Tuesday, 16 July 2019

14th and 15th July

An OK day on the 14th, overcast with a moderate NW wind; quiet on the bird front but the Black Tern reappeared at Bewan and the first returning Common Sandpiper was at Nouster Pier.   A calmer day on the 15th with a decreasing NW wind which swung round into the N and varying cloud cover; it was a good birding day as the highlights included a Hobby which came in off the sea at Nouster and continued north up the island and an almost certain Little Bunting seen briefly near Holland with the observer only hesitating due to the time of year!   The other main feature was increasing numbers of waders and gulls which appear instantly and as if by magic when the silage fields start to get cut as counts included 435 Oystercatchers, 280 Golden Plover, 400 Lapwings, 174 Redshank, 260 Common Gulls and 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in amongst which were 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and the first returning Ruff of the autumn – a nice male.   Also of note were 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Swifts, a Lesser Redpoll and a Common Crossbill.

Still some big Curlew chicks to be found

Sunday, 14 July 2019

12th - 13th July

A decent day on the 12th with light westerly winds and plenty of cloud cover but thick fog covered the island on the 13th -  slightly unusual on a westerly!   A / the female Two-barred Crossbill (re) appeared back in Ancum Willows on the 13th but more unusual was the Shorelark found at the Lighthouse in the evening of the 12th -  unsurprisingly the first July record!   Other birds included a Great-northern Diver, singing Quail and Corncrake still, a steady increase to 420 Golden Plover, 17 Sanderling, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Little Terns still and the 2 ringed Common Crossbills still while 5 Risso’s Dolphins were off the Lighthouse on the 12th.


Friday, 12 July 2019

10th - 11th July

A couple of days where thick fog was the dominant feature, grounding planes to cause traffic chaos; there were breaks in the fog though – a few hours in the afternoon of the 10th when it actually felt pretty warm and sunny for a while and then the afternoon of the 11th when it was overcast but calm (it was still foggy in Kirkwall though so no flights got in!).   We finally got in on the Crossbill irruption on the 10th, albeit briefly with a female TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL seen and heard near the Old Kirk from where it flew over to the coast but couldn’t be relocated.   Other birds included a Heron, the Quail singing from long grass near Holland, an increased 270 Golden Plover, one Little Tern still in Nouster and 2 Common Crossbills trapped and ringed in the evening of the 10th.

Common Crossbill

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

9th July

Another good day in the field; it started out calm and sunny (with 13 Storm Petrels caught overnight - plus a  Leach’s Petrel which bounced out of the net) but the easterly breeze picked up through the day and it clouded over by lunchtime with light rain by the evening.   It felt promising with the easterly winds (almost like autumn!) and there were some good highlights comprising a skulky Marsh Warbler found at the Obs, a female Common Crossbill at Ancum Willows in the evening (not the Loxia we were looking for but a nice year tick none-the-less) and the 4 Red-necked Phalaropes still on Bewan.   Other birds of note included 8 Manx Shearwaters off the Lighthouse, a Heron, a Quail which gave a brief burst of song near Gretchen, a further increase to 228 Golden Plover, 13 Sanderling, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 117 Turnstone and single Woodpigeon and Collared Dove.   Also seen were a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Holland House and a medium sized Basking Shark off the Lighthouse in the evening to round off a great day.

None of the day's highlights really gave themselves up for pictures so here's a baby Pied Wagtail!

Monday, 8 July 2019

8th July

A day with lots going on so it deserves a blog post to itself!   Glorious conditions with wall to wall sunshine and an easing westerly breeze moving round into the east by the evening; the good array of birds was highlighted by a drake Goosander over Westness (a good island scarcity!), a nice group of 4 Red-necked Phalaropes on Bewan and the Black Tern again at Trolla.   Other bits of note  comprised good late summer influxes of waders including 165 Oystercatchers, 140 Golden Plover, 183 Lapwing, the first 11 returning Purple Sandpipers of the ‘autumn’, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 127 Redshank and 65 Turnstone, an adult Common Tern at Bewan, the 2 Little Terns still, a Collared Dove, 7 Swifts and a little influx of butterflies with 30 Painted Ladies, 12 Red Admirals and 7 Large Whites.

Red-necked Phalaropes

Purple Sandpiper

4th - 7th July

Two days of pretty much constant low cloud, drizzle and poor visibility on 4th - 5th followed by nicer conditions on 6th - 7th but with most of the staff off for a break in Kirkwall coverage was limited.   The visibility finally improved in the evening of the 5th allowing some hopeful Giant Petrel inspired sea-watching from the Lighthouse, no Petrels but a fine Long-tailed Skua was pretty decent compensation along with 12 Manx Shearwaters.   Other birds included the Black Tern still present on the 4th along with 800+ Arctic Terns (with 1st summers now up to 450+), 6 returning Wigeon, the Corncrake still giving brief snatches of song, a Common Tern in Nouster on 7th and a small pod of 3 Risso’s Dolphins off the lighthouse, also on the 7th.

Black Tern again

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

1st - 3rd July

The same mix of sunshine and showers with spells of rain but also long periods of dry and sometimes sunny weather; nice and calm on the 2nd degenerating into wet and windy conditions by the afternoon of the 3rd.   Breeding bird work dominated the proceedings with good numbers of Arctic Tern chicks ringed as well as the two fluffy balls of death (Bonxie chicks!) ringed; other birds included 2 Great-northern Divers, 3 Manx Shearwaters on the 3rd, a singing Quail at Ancum on the 3rd, wader totals peaking at 43 Golden Plover, 36 Knot and 41 Dunlin, an increase to 1,460+ Arctic Terns (including 400+ 1st summer birds) in amongst which were an adult Common Tern and an adult Black Tern on the 3rd,  a Collared Dove and a male White Wagtail at Trolla.

Black Tern

Monday, 1 July 2019

29th - 30th June

Some spells of heavy rain swept across the island through the last few days of the month, especially through the evening of the 29th as several showers of biblical proportions meant further woes for the breeding birds.   The selection of birds over the few days included 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great-northern Divers, 6 Manx Shearwaters and 4 Storm Petrels off the Lighthouse on the 29th, the Whooper Swan still, a female Garganey on Garso on the 29th, a Kestrel at Westness, a further increased 98 Golden Plover and 2 Collared Doves. 

Plenty of aggro still around the island!

Saturday, 29 June 2019

27th - 28th June

A quiet few days with again a complete mix of weathers, especially on the 28th with a nice, calm, sunny start reverting into a chilly, foggy, damp middle of the day before going back to a lovely, sunny evening.   Birds of note included a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, the Whooper Swan and 2 Barnacle Geese, a fresh, flying juvenile Garganey on Hooking – for the second year in a row, confirming successful breeding, up to 38 Golden Plover and 5 Black-tailed Godwits, the 2 Little Terns still, 2 over-summering Chiffchaffs, a new Willow Warbler at the Obs and a Lesser Redpoll (with a brood patch) trapped at Ancum Willows – only the second of the year.   Also to mention was the island’s first Poplar Hawkmoth trapped overnight on the 28th  – its been a resident on the Mainland and southern isles for several years now but this is the first record for the outer isles.

Poplar Hawkmoth

Lesser Redpoll

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

24th - 26th June

Again, mixed weather but the general airflow was a chilly NW with the odd shower but also a few sunny spells allowing us to get out and do some breeding bird monitoring; it was predictably quiet for migrants although more and more returning waders are starting to appear now and included an influx of 77 Golden Plover along with increased totals of 105 Lapwing and 60 Redshank in their traditional late-summer fields around Hooking.   Other birds included a Red-throated Diver, 2 Great-northern Divers, the two Barnacle Geese still, the first flock of returning Wigeon with seven drakes at Hooking on the 26th, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, two Red-necked Phalaropes which appeared on Gretchen on the 26th, further increases in non-breeding Arctic Terns with 175 1st summer birds counted on the 26th, the Turtle Dove which reappeared at Brides on the 24th and 2 Chiffchaffs, a Robin and a Blackcap in Holland on the 26th.

Red-necked Phalaropes

Sunday, 23 June 2019

21st - 23rd June

Mixed weather over these few days but some good extended spells of bright, warm sunshine allowed us to get out and about into some tern colonies to get some accurate counts of nests with massive variability in the success of different sites within the island.   The Gretchen and Sangar colonies seem to be spiralling into failure (the Sangar colony was the most successful last year) – a spell of bad weather hit right when they were hatching but the Foghorn, North Links and Gue Park colonies, perhaps slightly behind, are doing well and maybe attracting some second attempts, adding to the protection of the colony.   
Migrants of note included a Great-northern Diver, a Heron, the Whooper Swan still, two new Barnacle Geese at the north end, c50 Knot still around Trolla / Bewan, up to 9 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, non / post-breeding flocks of Arctic Terns and Kittiwakes starting to build-up on the rocks at Bewan which included an adult Common Tern on the 22nd – the first of the year, up to 3 Woodpigeons and 2 Collared Doves at Holland and a Common Redpoll at the Obs on the 23rd.

That moment when you are admiring the super cute and fluffy baby Bonxie....and it suddenly vomits up a whole Arctic Tern chick - priceless!

Many Tern chicks are doing well though...but this one may have been fed a slightly too large fish!

Photos - Laura Whyte

Friday, 21 June 2019

20th June

Sunny, cloudy, breezy and showery through the day complicating efforts in breeding bird monitoring; there were actually a few new migrants scattered around the island highlighted by a tired looking Turtle Dove, sheltering under a dyke on the coast at Brides – the first one since 2016.   Other birds included a Great-northern Diver, 3 Herons (including two new juveniles from somewhere), the Whooper Swan, 3 Common Scoter past the Lighthouse, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 75 Lapwings (post-breeding flocks starting to build-up), 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a Cuckoo by Parkhouse – only the second of the year, 3 House Martins and a Spotted Flycatcher. 

Turtle Dove

Thursday, 20 June 2019

19th June

A nice, bright day with plenty of sunshine and a variable but light breeze dropping off to virtually nothing by the evening; the day’s bird highlights were 2 Quail, one flushed from underneath the bar window at the Obs and another which randomly flew along the beach at Brides as we had just finished tracking down the Great Black-backed Gull chicks around the loch – we were getting worried that we wouldn’t get it on our year list!  

                Other birds included the Whooper Swan still, the Corncrake still, a Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Whimbrel, a Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Doves, 2 singing Lesser Whitethroats – at Ancum Willows and Sangar and a Common Redpoll at Holland.

Eider families are a constant sight round the coast now

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

18th June

The odd little shower in the morning and a brisk southerly wind but largely it was a pleasant day with some bright sunshine in the afternoon; bits and pieces through the day included single Great-northern and Red-throated Divers, the Heron, a Sparrowhawk south over the Obs (scarce in June!), a singing Corncrake still, 32 Golden Plover (the first little influx of returning birds), 3 Sandwich Terns milling around Hooking but not showing any signs of breeding activity, a Little Tern in Nouster still, a Collared Dove and a House Martin.

Ringed Plover

Pied Wagtail

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

17th June

A showery morning followed by a nice sunny afternoon with a light SW breeze; the North Ronaldsay Island Conference took up a large part of the day but as always there was time enough to get out in the field with the recent spell of south-easterlies resulting in a handful of new migrants.   Birds of note included 2 Great-northern Divers, an influx of 21 Black-tailed Godwits, the 2 Little Terns still in Nouster, 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Collared Doves, a House Martin and 2 Spotted Flycatchers (at Holland and Upper Linney).   The Butterfly influx continued as well with minimum counts comprising 40 Red Admirals and 75 Painted Ladies.

Bouncing Twite