|1cy drake Steller's Eider off Papa Westray|
Monday, 18 November 2019
Gills Bay-St.Margaret's Hope ferry and Papa Westray
With George Kinnard, John Lees, Liz Costa and Hugh Price in tow, I boarded the Gills Bay-St.Margaret's Hope ferry after a long overnight drive from Sussex. Black Guillemots, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Shags, Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders and a flock of six Great Northern Divers welcomed us to Orkney. To my shame, this is my first time on the islands. We then drove to meet our boat charter at Kirkwall, Will taking us to Papa Westray. About an hour's bumpy ride later we disembarked and met Jennifer, the kind islander who has been ferrying visiting birders in her electric car to St.Bonniface Kirk, the eider's favourite spot. Fred Fearn had already been watching the bird before he lost it drifting south. I was initially unperturbed but as the sun began to approach the horizon and the bird was nowhere to be seen, my mind began to wander to thoughts of having to stay on the island overnight with few facilities. Having walked a mile or so south, George and I returned to the others at St.Bonniface, where Jennifer was collecting our cash to deliver to the charter skipper as we sent him away, resigned to a night on Papa. Just after Jennifer drove away, George picked up the 1cy drake STELLER'S EIDER in his scope. It was quite distant for us, but close in at its favoured by north of the kirk. Elation and deep sighs of relief all-round, we went on to enjoy the bird for the rest of the usable daylight, calling Jennifer and the boatman to change plans so that we could get back to mainland Orkney that night after all! Other stuff on Papa included Purple Sandpipers, Great Northern and Red-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Guillemots, Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders, Raven, Common Scoter and so on. A filling curry in the evening was a fitting celebration.