Sunday, 24 March 2019

24th March

A similar day to yesterday with strong westerly winds still dominating but the squalls that came blasting across the island were more frequent and punishing; there were some new wildfowl arrivals despite the weather with 7 adult Whooper Swans together on the airfield and a lone first-year on Sjaiver while 6 Pink-footed Geese near Holland were also new.

                Other totals included 6 Shelduck (with pairs busy prospecting likely looking rabbit burrows), 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlin, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and the 2 Woodpigeons.

Whooper Swans                                          George Gay

Saturday, 23 March 2019

23rd March

Still very windy with the blazing force 7-8 westerly bringing several intense, vicious hail showers sweeping through but like yesterday, bright sunshine dominated in between; little new was seen over the course of the day but totals included 4 Great-northern Divers, 5 Herons, 2 Pink-footed Geese, 12 Long-tailed Ducks, 12 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Merlin (including a male in off the sea at the north end with prey), quite a few Gulls feeding in the surf comprising 141 Black-headed, 217 Common and 89 Great Black-backs, 108 Kittiwakes north past the top end in half an hour mid-afternoon, the 2 Woodpigeons, 16 Fieldfare and 2 Snow Buntings.

Long-tailed Duck

Pied Wagtail

Friday, 22 March 2019

22nd March

A rough day with a blazing strong and increasing SSW wind and some particularly nasty squalls blasting across the island but there was some good spells of sunshine in between; the day’s highlight came mid-afternoon when a brute of a first-winter WHITE-TAILED EAGLE was seen sat on the edge of Gretchen Loch briefly before it flew across Loch Park and out to sea over Nouster Bay before it was defeated by the extremely strong winds and turned back over Stromness Point to fly inland again.

Other totals in the difficult conditions included 5 Herons, a Pink-footed Goose, 2 Barnacle Geese near Claypows (the first of the year), 18 Red-breasted Mergansers, 3 Goldeneye, an adult male Hen Harrier – new in, 172 Purple Sandpipers, 111 Skylarks, 52 Meadow Pipit, 18 Rock Pipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, 2 Chaffinches, 4 Linnets, 26 Twite and 5 Reed Buntings.  

White-tailed Eagle                             Simon Davies

Thursday, 21 March 2019

21st March

A lovely day with plenty of bright sunshine and a moderate but decreasing SSW wind; there were some good signs of some landbird migration with a Greenfinch at Sangar and a Jackdaw south down The Links both new for the year along with a notable influx of 62 Meadow Pipits (the first double-figure count of the year), 16 Pied Wagtails and 20 Rock Pipits.

                Other totals included 4 Herons, 6 Shelduck, a Hen Harrier, a Merlin, a 2cy male Peregrine, 170+ Black-headed Gulls (including 130 back at Hooking), the 2 Woodpigeons, 128 Skylark, a Song Thrush, an influx of 20+ Linnets, 2 Common Redpolls and 9 Snow Buntings.

Shelduck and Common Gull

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

20th March

Not a bad morning with a moderate westerly breeze and some sunshine but it deteriorated by the afternoon becoming wet and windier; the day’s highlight was a lovely adult Kumlien’s Gull at Bewan in the afternoon.   There were some other hints of early spring movements through the day with a female Stonechat at Howar, a much-improved total of 12 Pied Wagtails and a further influx of 168+ Black-headed Gulls (including 70+ back at the Hooking colony).

                A seawatch first thing produced decent totals of 167 Kittiwakes and 565 Auk sp. while a trickle of Skylarks and a couple of Golden Plover came in off.   

Other totals with some good coverage included 7 Red-throated Divers, 5 Mute Swans, 6 Shelduck, 189 Wigeon, 6 Gadwall, 205 Teal, the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, 10 Pintail, 35 Tufted Duck, 8 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Goldeneye, 20 Red-breasted Mergansers (the highest total of the year so far), a Hen Harrier, 334 Golden Plover, 174 Lapwing, a Knot, 147 Purple Sandpipers, 19 Dunlin, 105 Redshank, 150 Turnstone, the 2 Woodpigeons still, 140 Skylarks, 16 Rock Pipits, 2 Chaffinches, 32 Twite, a Common Redpoll and a Snow Bunting.

Kumlien's Gull                                               Simon Davies

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

19th March

A breezy, overcast day with an increasing force 6 south-westerly bringing periods of rain, especially in the afternoon; migrants comprised 4 Pied Wagtails and a female Sparrowhawk (the second one of the year).   Other birds included 4 Herons, 5 Shelduck, a Merlin, 180 Purple Sandpipers, 27 Bar-tailed Godwits, an influx of 104+ Black-headed Gulls (with increased numbers very noisy around the Hooking colony), 5 Meadow Pipits, 13 Rock Pipits, a Song Thrush, 5 Twite and 3 Snow Buntings.


Monday, 18 March 2019

18th March

A glorious day with wall to wall sunshine and very light southerly winds, a real contrast to yesterday’s blazing strong NW wind and hail showers; an hour’s seawatch first thing produced some increased totals including 80 Gannets, 91 Kittiwakes and 1,352 Auk sp. – mainly Razorbills.   There were still limited new arrivals as birds of note comprised 5 Mute Swans still, 5 Shelduck, 3 Goldeneye, 2 Hen Harriers, a adult female Peregrine, a Merlin, the 2 Woodpigeons still, 3 Chaffinches and a bit of an influx of 10 Linnets.   More excitingly though, George is back for a month, expect big things....

Hen Harrier

Saturday, 16 March 2019

16th March

After a rough and windy day yesterday, it was a much better birding day with lighter winds becoming almost still at lunchtime but a few showers – including a prolonged spell of rain late afternoon preventing a trip to the nets.   Totals through the day included 4 Herons, 5 Mute Swans, 5 Shelduck, 8 Gadwall, 127 Teal, the drake Green-winged Teal still, 12 Shoveler, 3 Goldeneye, 9 Rock Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, a Robin, 21 Fieldfare, 2 Chaffinches, 3 Linnets and 2 Snow Buntings.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

14th March

Overcast and calm first thing becoming sunny and calm becoming sunny and breezy by the end of the day; some increased coverage in the pleasant conditions produced some increased counts but it didn’t seem like there was much new around but the first Snipe was drumming and Black-headed Gulls were displaying at Westness, illustrating that the spring is indeed progressing, albeit slowly!   Totals included 29 Great-northern Divers, 5 Mute Swans, the Eurasian White-fronted Goose and 3 Pink-footed Geese still, the drake Green-winged Teal on Gretchen, 19 Long-tailed Ducks, a Hen Harrier, 380 Golden Plover, 51 Sanderling, 70 Black-headed Gulls, the 2 Woodpigeons, 210 Skylark, 10 Rock Pipits, 53 Twite, a Common Redpoll and 12 Snow Buntings.

Fulmar having a bath

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

13th March

Another very similar day with bright and sunny conditions and a brisk, chilly NW wind; the underwhelming bird highlights comprised 3 2cy Mute Swans new in on Garso and now 2 Woodpigeons at Holland.   Other birds included 3 Pink-footed Geese, 4 Shelduck, 106 Teal, 9 Gadwall, 7 Pintail, 16 Shoveler, 67 Ringed Plover, 390 Golden Plover, 285 Lapwings, 48 Sanderling, 35 Dunlin, the Ruff still, 83 Curlew, 139 Redshank, 166 Turnstone, 290 Skylark, 21 Fieldfare, 14 Redwing and a single Snow Bunting.

Shoveler and Pintail


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

12th March

Bright and sunny most of the day again with very few clouds to be seen but the very strong SW wind made it difficult out in the field; the first Woodpigeon of the year in Holland was the day’s only new bird but other totals from around the south of the island included the drake Green-winged Teal still, 16 Shoveler, 290 Golden Plover, 75 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipits and 4 Rock Pipits.

Eiders feeding in the surf

Monday, 11 March 2019

11th March

Generally bright and sunny but with a strong and increasing SW wind and a few sharp hail showers; birds seen through the day included 2 Pink-footed Geese, 4 Shelduck, 6 Gadwall, 18 Shoveler, a Hen Harrier, 370 Golden Plover, the Ruff, 36 Bar-tailed Godwits, 57 Dunlin, 165 Skylark, 4 Chaffinches, 2 Linnets and 14 Snow Buntings.



Sunday, 10 March 2019

10th March

A gorgeous day with plenty of sunshine and light westerly winds after a couple of horrible, wet and windy unbirdable days; some good coverage in the fine weather revealed that everything was still in place and nothing had changed (the only out-of-place birds were two Coots wandering around on The Links!).   Totals through the day included 3 Pink-footed Geese, 208 Wigeon, 5 Gadwall, 180 Teal, the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, 8 Shoveler, 20 Tufted Duck, 17 Long-tailed Ducks, a Hen Harrier, 116 Oystercatchers, 46 Ringed Plovers, 260 Golden Plover, 172 Lapwing, a Knot, 53 Dunlin, the Ruff again, 120 Snipe, 220 Snipe, 4 Meadow Pipits, 14 Rock Pipits, 6 Fieldfares, 8 Redwing, the 5 Chaffinches still, 40 Twite, 2 Common Redpolls, 17 Snow Buntings and 5 Reed Buntings.

                It was nice and calm in the evening so I opened the nets at Holland for the first time in ages and while not much was caught, the catch did include a couple of very long-winged, adult male Blackbirds which suggests that the first few migrants are sneaking back through.   Two Linnets also came into roost, the wintering Water Rail was seen again and a new Robin was trapped.

The waves were still crashing in to the west coast - the remnant's of yesterdays strong winds 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

7th March

Once the rain had moved through, it was generally a bright and sunny day but the blazing force 7-8 northerly wind made conditions tricky in the field; a couple of new bits included 2 Stonechats along the road at Claypows and a Ruff near Hooking – presumably one of the wintering birds popping back up but they were last seen on 10th February.   Other totals included the Eurasian White-fronted Goose still, 15 Shoveler, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Hen Harrier and increased numbers of Gulls feeding in the surf at high tide with 41 Black-headed Gulls, 415 Common Gulls, 65 Herring Gulls and 128 Great Black-backed Gulls.

Stonechats and Gulls

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

6th March

A very similar day to yesterday, overcast with the cold, NE breeze still cutting through you; an hour’s seawatch first thing was slow as totals just included 46 Kittiwakes and 172 Auk sp. while elsewhere the highlights unsurprisingly remained the same with the drake Green-winged Teal on Gretchen, the drake Smew on Bewan and the Eurasian White-fronted Goose still.   Other birds included a Pink-footed Goose, 6 Pintail, a Merlin, the 5 Chaffinches still, 55 Twite and the 3 Common Redpolls.

Snow Buntings