Orkney's wildlife

Since we are the only tour company in Orkney owned and run by professional archaeologists we do specialise in archaeology. However we are also qualified and accredited Green Badge Orkney Tourist Guides - this means in effect that our other speciality is Orkney and everything that goes to make up the Orkney experience -  archaeology, wildlife, people, culture, history - whatever interests you, our guest.

 

On our private tours  you may choose what you want to see and do - and we are happy to include as much wildlife watching as you want.

 

On our one-week small group holidays we always include some wildlife watching too. The Brough of Birsay has an amazing Pictish/Norse monastic site, but its cliffs are home to breeding seabirds - last year we had diving gannets below us, with puffins scooting in and out of cliff crevices.

 

Our holidays also include ferry rides to Orkney's smaller islands, with wildlife spotting opportunities from the boat. Last season on every trip to Hoy we had diving gannets all around, and we had porpoises escorting us too on several memorable occasions. There are sometimes Orcas in Scapa Flow, they've been around a lot this year and we were lucky enough to see a mother and calf off the island of Cava heading north at some speed. Heading out to Rousay on board the MV Eynhallow there was a real treat - a whole pod of Russo's dolphins just messing around on a flat calm day. The skipper slowed the boat right down and we just bobbed around in the water watching them for ages, then later when we were down visiting Midhowe tomb and broch - which looks out over Eynhallow Sound - there was the same pod heading out to the open sea, really surging along and leaping out of the water - quite a sight!

The Dwarfie Stane - a rock-cut tomb -  is one of our stops when we're in Hoy with one of our group tours, and for the last few years we've had the added bonus of a pair of white-tailed eagles nesting in the Dwarfie Hamars (Old Norse hamarr: projecting rock on a hillside) just above the stone. They produced and successfully reared two chicks in 2018 and hatched two more in 2019, but sadly one of the 2019 chicks didn't survive. This year we've been pretty lucky and most of the times that we've been in Hoy with one of our holiday groups we've been treated to a low-level flypast by the male eagle, and the RSPB have their eagle watch set up in the car park with a telescope trained on the nest. After the chick fledged this year she was thoughtful enough to hang about very close to the nest site, and we had the spectacle of the adults swooping in to feed her in plain view. They've been living on hares and fulmars - they've been spotted many times taking a fulmar on the wing which is pretty impressive, although bad luck for the fulmars.

 

We visit the Broch of Gurness for its archaeology - but there's a colony of Eider ducks there and usually seals too. The sea cliffs at Marwick Head are home to a huge colony of breeding seabirds - guillemots in their thousands, as well as the Kitchener Memorial. Puffins can be seen in small numbers in the Mainland during their breeding season (the best months are May - July). The hen harrier is our commonest raptor and can frequently be seen hovering close to the road whilst driving through moorland areas. Short eared owls are also fairly common and can be spotted just about anywhere out in the countryside. 

 

Seals are always a favourite - Orkney waters are host to around 4300 or about 15% of the British population of the Common (or harbour) seal Phoca vitulina, and around 25000 – 40000 or about 25% of the estimated British population of the Grey seal Halichoerus grypus - we usually see plenty of seals in Rousay. We've also seen otters in Rousay but we can't guarantee them!

Orkney Archaeology Tours, 

Bayview, Birsay, Orkney, KW17 2LR  

VAT Reg. No. 107 1132 67   info@orktours.co.uk