News and Wildlife Sightings

Westray’s and Papa Westray’s abundant wildlife can be observed all around the islands with both residents and seasonal visitors. There is a wide variety of bird species, sea birds include fulmars, guillemots, great skua (bonxie), artic terns (picky terns), puffins, gannets and oyster catchers. Land birds include the short eared owl (catty face), drumming snipe, hen harriers, curlew and the elusive corncrake.

Puffins are a special visitor attraction on Westray and Papa Westray. They arrive to nest in late April and usually leave at the end of July. Greatest numbers can be seen mid-afternoon and evening at Noup Head Lighthouse and the Castle o’ Burrian on Westray, when they are also often seen along along Papay’s Fowl Craig.

Sea mammals include common and grey seals, otters, orcas, dolphins and porpoises and the occasional lost sperm whale (visit Westray Heritage Centre to see the impressive skeleton of our last visitor).

There are some spectacular flora to be seen in Westray and Papa Westray, sea pinks, Scottish primrose (primula scotica) and northern marsh orchid to name a few.

Whatever the season you choose for your visit there will be a wealth of flora and fauna to explore.

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Autumn 2017

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 […]

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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 you can also call […]

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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 […]

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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- Artefacts from the dig can […]

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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.

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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 […]

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Westray Connections 2013 Video

Westray Connections 2013 was a great success and this short video 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 […]

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

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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 –

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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

Fiddling at Westray Connections 2012

Westray 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 […]

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Westray Connections 2013

Westray Coonections 2012 playing in Pierowall Hotel garden

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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, […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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July 2012 Wildlife Sightings

Sandwich Tern – 1 juvenile seen in cut silage field near North Rendall, Papa Westray on 16th plus 6 juveniles seen at Wellpark, Papa Westray on 25th. Dunlin – 21 at North Wick, Papa Westray on 25th. 300+ at Loch of Swartmill, Westray on 29th. Sanderling – 2 at North Wick, Papay on 4th. Purple […]

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

The number of Gannets nesting at the RSPB’s Noup Cliffs reserve on Westray has once again increased to a whopping 623 nests! Considering that Gannets only started nesting on this reserve in 2003, that’s a pretty impressive increase in a relatively short amount of time. Most of these breeding pairs now have small, fluffy white […]

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June Wildlife Sighting 2012

Whooper Swan – 1 dead discovered near Mull Head on 5th. Greylag Goose – 55 broods plus 182 non-breeding adults counted at St Tredwell’s Loch on 21st. Barnacle Goose – 1 seen on St Tredwell’s Loch by Tim on 2nd. 2 seen in field near Cuppin farm on 7th. Shelduck – Pair with 10 young […]

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