Ken Orcadian? Celebrate Orkney’s native wildlife with your words!

Write or perform a creative piece about Orkney’s native wildlife and you could win a prize!

Closing Date: Monday 15th November 2021

Orkney Native Wildlife Project has come together with Orkney International Science Festival to challenge schools to put their creative hats on and pen to paper. But there’s a twist, you must use Orkney dialect within the piece. Taking inspiration from Robert Macfarlane’s project, The lost words, this year’s competition will celebrate some commonly used and ‘lost’ Orkney words. This is the challenge that has been set to schools across Orkney, and rest of the Scotland!

For this year’s challenge we are asking schools to create a piece of writing with a focus on Orkney’s very special native wildlife.

You could write a poem about the striking red feet of the black guillemot, known locally as a tystie; a story about the misunderstood brute of the sky the great skua, known in these parts as a bonxie; a song celebrating the majestic and powerful king of the sea, the orca; or you could focus on the threats faced by our native wildlife. Using the Orcadian dialect is a must with extra credit going to those who use lesser known, nearly lost words. If you would rather perform your piece than putting pen to paper that’s no problem at all, you can send in videos – the more creative the better!

Orkney supports nationally and internationally important populations of wildlife, some of which are extremely rare and declining elsewhere across the rest of the British Isles, including the endangered hen harrier. To give you an idea of how important Orkney is for this threatened species Orkney is home to approximately 20% of the UKs breeding hen harrier population yet it is only 0.4% of the UK’s total land area!

Like many islands, Orkney does not naturally have mammalian predators, such as foxes, badgers and weasels, which allowed the Orkney vole to thrive alongside many species of ground nesting birds. The arrival of the non-native invasive stoat around 2010 changed that by adding pressure on Orkney’s internationally important nesting bird populations. Not only do stoats prey on the eggs and chicks, the stoat also directly competes with our native wildlife by eating the Orkney vole, the primary food source of birds such as the hen harrier and short-eared owl.

So you see, Orkney is a very special place for wildlife, and we hope it inspires schools to celebrate and share this message with their students through creative writing and performances.

There are some rules to consider for your competition entry:

• The competition is open to both primary and secondary schools’ pupils.

• Take part for a chance to win: a voucher upto the amount of £40, a pack from RSPB and a book on Orkney’s Wildlife. The categories you can apply for the competition are:

  1. Primary School pupil (individual)
  2. Secondary School pupil (individual)
  3. Prize for Orkney School
  4. Group Award (group of 4 or whole class)

• Under-18 entries must come from a school e-mail address or using teacher’s email id. All entries must be submitted using this Entry Form.

• The closing date for entries is Monday 15th November 2021

• Must have a focus on Orkney’s native wildlife and use the Orkney dialect.

You can send in a written piece, which must not be any longer the 500 words using To find out how to get your WeTransfer link, check this website for details: How do I send a link transfer? Alternatively you can email Holly Peek, Education Officer at Orkney Native Wildlife Project OR post it to FAO Holly Peek, Education Officer, Orkney Native Wildlife Project, H24 Garrison Road, Hatston, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1GN.

• In case of performance, the video must not be longer than 4 minutes. Upload the video onto and submit the link in this Entry Form.

• For any queries, please email: Holly Peek, Education Officer at Orkney Native Wildlife Project.

Helpful websites:

The Orkney Native Wildlife Project

The Lost Words

The RSPB Wildlife Charity: Nature Reserves & Wildlife Conservation

Orkneyjar – The Heritage of the Orkney Islands

Wee Windaes – A Continuum o the Scots Leid (