Thursday, 19 July 2018

16th-18th July

More bright and sunny weather has meant we’ve been able to get on with more Arctic Tern and Black Guillemot chick ringing. Away from the chicks the Little Stint remained on Bewan until the 17th giving decent views.
Waders have still been the dominant factor in the birding on the island. Numbers are beginning to rise all over the island with the Golden Plovers peaking at 560 on the 17th, Dunlin reached 126 on the same date, Knot numbers have been steady with 12 birds hanging around the North end. 7 Whimbrel on the 17th made for a good count as well.
A trio of Grey Herons at Hooking also on the 17th showed signs of being returning birds. The big highlights over the past three days were a long overdue Green Sandpiper found at Bewan in the morning on the 18th and the evening produced a very smart Roseate Tern on Tor Ness with the non-breeding Arctic Tern flock.
Away from birds the moth trap has had a few exciting additions aside from large numbers of commoner moths such as Dark Arches which posted a very respectable showing of over 100 individuals on the 17th. A Gold Spot trapped on the 16th was a first for the island and a small influx of Small-dotted Buff’s have produced 3rd to 7th island records.

Green Sandpiper                                                      George Gay

Gold Spot                                                                 George Gay

Knot                                                                         George Gay

Monday, 16 July 2018

13th-15th July

Calm and brighter condition on the 13th meant the day had to start in the sea-watch hide, without any real speed behind the wind numbers were pretty low as birds edged their way past the island at their own pace, 3 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Storm Petrels made up the highlights.
With silage still under way feeding wader flocks have been taking advantage of the recently exposed ground and we’ve seen a steady rise in numbers. The 14th took the prize for high counts, 440 Golden Plover, 250 Oystercatchers, 102 Lapwing and although not waders the Common Gulls have joined in on the act posting a respectable 73 also on the 14th.
With the 14th being one of the warmest days of the year it gave us a prime opportunity to check round the remaining Tern colonies, thankfully dry weather this year has meant overall success in terms of breeding numbers and fledged juveniles with numbers well into double figures now. The colony on Tor Ness has been supported by an ever-growing cast of non-breeders which totals up to 650 birds, quite an incredible sight once in the colony!
The highlight of the past three days has been a very smart adult Little Stint at Bewan, found on the 14th the bird was also present the following day feeding with a flock of around 70 Dunlin.
Whimbrel                                                                 George Gay

Little Stint                                                                 George Gay

Ringed Plover Chick                                                George Gay

Ringed Plover Parent                                              George Gay

Friday, 13 July 2018

9th-12th July

Bright conditions on the 9th provided good sea-watching conditions in the morning, 6 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, 7 Storm Petrels, 2831 Puffin and 5 Common Scoter made for an interesting couple of hours.
The Kittiwakes have continued to hang around despite gradually lowering in numbers with the total now down to 275 birds. A pair of Fieldfares are still hanging around the Gue Park area and at least 3 Chiffchaffs have spent their summer in the gardens at Holland House. The highlight for the 9th was undoubtedly a Summer plumaged Black-throated Diver that flew past the Beacon.
The 10th and 11th saw a band of thick wet fog roll in making for challenging birding conditions, but also some promising signs, our first 5 fledged Swallows of the year have boosted totals nicely. A pair of Whimbrels on the island were a welcome addition and Reed Buntings have also started to emerge with 14 on the 11th.
The 12th saw the fog lift and with the silage cut an inevitable increase in waders, Oystercatcher numbers climbed to over 200, a lone Ruff on Garso was a nice highlight, as was another Whimbrel and a very smart summer plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit in a flock of 27 birds.
The Common Tern re-appeared on Bewan with the Arctic Terns and Sandwich Tern was in with the depleting Kittiwake flock between the Sea-watch hide and Foghorn. Sea-watching again provided some entertainment, 6 Sooty Shearwaters, 4 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels and another flock of Common Scoter, this time consisting of 7 birds. A quick Sand Martin netting attempt managed 4 birds, excitingly two re-traps proved to be returning breeding adults for 2017! Finally our first Storm Petrel ringing session of the year gave us an early catch on 19 new birds and 1 re-trap.
Arctic Terns posing                                                   George Gay
Sedge Warbler                                                          George Gay

Bar-tailed Godwit                                                    George Gay

Monday, 9 July 2018

6th - 8th July

Largely bright and sunny throughout this spell with the wind generally in the west and generally decreasing over the last three days; a quiet day on the 6th, highlighted by the first Common Tern of the year at Bewan with an increasing number of Arctic Terns, slowly building up towards their usual late summer peak.

                Another year tick came on the 7th as a Marsh Harrier flew south over Gretchen and straight out to sea towards Sanday in the morning while other bits of note included the Heron still on Ancum, a male Ruff on Bewan where the Common Tern was still present, an excellent count of 185 fledgling Black-headed Gulls around Hooking (indicating another great breeding season for them!) and a male Common Redpoll at Holland.

                All of the interest on the 8th came during the morning’s seawatching which included 2 Red-throated Divers, 4 Sooty Shearwaters, an excellent total of 104 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels, at least 23 Arctic Skuas, 380 Kittiwakes, 800 Puffins, 950 large Auk sp. and a pod of 4 Risso’s Dolphins which moved quickly through.


Common Tern with the Arctics

Friday, 6 July 2018

3rd - 5th July

Settled still with generally light winds, plenty of sunshine and continuingly dry conditions – many lochs have or are in danger of drying up!   A good selection of waders on the 3rd included 45 Purple Sandpipers (the first returning birds arriving en masse), 87 Golden Plover, 37 Dunlin, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 42 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and 80 Redshank.  

Other birds included a Sandwich Tern, a Collared Dove, a single Swift over the Obs and a couple of Chiffchaffs still in Holland.   Also of note was a Hummingbird Hawkmoth seen on The Links associated with a little arrival of Butterflies including 14+ Painted Ladies and 11 Large Whites.

A seawatch in the afternoon of the 4th produced the first Sooty Shearwater of the year along with 7 Manx Shearwaters, a Storm Petrel and 475 Puffins in an hour and a half.   Other little bits included 2 Sandwich Terns, the Heron still, a returning flock of 7 Wigeon on Ancum and the first Fulmar chicks starting to hatch.

A Spotted Flycatcher was an unusual July record in Holland while the female Garganey was seen again on Brides (but again, no chicks were seen) and two male Ruff on the rapidly disappearing Gretchen were the first returning individuals.

Purple Sandpipers

Our moth trap is slowly improving as we move into July and included this fine male Ghost Moth

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

30th June - 2nd July

More settled weather with sunny skies and light easterly winds; ringing Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots and wader chicks took priority with migrants largely restricted to a few returning waders which totalled 205 Golden Plover, 50 Redshank, 120 Oystercatchers, 38 Knot and 21 Black-tailed Godwits along with Whimbrel and Greenshank (only the second of the year) on the 1st and a breeding plumaged Grey Plover on the 2nd.

                A few uninspiring lingering birds included the Heron on Ancum, 2 Collared Doves and a couple of Chiffchaffs remained in Holland and one of the Gue Park Fieldfares reappeared, having a bath with a flock of Starlings.


Saturday, 30 June 2018

27th - 29th June

A settled few days with plenty of bright sunshine and light to moderate easterly winds (although the inevitable fog did drift in for a while on the 28th); Golden Plover numbers continue to rise reaching 130 on the 27th when there was still a single Red-necked Phalarope on Gretchen.   A bit more to mention on the 28th with 5 Swifts over The Links (only the second record of the year after a woeful spring for this species), a Heron on Ancum, 2 Whimbrel, a Sandwich Tern, at least 50 Sand Martins around the breeding colony on The Links, a Rock Pipit at Trolla (the first one since 14th May) and 7 Manx Shearwaters offshore during a brief seawatch.

                The Heron was still on Ancum on the 29th while 2 more Swifts were over Brides and 24 Bar-tailed Godwits included a Norwegian colour ringed individual.

Both Black-headed and Common Gull fledglings are on the wing now

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

25th and 26th June

A bright and sunny start on the 25th, it soon clouded over though but the winds remained light; it proved to be a decent day in the field with a nice selection of random scarcities across the island, in no particular order they included a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver off The Links, a female Garganey still on Hooking (but no sign of any chicks), an adult male Hen Harrier which flew north up The Links (very unusual mid-summer!), a pair of Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen and the Little Gull again, this time at Garso.

                Other little bits included 41 Golden Plover, 26 Dunlin, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits and at Holland a Woodpigeon, 5 Collared Doves and at least 2 Chiffchaffs.

                Light winds again on 26th but with lots more sunshine although it did cloud over in the afternoon; a single Red-necked Phalarope remained on Gretchen and a Whimbrel was at Ancum.   Promising news came from the Arctic Terns where a visit to this year’s biggest colony near Sangar produced 60 ringable chicks – almost double last year’s ringing total!

Plenty of baby Wheatears and Wrens around too

Sunday, 24 June 2018

22nd - 24th June

Mixed conditions again over these past three days with a bright and breezy 22nd seeing the first really obvious returning wader flocks which included 44 Golden Plover, a Whimbrel, 7 Knot and 17 Bar-tailed Godwits.  

The 23rd however, was a horrible day with a blasting westerly wind bringing nasty showers whipping in through the morning and then persistent and heavy, misty, murky, drizzly, foggy awfulness through the afternoon; all of the days interest came up at the north end where thousands of seabirds gathered on and offshore with conservative totals including 2,197 Kittiwakes (huge flocks came ashore when the worst weather came in during the afternoon), 800 Arctic Terns, 1,167+ Puffins (in 1.5 hrs), 1,700 large Auks (also in 1.5 hrs), 20 Arctic Skuas, 340 Gannets, 2 Storm Petrels, 11 Manx Shearwaters and 3 Red-throated Divers.

It changed again on the 24th but this time for the better as it was a lovely day with acres of bright sunshine and an easing wind; the previous days rough weather took its toll though as three out of the four Swallow broods we were due to ring today were unfortunately dead in the nest and the Raven chicks didn’t survive the westerly gales – although their nest was only a couple of metres above the high tide mark on the west coast

Out and about though a first summer Little Gull was bobbing around on Hooking Loch with 40+ Black-headed Gull fledglings, a Willow Warbler that was re-trapped at the Obs had originally been ringed on the 8th and good numbers of previously failed Arctic Terns re-laying at a number of sites.

Kittiwakes at the foghorn

First summer Arctic Tern being photobombed by a Fulmar

Friday, 22 June 2018

19th - 21st June

A real mixture of weather over the last three days with sunshine, strong winds, light winds (W or NW) and nasty little showers; there was very little – pretty much nothing, in the way of new arrivals with the main feature being an impressive build-up of Kittiwakes at the north end, reaching 750 by the 20th, while a fine sight it was sad in a way that they represented failed breeders with many of them calling like they were in a colony and carrying weed and mud around.

                There were regular Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwaters off the north end peaking at 28 Manxies on the 20th and small numbers of waders continue to be seen including Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits and Sanderling.   Our main focus is still on the breeding birds at the moment with waders chicks to ring, colonies to count and monitor and Swallows nests to find.

Curlew chick

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

17th and 18th June

Nice, bright and calm first thing on the 17th but the wind gradually picked up through the day; a few new little bits included an unseasonal 2cy Iceland Gull at Lenswick, 2 Canada Geese on Hooking, a male Greenfinch in Holland briefly (only the second of the year), a Heron, a cracking full breeding plumaged Grey Plover and 2 Common Redpolls at the Obs while at least 3 Chiffchaffs and 4 Collared Doves remained around Holland.

                A rough day on the 18th with a very strong SW wind blazing across the island bringing a few nasty little showers with it; there were at least 7 Storm Petrels and 6 Manx Shearwaters lingering off the north end along with the big flock of loafing Kittiwakes, now totalling c400 birds – there were quite a few 2cy birds mixed in but its still not a good sign!

                The Iceland Gull was still present along with a decent count of 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls while the Heron, 3 Chiffchaffs and 3 Collared Doves also remained.

2cy Kittiwake

Sunday, 17 June 2018

15th and 16th June

After early morning rain had cleared through it was a pleasant day on the 15th with bright sunshine and easing winds which eventually swung round into the east; the dubious highlight of the day was a flock of 8 Canada Geese which spent most of the day loafing on Gretchen.

                Other birds were few and far between with single Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel and Great-northern Diver offshore, 7 Collared Doves, 4 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler while gatherings of 110 Kittiwakes and 150 Arctic Terns up at Bewan suggested early breeding failures elsewhere.

                A nice day on the 16th with a light SE breeze produced a handful of late spring migrants with the highlight being a female Red-breasted Flycatcher trapped in Holland whilst other new birds included a Grey Wagtail, an extra Collared Dove (8 now!), 3 Chiffchaffs and a Carrion Crow.

                Three Pink-footed Geese were a bit of a surprise as they flew out south while wader totals included some already returning waders with 14 Golden Plover, 24 Knot, 34 Dunlin, 60 Bar-tailed Godwits and noticeably increasing non-breeding flocks of Lapwings, Redshank and Oystercatchers.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Friday, 15 June 2018

13th and 14th June

A calmish start on the 13th but the wind gradually increased through the day bringing rain by late afternoon (the first rain for a long long time!); the Quail was again singing from near Holland while a new Chiffchaff and a new Blackcap were trapped in the gardens where the 6 Collared Doves remain.   Offshore, 6 Great-northern Divers and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers were of note.

                Heavy rain overnight led to a very rough day on the 14th with the SW wind reaching force 7 by the afternoon bringing frequent, vicious showers; some long hours were put in seawatching from the north end but in the rough weather the results were moderate as totals included 20 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Storm Petrels, 359 Gannets, 10 Arctic Skuas, 13 Bonxies, 205 Kittiwakes and 450 Auks sp.   Predictably birds on the land were limited, although a Kestrel was new at Holland where the 6 Collared Doves remained.

Wader chicks are appearing all over the island now, we hope they manage to hold out against this rough weather!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

11th and 12th June

Another similar couple of days with light westerly winds and cloud cover coming and going; an early morning seawatch produced most of the highlights on the 11th with an unprecedented flock of 55 Common Scoters past the hide the pick (more than double the previous island record count!).   Also passing during the two hours were 36 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels, 2 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great-northern Divers, 195 Gannets, 45 Puffins and 1,544 Auk sp.

                A Quail was again singing in the Kirbest area while the only other migrants included the lingering Chiffchaffs in Holland and a Willow Warbler around the Obs.

                A fully spooned, adult Pomarine Skua was a bit of a surprise past the seawatch hide late afternoon on the 12th while other birds included a group of 6 Common Scoter in Nouster Bay, 2 Black-tailed Godwits on Gretchen which included a French colour ringed bird, 5 Collared Doves still at Holland and the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler still.

Arctic Tern

Monday, 11 June 2018

9th and 10th June

A very samey couple of days with extensive cloud cover and a light NE breeze (although this did swing round to the west by the evening of the 10th); the main focus at the moment is the nesting birds and it was great to get conformation of breeding Garganey with a female and six ducklings seen on Hooking.   Waders are already starting to build up with post / failed / non-breeding flocks of adults starting to form which on the 9th included 109 Oystercatchers, 128 Lapwings, 12 Golden Plover and 120 Sanderling.

                Landbirds were limited to 5 Collared Doves, 5 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher, the Siskin still and a Common Redpoll.   Also of note were 4 Great-northern Divers offshore and the first Storm Petrel of the year off the north end.

                A similar array of birds on the 10th with 7 Collared Doves, 3 Chiffchaffs, the Willow Warbler, the Pied Flycatcher and the Siskin on the land with 9 Great-northern Divers, a Red-breasted Mergansers and 7 Black-tailed Godwits elsewhere.   A pod of 15 Risso’s Dolphins off the north end were the first of the year.

Our Skuas are just starting to settle down