Visitors to Orkney throughout the year have wonderful opportunities to observe
a wide variety of bird species from waders to waterbirds and seabirds to raptors.
The RSPB has thirteen reserves in Orkney and staying at The Hen Hoose you
are within a short distance of some very special places.
Across the road from The Hen Hoose is the Loch of Banks reserve and close by
The Loons reserve, the largest remaining wetland in Orkney. With a comfortable
observation hide and amazing listening wall there is, in the breeding season, a
chance of spotting Black-tailed Godwits, Pintails, Lapwings and Redshanks. In winter
there are visiting Greenland White-Fronted Geese, Golden Plover and Wigeons.
However, we are confident simply the enviable position of the sofa in The Hen Hoose
sitting room will deliver some rewarding and memorable sightings during your stay.
Hen Harriers and Short Eared Owls regularly hunt in the adjacent field.
You may be alerted that something special is in the vicinity when other birdwatchers
or even the RSPB 4x4 appear stationary by the roadside.
Arctic Terns near the Whalebone at Birsay, sitting amongst Sea Pink.
Marwick Head is a spectacular site where seabirds breed. The cliffs give views
of Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes, Shags and Fulmars, while Gulls, Skuas and
Ravens patrol alongside.
Visiting the wide-open spaces of Birsay Moors can be a wonderful experience,
there is a hide next to a lochan where Red-Throated Divers breed.
At any time of year, the resident Hen Harriers, Short-Eared Owls and Merlins
may appear whilst in summer the moors become home to nesting Curlews
and Arctic Skuas.
The RSPB reserve at Cottisgarth near Rendall, 8 miles from the Hen Hoose is
an enjoyable walk to a fabulous hide from which to observe displaying Hen
After 140 years White Tailed Sea-Eagles have in very recent years begun nesting
again on the island of Hoy which is a short ferry journey away.
Hen harrier at the Loch of Banks. Photo credit Gerry Cannon.
But if it’s glimpses of iconic Puffins that interest you then it’s possible to see them
between April and August. Try nearby Brough of Birsay, on the cliffs at Whitaloo
Point, Northside, Birsay and on the grassier slopes at Marwick Head.
Meanwhile if you are a winter visitor time can be lost quickly whilst watching the
precision dives of Gannets into dramatic seas, against bracing winds. These walks
can be entirely solitary and breathtaking. Visitors often comment how restful they
sleep in Orkney. The fresh air will leave you exhilarated and exhausted in equal measure.
From the haunting cries of Curlew, the peeping of Oyster Catchers and the distinct calling
of Ravens, not to forget the lively conversations of the resident Greylag Geese flying
overhead The Hen Hoose has a soundtrack of it's own whenever you step outside at any
time of year.
Please be sensible and take extra care on any clifftop walks which can be precarious and uneven under foot, especially in the wind.
Puffin at the Brough of Birsay. Photo credit Ian Bell.