This is Winter full blown. Not many visiting folk venture to these parts after Hogmonay and sometimes we seldom venture out much ourselves except for provisions.
If you are willing to take the risk or rather if you are willing to embrace the often spectacular Winter storms then this can be a very good time to come. Prices for accommodation will be highly negotiable for a start (even ours !). There is a lot going on socially with local art exhibitions and lots of music gigs. Locals will be very pleased to see you and this is a good time to understand the true nature of Orkney culture.
The Christmas Day and New Years Day Ba' games are very much worth attending if only to comprehend just how daft men can be; the Ba' is a unique and very social event with Kirkwall turning out in force to support the Uppies and Doonies.
If you have visited in Winter before then you will understand why even this potentially bleak time can be very rewarding.
For the genuine birder of course this time of year can be fantastic. The main sea bird interest at this time is on the sandy beaches and rocky shore line, with many of the local populations bolstered by visitors from the continent. Redshank, Turnstone and Oyster Catcher move through the rocks and weed. They may be joined on the rocks by flocks of Purple Sandpiper.
Where the rocky ground turns to sand, the birds change again and we see the ubiquitous Ringed Plover joined by Dunlin, Knot ,Sanderling and Golden Plover. The larger waders, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and Redshank are well represented along the unspoilt shore.
Off the shore, throughout winter, the sea is populated by thousands and thousands of wintering birds The sheltered waters of Scapa Flow, the barriers, calm bays and sounds of the isles provide havens for Slavonian Grebes, Great Northern Divers, Red Throated Divers, Black Throated Divers (if you’re lucky), Velvet Scoters or Surf Scoters for the fortunate.
Spectacular saw-billed diving ducks abound, with Red Breasted Merganser and the less common but often to be seen Goosander. Always around the coast you will see the flocks of Eider whilst Shag and Cormorants stand like sentinels on every rocky prominence. Throughout the depths of winter, huge flocks of Widgeon seem to be on every stretch of water be it salt or fresh.
Wintering ducks are everywhere and the small lochs excel. Easily viewed, accessible and numerous, you could manage to see Mallard, Teal, Tuffted Duck, Widgeon, Shoveller, Pochard, Scaup, Longtailed Duck, Ruddy Duck, Goldeneye and Shellduck . On any day, there is always a real chance to find a rare visitor like Gargany or American Widgeon.