a final assessment including the brochure editor.

Brochure Pic Winner

The Photo Chosen for The Cover – Phill Hellewell

Below are the other final 6 photos that were included in the final consideration.

Linda Drever

Linda Drever

Carol Ryan

Carol Ryan

Kenneth Ewen

Kenneth Ewen

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

Teenie Harcus

Teenie Harcus

Phill Hellewe

Phill Hellewe

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Cycle Hire

Unfortunately there is no-one on the islands offering cycle hire but Cycle Orkney based in Kirkwall are happy to hire cycles for use in the islands. They stock a wide range of Ladies, Gents, and children’s bikes. You can find out more at their website – www.cycleorkney.com

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killer whales

ORCAS Pod of 6 killer whales seen off Papa Westray  photo on Facebook Westray  Group. Taken from small fishing boat !

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Westray Connections 2013 Aug 31st – Sept 1st Update

Westray Connections 2012Westray Connections is going to take place on the weekend beginning 30th August.

Things kick off on the Friday night with an informal music session at the Pierowall Hotel as the musicians gather and warm up instrumentally and vocally.

Saturday the 31st will start with ‘Westray Jam Sessions’ which will take place at various locations during the morning and afternoon, venues to be finalised.

These sessions will be concluded with a parade through Pierowall Village by The Kirkwall City Pipe Band in the late afternoon. Home to spruce up and then….

The Saturday evening event will be a musical feast with a variety of bands and musicians entertaining till late… but not as late as last year so don’t worry you will be able to have a quick sleep and then head to the Pierowall Hotel Garden on Sunday afternoon for the finally which will be less formal, T in the Tent….. Music, Food, Fresh air and hopefully glorious sunshine.

Westray Connections 2012

The line up so far is (in no particular order) –

  • Driftwood Cowboys
  • Genuine Draft
  • Nö Boys
  • Kirkwall City Pipe Band
  • James and Maggie
  • Broken Strings
  • Raisin The Stoor
  • Jenny Keldie
  • Michael Harcus
  • Ippykak

Keep a look out for posters and more info. Tickets for Saturday night event and Sunday buffet will go on sale soon.

For more information email westrayconnections@westraypapawestray.co.uk

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Westray Connections 2013

Westray Connections 2102 saw a variety of musicians of all ages and styles performing in venues across Westray  with a concert and dance in the school hall on Saturday evening.

It was a great success and we hope that this year will be the same.

The date for Westray Connections this year will be Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September.

We hope to bring a variety of bands including the Kirkwall City Pipe Band.

As we get more information we will set up a dedicated page for the event so check back here soon to find out more…

If you’d like to see some photos from last years Westray Connection have a look at –

Westray’s Living Heritage

Hall of Einar Facebook album

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AAKnowledge Weekend – Papa Westray

AAKnowledge weekend in Papa Westray, Orkney, commemorating Britain’s last breeding pair of great auks.

A long weekend of activities on Papa Westray over 17th – 19th May 2013, organised by the Papay Community Association.

  • AAKnowledge Concert: 17th May 7:30pm ’til late
  • Farmers Market, Kelp Store: 18th May 11am – 2pm
  •   Boat Trip(s) to Fowl Craig: 18th May 2pm – 4pm
  • AAKnowledge Dinner & Presentations, Beltane House: 18th May 7pm ’til late
  •  Commemorative walk to Great Auk Monument & Picnic: 19th May 11am – 2pm

Download full programme in PDF format.

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Westray Walks: Introduction

There are five sign posted Westray Walks

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Westray Walks: West Westray Coast

8.8km linear cliff top trail, maritime heath, ending Noup Head lighthouse.

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Westray Walks: West Westray Walk – Noup Head Loop

A circular walk of 6.4km (4 miles) following part of the West Westray Walk
A linear walk of 6.3km following the West Westray Walk to West Kirbist

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Westray Walks: Tuquoy and Mae Sands

A 3.6km circular walk from the Bay of Tuquoy to Cross Kirk
A longer 6.2km walk including the beach at Mae Sands

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Westray Walks: Castle O’ Burrian and the Bay of Tafts

A short 1.2km walk, to the Castle o’ Burrian to view puffins
A longer 5.5km circular walk to Stanger Head and the Bay of Tafts

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Westray Walks: Kirk, Castle and Beach

Easy circular walks exploring a medieval church, a broch, a castle and the finest sandy beach in Westray
The longest route is approximately 6km, or just go for a stroll on the beach

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Braehead Manse

Braehead Manse offers quality Bed and Breakfast or Self-Catering accommodation on the north west Orkney island of Westray. Two en-suite bedrooms are supported via a large open plan kitchen/diner/lounge arrangement for Self-Catering users.

Braehead Manse is situated 1mile south of the village, on the hilltop over looking Pierowall village with views of the village and Papa Westray.

A warm and friendly welcome to all who visit.

For more information on the tours offered visit their website.

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Braehead Manse
Westray
Orkney
KW17 2DB

01857 677861

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Fernside


View Larger Map

2 bed cottage in centre of Pierowall.

Convenient for shops, post office, local hotel for bar and meals, swimming pool, and heritage centre.

Sorry – No Pets

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Clara Lynde
01738 621654
mobile: 07968104267

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The Puffins Have Arrived!

The puffins have arrived at The Castle O’Burrian. Spotted on the 14th April this marks the start of this years Puffin season at Westray’s most popular puffin watching spot.

A pair of pintails wetre also spotted at Broughton.

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Orkney Nature Festival: Seabird Spectacular on the island of Westray 11th May

A day exploring the spectacular seabird colonies on the wonderful island of Westray.

The day will include guided walks to the Castle of Burrian puffin colony, an open day at the RSPB’s Noup Head reserve and a boat tour of the stunning seabird cliffs below.

For the full day’s events for Saturday 11th and booking instructions follow this link…

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Frontiers Magazine

Another general Orkney post about a new online magazine dedicated to the Orkney Science Festival, which highlights Orkney in general, as well as containing stories of science and people.

You can see the first issue with stories from Papay, North Ronaldsay, Sanday and Stronsay, new insights into the Ring of Brodgar, a story from Skaill House, and several stories about John Rae and events planned to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth at – www.frontiersmagazine.org

There are also many beautiful photos from around Orkney

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Orkney Nature Festival

Not news about Westray or Papa Westray as susch but hopefully useful to any visitors all the same.

Orkney Nature Festival

Saturday 11th May – Sunday 19th May 2013

Orkney’s first festival dedicated to celebrating our amazing island wildlife.  The 9 day programme of events includes boat trips, guided walks, bird watching by horse & carriage, photography and art displays as well as the opportunity to enjoy great, sustainably produced food.

For more information visit the festival website at www.orkneynaturefestival.org

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The Kelp Store

The Kelp Store near the Old Pier has been renovated by Papay Development Trust, and it is now open as a Craft & Heritage Centre. It was used for storing kelp – an alkali substance produced by burning seaweed which was in great demand by the soap- and glass-making industries. In the boom years of the early 19th Century Papay was producing more kelp per capita than any other island, making a substantial fortune for the island’s laird. The Craft & Heritage Centre is always open, and its cabinets house a captivating collection of artefacts and information about all aspects of the island’s heritage and displays of crafts made on the island. The facilities include toilets.

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Boat Nausts

Walking around the shores of Papay one can see a number of these boat shelters cut into the dunes.  The lack of any natural harbour here meant that the fishing boats had to be dragged out of the water and well above the high tide line after every trip.  Of the 17 known sites round the coast, some date from Viking times while the most recent were built in the early 20th century.  The best examples are at Nouster, where there are four large 19th century nausts, lined with stone walling and well preserved, and at Backaskaill where the iron winches still stand above them.  There is also an unusual group at Cott, where the nausts have been formed by setting large flagstones on edge.  The number of nausts indicates the former importance of fishing here – iin 1870 there were 254 boats on the island.

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Holland Farm

At the centre of the island is the impressive steading of Holland, which until the end of the 19th century was the hub of a large estate which owned all the island and land on Westray and the Mainland as well.  The extensive range of buildings, including a circular mill-tramp, corn-drying kiln etc, date from the late 17th to the 20th centuries.  Visitors are welcome to look round (with care if there are animals or machinery about – this is very much a working farm!) and to visit the Bothy Museum, which is always open.

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St Tredwell’s Chapel

On a small promontory jutting into St Tredwell’s Loch from the east, is a confusion of ruined buildings. At the core of the mound is an Iron Age fortification, but the rectangular walls on the top are those of a medieval chapel. St Tredwell is mentioned in a late medieval account of the mission that King Nechtan invited to Pictland: its leader was Boniface and Triduana or Tredwell was one of the “holy virgins” who accompanied him. Legend recounts that Nechtan fell in love with Triduana and praised the beauty of her eyes. She responded by plucking them out and sending them to him skewered on a thorn.

St Tredwell was widely venerated in Scotland and the lochs and wells associated with her were famous for curing diseases of the eyes. Pilgrims travelled to Papay from all over Orkney and the north seeking cures at St Tredwell’s loch, and were still doing so long after the Reformation

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The Holm of Papay

Papay Development Trust now offer a boat service to get to the Holm from Papay itself. The south tomb is an exceptionally large Neolithic chambered cairn, with unusual carvings on the lintels above some of the chambers. At the north end of this uninhabited island is a small stalled cairn, of even earlier date, which may well have been the burial place of the people who lived at the Knap of Howar.

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August 2012 Wildlife Sightings

Hen Harrier – 1 ringtail (female or juvenile) seen flying north over Papa Westray on 12th, with another seen on 25th.

Kestrel – 1 flying north-east over Papa Westray on 18th.

Merlin – 1 seen by Tim Dodman at the south end of Papay on 18th.

Corncrake – 1 male heard calling between Nouster and the Post Office, Papa Westray on the evening of 16th.

Sanderling – 31 seen on North Wick, Papay on 18th, a mixture of worn, post-breeding adults and juveniles in fresh autumn plumage.

Whimbrel – 1 flying over the North Hill RSPB reserve, Papay on 16th, calling. 2 on the North Hill reserve and heard calling on 17th. 1 heard calling at Fowl Craig, North Hill reserve on 19th.

Golden Plover – 5 seen on the North Hill RSPB reserve, Papa Westray on 13th. 36 seen flying east over Papay on 16th. 6 flying north over the North Hill reserve on 17th.

Greenshank – 1 flushed from the pools at the north end of the North Hill RSPB reserve, Papay, on 20th.

Swift – 1 flying around Rose Cottage, Papa Westray on 19th and 20th.

Sedge Warbler – 1heard singing at Whitelooms, Papay on 15th.

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Bird News for North Hill and Noup Cliffs – July/August 2012

The breeding season is now officially over, for the seabirds anyway, so I can officially reveal that most of the seabird species that breed on the North Hill RSPB reserve on Papa Westray and on the Noup Cliffs RSPB reserve on Westray have had a relatively good season!

Despite returning to Papay and Westray in relatively good numbers, Arctic Terns have had yet another terrible breeding season on both islands. Many of the pairs nesting on these islands managed to hatch out some small chicks this year, but due to weather conditions, predation and a lack of food, sadly, most of these chicks did not make it to more than about a week old. Two fledged (flying) young were seen on Papa Westray at the end of July, and about five or so have been seen on Westray – very low numbers when you consider the number of pairs nesting, 365 pairs on Papay alone!

Guillemots and Razorbills had a relatively good season this year, as both species managed to fledge chicks from both the North Hill reserve on Papa Westray, and the Noup Cliffs reserve on Westray. It is very good to see Guillemots and Razorbills fledging chicks this year, as the past few years have been disastrous, with almost no chicks fledging at all. This year’s youngsters have all now left the cliffs and are now well on their way to adulthood. Both of these species spend their winter out at sea. They leave the cliffs at the end of July and go out to sea with their parents to learn to fish and fly and won’t return to land to breed until they are four years old, but the adults will return next year in April to breed. Puffins also leave their breeding areas at the end of July to spend their winters in massive groups called ‘rafts’, floating out on the Atlantic and the North Sea, and won’t be back now until April, so don’t expect to see any if you visit over winter! May – July is the best time to view all of our nesting seabirds, but autumn and winter are best for seeing migrating birds.

The Kittiwakes over on Noup Cliffs reserve, Westray have also had a surprisingly good breeding season this year, with about a quarter of nests fledging young! This is still very low numbers in comparison to other areas around the UK, as anyone who watched the BBC’s Summerwatch programme will know, but it is very good for seabird sites in Orkney to be fledging this number of chicks! Kittiwakes stay on the cliffs for a little while longer than the auks do, but by mid-August all of the adults and juveniles had left dry land for a winter out at sea – these birds are true sea-gulls! Shags generally do quite well, and often manage to raise plenty of chicks to fledging, and this year has been no exception. Most of the nests along the Fowl Craig cliffs on the North Hill reserve, and those in Ramni Geo on the Noup Cliffs reserve have managed to raise quite a few youngsters! These can still be seen hanging around on low rocks along the shore line, and often congregate in large groups with adults and last year’s youngsters, and will stay around for a while yet, so keep your eyes peeled!

The number of Gannets nesting at the RSPB’s Noup Cliffs reserve on Westray increased again this year to 623 nests, which have produced a grand total of 473 chicks, meaning that three-quarters of all nests were successful in raising young this year! Gannets are very hardy birds and often show high levels of breeding success, but this is a particularly high number fledged, even for them! The Gannets will be around on the cliffs until about the end of September, so you can still see them for a while yet! Noup Cliffs and its Gannets are now famous as well, after being filmed for the BBC’s Summerwatch programme, aired in early August.

Fulmars have had a mixed season this year. Fulmars are also a very hardy species, and are usually very successful at raising chicks, as they defend themselves by spitting fishy, smelly oil at anything that gets too close to them, warding off any potential predators and ensuring that many young make it to flying. This is the case on Noup Cliffs, where many Fulmar chicks can still be seen on the cliffs and in Ramni Geo, slowly changing from balls of fluff to fully-feathered youngsters. However, they have done quite badly on the North Hill reserve on Papay this year, with evidence of both eggs and chicks being predated, which is possibly due to the addition of a pair of breeding Ravens on the cliffs this year. However, Fulmars are very resilient birds, and can live for 60 years, so one year of poor breeding success is nothing to worry too much on. Black Guillemots appear to have done well this year, and several adults can still be seen on the crossing from Westray to Papay, so keep an eye out if you’re on the Golden Mariana!

Both the Arctic Skuas and Great Skuas have managed to raise young this year. The Great Skuas (or Bonxies as they are known here) always seem to do quite well, and this year is no exception, with several fledged juveniles still present on the North Hill reserve. The Arctic Skuas have been declining in numbers since the mid-1990s, but have had a relatively good season, with four chicks fledged – an increase on just one fledged chick last year!

The eight different wader species that breed on the North Hill reserve (Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Snipe and Dunlin), seem to have done well this year, with young chicks seen earlier in the year. The eight species of passerine that breed on the North Hill reserve have also done well again this year, and small flocks of Twite and House Sparrows can be seen flying about the island in feeding parties, and the Starlings can be seen gathering together in one large group to roost in the evenings.

August is a good month for bird migration, as species begin to leave their breeding sites and travel to their wintering sites in Europe or even as far as Africa. Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Black-tailed Godwits are all gathering along the beaches, coastlines and inland water sources rich in food at this time of year, with flocks often including many birds in their juvenile plumage, as well as adults in both summer and winter plumages, so autumn is the perfect time to brush up on your wader identification skills! The Loch of Swartmill on Westray has proven to be a particularly good site for migrating waders, with flocks of 300+ Dunlin seen in July and August, as well as Greenshanks, Green Sandpipers, and a wide variety of the commoner waders such as Curlew and Redshank. At this time of year, you often get migrating birds blown off-course by strong winds, so anything could turn up, as proven by the presence of a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (which breeds in Siberia) on Westray in July! So remember to keep your eyes peeled at all times, and report any interesting bird (and other wildlife) sightings to the RSPB or to the OrkBird Yahoo group.

The Scottish Primrose is now nearing the end of its flowering season, so please don’t be surprised if you don’t see any on your visit to the known colonies on Westray at Aikerness and on Papay on the North Hill reserve. However, the heather is now in full bloom, as are several other flowers, such as Devil’s-bit Scabious.

For any more information about the RSPB reserves on Westray (Noup Cliffs) or Papa Westray (North Hill), please contact the main office in Stromness on 01856 850176, as the Warden for these reserves will not be available overwinter. You can also keep up to date with what’s going on at all of our Orkney reserves by visiting the RSPB blog at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/orkney/b/orkney-blog/default.aspx.

Or by visiting RSPB Orkney’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/RspbOrkney

Hopefully we will see this increase in numbers of fledged chicks continue again next year, but we shall have to wait and see… Tune in next year for more information!

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