Wednesday, 20 January 2021

16th-19th January

A few days where again white-winged Gulls have made up the bulk of the good birds we've had over the past few days. The 16th produced good numbers of the aforementioned white winged Gulls, with 4 Glaucous Gulls (1 ad and 3 1w) and 2 1w Iceland Gulls in a large flock of feeding Gulls on the Links. A WeBs count on the 17th produced plenty of wildfowl but also presented the task of trying to rule out overlapping Glaucous Gulls with them moving around the island a fair bit, with a bit of working out we had at least 8 birds (2 ad and 6 1w) on island along with the previous days Iceland Gulls that were hanging around on Garso. A pair of Mute Swans were also on Brides, while 5 Snow Buntings were hanging around in East Loch Park. The 18th was mostly taken up with a failed rescue attempt of a Grey Seal that had become entangled in fishing line, sadly the Seal managed to get away, we're keeping an eye out for it though and hopefully we'll manage to free it before too long! The 19th was back to normal, the Ruff appeared on Ancum in the morning while the only other birds of note were a Merlin at Parkhouse, 2 Hen Harrier, 2 Glaucous Gulls (ad and 1w) and a 1w Iceland Gull on the Seal Skerry. 

                                   Iceland Gull with Common Gulls
                                   Common Gull and Herring Gull 

Saturday, 16 January 2021

12th-15th January

With the wind picking up and the weather turning not so nice it's meant birding away from vehicles has been at a premium but there have still been bits and bobs to pick up on. The overwintering Ruff remained with the Redshank and Golden Plover flock near the Post Office on the 12th. The 13th was a very quiet day with hardly anything to report apart from the usual Hen Harriers and a Merlin. The next day however would see the wind pick up and even get a sniff of Easterly to it, all this really meant was that the Gulls gathered on the Links and the appearance of an Adult and 1st Winter Iceland Gull and a 1st Glaucous Gull made for something to photograph if nothing else! Another rough day on the 15th saw 2 1st Winter Glaucous Gulls sat around Bewan as did the first Jack Snipe of 2021, the group of 60 or so Ringed Plover and 43 Dunlin remained on Cauldhaim flash with the Pink-footed Goose nearby. A couple of Woodcock were flushed from Holland in the afternoon. 

                                   Iceland Gull

Monday, 11 January 2021

10th-11th January

 A very cold couple of days hasn't seen much change in the birds but it's hardly a surprise considering it's January. Good counts of Pintail and Gadwall were present on Bewan posting 26 and 15 respectively, The Green-winged Teal remained on Gretchen with 21 Eurasian Teal, a collated 31 Tufted Duck were on Bewan, Garso, Hooking and Brides and the drake Pochard was back on Brides with 2 Little Grebe. Greylags have of course been the goose of choice (or not) with over 300 on the island, the only goose that wasn't a Greylag was a Pink-footed Goose below the school. Away from Wildfowl the Gull flock on Bewan contained a rather scruffy 1st Winter Glaucous Gull that seemed to be commuting between Bewan and the Seal Skerry. The Twite flock in the Funny Park was still holding 3 Chaffinch but had been joined by a rather smart male Redpoll. A couple of Hen Harriers were seen bombing around the island but otherwise it was very much business as usual!  

                                   Glaucous Gull
                                   Pink-footed Goose

Saturday, 9 January 2021

8th-9th January

 Its almost as if by magic that our complaints of a lack of white wingers have been answered in the last couple days! Two 1CY Glaucous Gulls were present on the 8th while the 9th bought a 1CY Iceland Gull and 2 Glaucous Gulls in the shape of a rather smart adult and another (or one of the previous days) 1CY birds. Elsewhere it appears the Buzzard is still going strong and was seen fending off one of three Hen Harriers that have been seen around the island. The drake Pochard was present on Brides on the 9th and a lone Pink-footed Goose was below the school with Greylags. Unsurprisingly the Green-winged Teal has remained on Gretchen. The big news from the last two days is the re-discovery of the Woodlark in the Funny Park, a very good bird this far North and very good bird for 2021's yearlist which is off to a flyer! Otherwise things as you'd expect for this time of year, 3 Chaffinches remain in the Funny Park with Twite flock, up to 26 Pintail were on Bewan on the 9th and a Merlin was seen bombing around Gretchen early on the 8th. 

Now is also a good time to mention becoming a friend! If you wish to do so please email: the cost of becoming is £20 this includes a copy of the annual report, 10% off accommodation at the bird observatory and a biannual newsletter, more importantly though it allows us continue our work at the observatory with the membership going straight into things like repairing traps, sowing bird crops and paying for essential equipment like rings and nets. For additional £8.00 you can also receive the Orkney Bird Report. In addition to this we have started selling pin badges, the first of these features the iconic Arctic Tern that also features on the obs logo, we have limited stock of these but if you wish to purchase one please email: 

                                    The NRBO Arctic Tern Pin Badge          


Thursday, 7 January 2021

3rd - 7th January

 It's been a cold week here on North Ronaldsay but beautiful non-the-less with little wind.

We're still lacking in white-winged Gulls but the cold weather has boosted wildfowl numbers, the most notable of which being the first record of Pochard in over a year on 6th. Other wildfowl consiting 22 Tufted Ducks, 28 Pintail, 5 Goldeneye and 188 Wigeon, whilst up to 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, both Red-throated and Great northern Divers were on the sea with a few Long-tailed Ducks. Elsewhere 25 Snow Buntings at Sandar were busy avoiding at least three Hen Harriers.

                                            A typical Bewan scene
                                            Golden Plovers and Snow Buntings

Saturday, 2 January 2021

2nd January

Not that we didn't expect it but the Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen Loch with 8 Pintail and a Robin was just up the coast at the Bothy, 4 Pink-footed Geese were at Lurand and the Ravens are quickly becoming more vocal. Temperature aside, the changeable weather continued with this rainbow over the west coast lighting up the Lapwings.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year!

 North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory would like to wish everybody a Happy New Year!

A few hours out and about today produced a few bits not usually seen in January, notably last years Buzzard hanging on, three Chaffinches were still in Funny Park with 28 Twite. A Song Thrush was at Sennes and a good collective count of Pintail totalled 26 and 4 Goldeneye were on the sea off Bewan. A Merlin and a Hen Harrier were by the School, and a Pink-footed Goose was amongst the Greylag Geese.

The weather's been pretty impressive too over the past couple of days with some heavy frosts and wintery showers.

Snow Buntings

Snow cloud

Friday, 25 December 2020

North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory would like to thank all of those who have visited and contributed to the Bird Observatory in this strangest of years and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 
Thank You all and we hope to see you next year.

This Little Auk was a surprise Christmas present for one lucky islander, found on the doorstep early morning. It was lively and put back out on the sea.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

We finally got in on some Goose action with 3 Russian White-fronted Geese and a single Bean Goose sp. between Holland and Kirbist on 16th. Up to 4 Woodcock have been logged, there are still a few Fieldfare and Redwing scattered about, up to 11 Pintail have been on Gretchen Loch and 2 Jackdaws coming in off the sea at the pier on 23rd is only the second December record of this species. 

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

5th 15th December

The past couple of weeks have been wet and windy to say the least but there are still plenty of Geese to search through, though no White-fronted Geese so far. Three Iceland Gulls were amongst the masses of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls on 8th, there are still a decent number of Redwings and Fieldfare for December and it appears a good number of Robins are going to spend Christmas on the Island. Up to 80 Twite remain in the Observatory bird crops and singles of Siskin and Common Redpoll were seen on 15th.

Friday, 4 December 2020

25th November - 4th December

 A rather quiet period of just under 10 days has meant there's not really a lot to shout about at the moment but we have had a few interesting bits to keep curiosity going and observers in the field. 

A Sparrowhawk was seen briefly over Milldam on the 25th while the first wintering Shelduck returned to Gretchen on the 28th, a small increase in wildfowl numbers saw the Pintail count rise to 23 with most of the birds being on Bewan and Gretchen. A short sea-watch on the 1st of December produced a Little Auk and a Puffin. Other highlights have included the Green-winged Teal, up to 3 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlins, Short-eared Owl was seen on the 28th and there's decent numbers of Woodcock still hanging around. Other remainders of the Autumn are still lingering too; small groups of Redwing and Fieldfare are still present in hidden corners of fields while small numbers of Robins are still feeding around the Obs, Holland and Ancum Willows. The ever present flock of Twite in the obs crop has stayed at a pretty steady 40-50 birds, they've been joined by a number of Chaffinch over the last few days with up to 6 birds joining the flock. A Grey Plover that has also been present on Nouster beach for much of November has been seen most days. 

                                   Merlin                                                                                   GG
                                   Twite                                                                                      GG

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

17th-24th November

 It's been quite the week, mainly for birding reasons but sadly not here! Dante has now departed for the winter but he'll be back next Spring for the season. While dropping him off in Kirkwall I managed to find Scotland's third Crag Martin while shopping, it would have been rather nice if it was flying round on here but I can't complain too much!

The constant factor here has been wind, rain and a bit more wind. This has meant that birding opportunities have been rather limited especially with quite a bit of work to do and short daylight hours. However we haven't been without birds and some early winter highlights haven't passed us by. For starters the Woodlark is still hanging on in there in the Funny Park and we're now harbouring hopes it might survive the long winter and make its way on 2021's year list! The Green-winged Teal is a constant presence and will no doubt continue to be so. Another late Ring Ouzel, this time a male was on the lawn at Kirbest on the 17th as was an Iceland Gull seen from the bar in the Obs, it happened to be the second Iceland Gull seen from the bar this year! A high count of 11 Goldeneye were on Bewan during really rough weather on the 21st while 10 Pink-footed Geese were with Greylags around Milldam and finally a lone Goldfinch was around Sandback on the 23rd. Other than daily sightings of Woodcock and the odd lingering Robin it's been quiet, but it's nearly December so that's to be expected really! 

                                   Pink-footed Geese                                                              GG
                                   Pot making friends with a Greylag.                                     GG
                                   Ring Ouzel                                                                           GG

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

10th-16th November

 Winter has well and truly set in and we've had some weather to go with it a long with some better days too. Highlights have been few and far between but the ones we have had have been good ones! 

The first of the highlights came on the 12th, a Yellowhammer initially found flying over Longar would later settle on the track near Sangar, it's only the second occurrence of the year so was more than welcome. The Woodlark was still present on the 12th and still in its usual spot in the Funny Park. Both Long-eared Owls remained in the gardens at Holland until at least the 12th when they were re-trapped almost simultaneously much like when they were first caught! 

A quite spell filled the next few days after this until the 14th provided a Goldfinch at Sandback, assumedly one of the birds from a few weeks back, the Green-winged Teal put in a showing on Gretchen where we assume it spends most of its time and perhaps most unusual was the appearance of a white farmyard duck on Bewan, it wasn't the white waterfowl anybody was after in any case! 

The 15th also had its highlights, good numbers of Thrushes remain on the island especially between Holland and the obs, in this contingent of remaining Thrushes was a Ring Ouzel near Westness. There also seems to be a good number of Robins scattered about too. The Buzzard is still in the Ancum area and we have to assume its going to winter or die trying! 

                                   Not a Smew...
                                                     ...and that definitely isn't a Fulmar...
                                                                               ...but this is certainly a Woodlark (GG)                              


Monday, 9 November 2020

4th-9th November

  With things slowing down for the season and staff members moving into different accommodation for the winter things have been much more low key on the birding front but it hasn't been without highlights and the 9th saw an unpredicted fall that had us back out in the field trying to find a late Autumn gem! 

Highlights have been very few and far between in the run up to the 9th. The only real birds of note have been a juvenile Iceland Gull at Brides on the 4th, a female Sparrowhawk was present in Holland on the 6th and 7th and the long-staying Buzzard was seen on the 7th and 8th. The 8th saw us add Scaup to the year list with a 1st year drake sat on Bewan with 7 Tufted Duck. 

The 6th was also a special day for two of the obs staff, it was time for Rael and Sara to get married, a small party in the observatory in the evening was a lovely way to congratulate the newly-weds and we wish them all the best going forward.

The 9th came out of nowhere a little bit despite us thinking the forecast had looked good a few days previous. A fall of Blackbirds saw well over 1000 birds pass through the island throughout the day. Along with the Blackbirds were pockets of Fieldfare and Redwing with triple figure counts posted for each species. The Woodlark re-emerged in the obs crop after a five day absence, a flock of 42 Twite shows signs of building up in the crop too. Holland was the main focus of our attentions for the afternoon and we managed to get nets open from 14:00-17:00 in this five hour spell we managed to catch 112 birds including 101 Blackbirds, 3 Blackcaps, 2 Goldcrests, 2 Long-eared Owls and a Woodcock, not a bad way to spend an afternoon! The Woodcock count was limited to around the observatory and Holland but saw at least 16 birds counted, meaning there's bound to be more on the island! 

With the season at a wind down and with plenty of jobs to get done in preparation for the exodus of staff and for 2021 the blog posts won't be that regular but I'll try and keep them weekly at the very least! 

                                   Long-eared Owl (Top) Iceland Gull (Bottom).                    GG

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

1st-3rd November

 November has had a slightly better start than we'd anticipated despite unfavourable weather conditions but here we sit, three days in having had some decent migrants, some decent totals of lingerers and even a year tick! 

The 1st was a dreich and damp day but did have its merits, a late Redstart was on the beach near Nouster feeding among the Turnstone and Sanderling. A Short-eared Owl was seen quartering the fields beyond Ancum Willows in the morning while a large mixed flock of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls spent the day around Bewan with 5 Tufted Ducks, 7 Pintail, 3 Shoveler and a flock of around 100 Wigeon. The bird of the day was a Crossbill flushed from Holland before heading South.

The 2nd was a bit quieter and littered with heavy showers in the afternoon but was otherwise a pleasant day in the field. The 3 Barnacle Geese from last week were still in the fields between Greenwall and Howar while 11 Whooper Swans were on Brides before 6 departed in the direction of Sanday. A flock of 22 Long-tailed Ducks spent the afternoon in the bay at Linklet and lingering Blackcaps were in Holland and around Cruesbrek, as were 2 Siberian Chiffchaffs and at least 7 Robins were on the island adding to the counts. 

The 3rd started with a bit of a bang! The islands 7th record of Woodlark was found in the Funny Park before relocating briefly to the rough ground between the Pier and the County Park before heading back into the Funny Park where it spent the rest of the day. Elsewhere the day was quiet, the Black Redstart from Southness had seemingly re-located itself to the sea-wall at Hooking and a Siberian Chiffchaff was skulking around the entrance to Holland with a lingering Goldcrest.

                                   Woodlark                                                                             GG
                                   I'm not sure the Redstart is enjoying the weather anymore...GG
                                   Whooper Swans                                                                     GG