Monday, 7 January 2019

December 27th - January 3rd

A return to the island for Hogmanay meant we had observers on the island for a short period at the back end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.
On return to the island there wasn't too much to shout about, various groups of Snow Buntings were scattered about totaling 110 birds and a trip to Westness produced a 3rd Winter Glaucous Gull on the 28th. A small group of Pink-footed Geese were present behind Lurand into the new year. A lack of Gulls was a little concerning until a big group was present on the 31st and included 3 Iceland Gulls and 2 Glaucous Gulls, a welcome surprise!
With not a lot else about until 2019 we'll skip forward until then!

New years day brought about a series of sore heads and a whole host year ticks, unsurprising on both fronts really!
A return of the drake Smew on Hooking was a very welcome addition to everyone's year list as were a group of 5 Ruff, highly unseasonal but much appreciated! Other notable additions between the 1st and 3rd included a Kestrel, 2 Hen Harriers, a Grey Plover at Howar and a Shelduck at Westness. Away from birding we put in some effort to try and catch some Snow Buntings at Bewan, it proved a success over the course of 2 days and we managed to catch 21 birds, the island year record is 32 so we're doing alright already!
Kittiwake                                                                         George Gay

Goldeneye                                                                 George Gay

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

11th December

The wind switched round into the SSE while remaining brisk and cold; a little seawatch produced a Great Skua past the Lighthouse (the first one since October and somewhat surprisingly the first December record I could find) along with 130 Auk sp. in twenty minutes.   Other birds seen around the lochs included 3 Mute Swans, 8 Gadwall, 5 Pintail, 10 Shoveler, 4 Goldeneye, a Hen Harrier, a Merlin, 4 Ruff still, 135 Common Gulls, a Robin, 3 Fieldfare, 9 Redwing and 19 Snow Buntings on the beach at Brides.



Monday, 10 December 2018

10th December

Not a bad day with lighter NNW winds and no showers; it was quiet out in the field but a walk along the coast from The Obs to The Links produced 8 Red-throated Divers, a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, 23 Long-tailed Duck, the Kestrel, 235 Golden Plover, 40 Sanderling, 108 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Black-headed Gulls, 110 Common Gulls, 13 Rock Pipits, a Robin, 4 Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, 9 Redwing, 6 Chaffinches still, 19 Twite and 102 Snow Buntings.

Snow Buntings and Sanderling

Sunday, 9 December 2018

9th December

We kept the brisk, cold NNW wind but far fewer showers came through; coverage was limited to a few hours spent walking round the Obs / Holland / Kirbest which produced the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, 12 Shoveler, a Goldeneye south at sea, a Hen Harrier, a big, young female Peregrine (the first of the month), 10 Skylarks, 5 Rock Pipit, 6 Fieldfare, 8 Redwing, 60 Twite, 4 Common Redpolls still, 10 Snow Buntings and 4 Reed Buntings.


Saturday, 8 December 2018

8th December

The wind had switched to a brisk NW bringing regular, nasty showers sweeping across the island; little look around Brides and the north end produced 7 Great-northern Divers, a Heron, 3 Mute Swans, a Whooper Swan, a different adult Eurasian White-fronted Goose opposite Rue, 12 Shoveler, 6 Goldeneye (highest count since the spring), the drake Smew still at Bewan, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Hen Harrier, 4 Ruff still, 29 Bar-tailed Godwits and a total of 98 Snow Buntings with several flocks roaming around.

White-fronted Goose

Red-breasted Merganser

Friday, 7 December 2018

7th December

A brisk southerly wind through the day but it remained largely dry with some bright sunshine in the afternoon; a walk round the coast from the Obs to Brides and then to The Links produced good numbers of birds which included 270 Wigeon, 115 Teal, 22 Tufted Duck, 20 Long-tailed Ducks, a female Common Scoter off Stromness Point, 2 Goldeneye, good totals of 121 Ringed Plover and 81 Dunlin on The Links, 4 Ruff and 2 Knot with Golden Plover at Cauldhaim, a Woodcock in Holland, 3 Black-headed Gulls (the first ones this month), a good build-up of Gulls including 130 Common Gulls, 460 Herring Gulls and 365 Great Black-backed Gulls.

                Across the land birds of note comprised 9 Skylarks, a Meadow Pipit, 9 Rock Pipits, 7 Fieldfares, 24 Redwing, 3 Common Redpolls still with 71 Twite in Kirbest, at least 93 Snow Buntings spread out along the coast and 3 Reed Buntings.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

6th December

Persistent rain through the morning and early afternoon limited observations to barely an hour between the rain [kind of] stopping and dusk falling, so a van safari of the lochs produced the highlight of the returning drake Smew on Bewan (presumably the drake that was first seen in November 2016 and that has been returning each winter since).   Other birds included 3 Mute Swans (a new adult plus the pair from the 4th), 3 Whooper Swans (two adults and a juvenile), 9 Shoveler, 26 Tufted Duck (the highest count since the spring), 4 Goldeneye, 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Kestrels, a Merlin, a Knot and the 5 Ruff with 150 Redshank, 13 Fieldfare, 26 Redwing and 22 Snow Buntings at Brides.

Merlin                                            Simon Davies

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

5th December

Another lovely, stunning day with hardly a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine, there was even a hint of some late visible migration going on with a flock of 82 Snow Buntings at the north end later seen flying south out at sea with 5 Skylark and a Meadow Pipit also coming in off the sea from the north.   Other birds included 2 Heron, 2 Whooper Swans, 9 Gadwall, 3 Goldeneye, a Hen Harrier, 2 Kestrels, 2 Merlin, 68 Oystercatchers, 120 Purple Sandpipers, a Woodcock at Holland House, 6 Fieldfare, 32 Redwing, 5 Chaffinches and a Common Redpoll.

Hooded Crow

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

4th December

A good birding day, no doubt helped by the almost flat calm conditions, although light rain persisted through the afternoon; the highlights included an adult European White-fronted Goose with Greylags near Hooking (new for the year), a group of 5 Ruff feeding with Redshank near Waterhouse (the first December record for the island) and a Black-throated Diver in Nouster.

                Other birds included 12 Red-throated Divers, 26 Great-northern Divers (highest total since May), 2 Mute Swans (the first ones since the breeding pair left at the start of July), 2 Whooper Swans, 2 Pink-footed Geese, 248 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, 139 Teal, the Green-winged Teal still, 9 Pintail, 25 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Goldeneye, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, 280 Golden Plover, 19 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Black-tailed Godwit (first one since October).

                Landbirds of note comprised single Hen Harrier, Merlin and Kestrel, 7 Rock Pipits, a Robin, 3 Fieldfare, 6 Redwing, 3 Chaffinches, 36 Twite, 29 Snow Buntings and 3 Reed Buntings.

Black-tailed Godwit

Monday, 3 December 2018

2nd December

A glorious day, almost flat calm and plenty of bright sunshine; unfortunately, sightings were limited to first thing in the morning before the boat came in, the highlight being a pod of 5+ ORCA, seen distantly from the Obs as they went north past Stromness Point towards Brides (the first December record as far I can see!).   Birds round the Obs included a Kestrel, a single Pink-footed Goose with the Greylags in Loch Park, 3 Great-northern Divers, a Song Thrush, the 7 Chaffinches still and 20 Snow Buntings.

This smart Blue Fulmar was the highlight of the boat trip to Kirkwall

Saturday, 1 December 2018

1st December

Slightly lighter winds through the day but with some longer spells of rain; birds seen during a walk round the southern part of the island included 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great-northern Divers, 2 Herons, 10 Whooper Swans (two family parties), the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen where there were also 23 Shoveler (the highest count of the year), 12 Skylark, a Meadow Pipit, a Song Thrush, 7 Chaffinches still at the Obs, a Snow Bunting and a few birds still in the Kirbest sacrificial crop comprising 24 Twite, 7 Common Redpolls and 8 Reed Buntings.

Whooper Swan

Common Redpoll

28th - 30th November

A rough few days with the wind switching back into the SW and picking up to gale force 8 for most of time, bringing heavy, stinging, driving rain for much of the time; coverage was understandably reduced (back down to one observer with little motivation to get out in the field!); wildfowl totals on the 30th included 4 Whooper Swans (three adults and a juvenile), 10 Gadwall, 4 Pintail, 16 Shoveler, 16 Tufted Duck, 4 Goldeneye and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers while the rough weather brought an influx of 550+ Herring Gulls and 270+ Great Black-backed Gull.   One of the lingering Kestrels was still present on the 28th and two Hen Harriers were still floating around on the 30th – one of which caught a Moorhen opposite the Post Office.



Tuesday, 27 November 2018

27th November

Not a bad day, bright and dry but the SE wind kept rising steadily and ominously throughout; not too much to mention but birds of note did include the Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, single Hen Harrier, Merlin and Kestrel, 6 Meadow Pipits, 4 Rock Pipits, 12 Robins, 10 Fieldfare, 2 Song Thrush and 2 Chaffinches.

Monday, 26 November 2018

25th and 26th November

Still super light winds over the past couple of days so we concentrated on catching some of the remaining birds that are frequenting our sacrificial crops which include flocks of 27 Skylark, 80 Twite, 7 Common Redpolls, a Linnet, 10 Chaffinches, 10 Reed Buntings and 51 Snow Buntings.   New arrivals are unsurprisingly thin on the ground at this time of year as totals included 13 Red-throated Divers, 11 Great-northern Divers, 13 Gadwall, 14 Pintail, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Hen Harrier, 2 Kestrels, a Merlin, 2 Woodcock, 4 Meadow Pipits, 11 Rock Pipits, 3 Robins and 3 Song Thrush.

Common Redpoll

Reed Bunting

Sunday, 25 November 2018

24th November

Another fine day with light easterly winds and only a couple of showers; there was little new across the island but it was still pleasant to get out in the field and of note were a Hen Harrier, a Long-eared Owl seen at first light at Holland, 12 Meadow Pipits, 17 Rock Pipits, 9 Robins, 23 Fieldfare, 4 Song Thrush, 35 Redwing, 9 Chaffinches, 2 Greenfinches at The Obs, 76 Twite, 49 Snow Buntings and 7 Reed Buntings.

                Also of note were 5 Red-throated Divers, 8 Herons, the Green-winged Teal, 7 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 56 Oystercatchers, 111 Purple Sandpipers, 28 Bar-tailed Godwits and a Little Auk off Westness.

Long-tailed Duck