Monday, 30 March 2020

27th-29th March

The 27th started as we'd hoped it would go on weather wise, unfortunately the Southerly air flow that had bought us a few early Spring migrants would switch into a rather bitter North-Westerly bringing in very little apart from a few snow flurries!
Bird-wise the 27th wasn't a bad day, the warmer less windy weather allowed us to open the nets at Holland for the first time this decade and it wasn't all that bad. The previous days Dunnock found its way into a mist net as did a Pied Wagtail. Finally the Otter made another cameo between Brides and Stromness point.
In the field things weren't bad either, a Whooper Swan on Hooking was the first since the early parts of the year and Sparrowhawk at Holland was an addition to the year list. A colour ringed Bar-tailed Godwit on the Links proved to be JJJ3, a bird that has returned to North Ronaldsay since at least 2010 when it was ringed.
The 28th was just horrible. A driving cold northerly wind backed with occasional showers wasn't what we had in mind with April on the horizon! The Green-winged Teal was about the only bird of note for the day!
A similar scenario the following day but with slightly less wind meant coverage was a bit more palatable, but it was still rather wet and windy! A ringtail Hen Harrier near Brides and our first Great Skua of 2020 were the stand out birds for the day.
Purple Sandpipers                                                                      George Gay

Friday, 27 March 2020

24th-26th March

With April fast approaching Spring has finally began to take hold up here. The 24th and 25th were pretty similar to the last four or five days. A count of 19 Tufted Duck on the 24th was the highest this year as was a count of 164 Black-headed Gulls.
Another Goldcrest at the Airfield was accompanied by 3 Black-tailed Godwit as they headed North over Holland to complete a good couple of days and maybe the signs of what would be a good next day.
The 26th bought a calm and sunny day and four new birds for 2020.
A Kestrel was first on the menu as a young male made its way South from Cavan and presumably out towards Sanday.
A Wheatear was then seen at the Pier and was closely followed by a Dunnock at Holland. A sixth  Stonechat of 2020, although not a year tick was a nice addition to the day list around the obs and it also led to the finding of the first Chiffchaff of the year down by T1. Spring is in and with settled weather for the next few days hopefully it'll continue to get better!
Chiffchaff                                                              George Gay

Stonechat                                               Sara Macias Rodriguez

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

21st-23rd March

**Firstly lets get some housekeeping out the way. In accordance with advice from the Scottish Government the bird observatory will be closed to visitors at the moment as hotels and self-catering accommodation should not be accepting visitors. We however do hope to welcome visitors once the situation with Covid-19 has been made somewhat clearer, be that in the Autumn or in 2021. We'll also place on record that residential staff already at that obs have been retained.**

Right the birdy stuff you're all really here for!
The 21st bought about a slight change in weather as the wind began to swing into the East and then picked up gradually over the next two days leaving the 23rd as a very windy and ultimately not very nice day.
The Green-winged Teal has remained on Gretchen and was also present on the 22nd. Other waterfowl of interest were 5 Mute Swan on Hooking loch on the 21st and no fewer than 4 Shelduck on the 23rd. 3 Hen Harriers also on the 21st were joined by a single Merilin on the same day and a further two birds on the 23rd. A Peregrine over Holland Park on the 22nd was the first for few days.
Bar-tailed Godwit numbers peaked at 23 on the 23rd as did Purple Sandpipers on the same date with 145.
Passerine numbers have been on a steady increase the highlights of which were 140 Skylark, 6 Fieldfare and 45 Twite on the 21st. 17 Pied Wagtails, 11 Meadow Pipits and a Song Thrush on the 22nd and the 23rd bought 4 Robins, 3 Stonechats, 8 Redwing, 3 Snow Buntings and our first Goldcrest of 2020, which would have been the highlight of the post had it not been for the amazing discovery of a dog Otter on Brides Loch on the 23rd! It's the first island record in nearly a decade with the last being in 2011.


Mute Swan

Pied Wagtail

Saturday, 21 March 2020

18th-20th March

It's been a rather hectic couple of days up here, poor day of weather on the 18th didn't allow for too much birding. With plenty of indoor maintenance work to be carried out we took the opportunity to partake in some painting. The 19th however was much nicer so getting out to see what we could add to our yearlist seemed a good idea!
The usual Green-winged Teal hasn't moved from Gretchen but it'll probably be thinking of doing so any day soon. The highlights of the day proved to be a trio of Common Redpoll hanging around in the gardens at Holland and a Siskin that came in off the sea at Hooking. Otherwise there's been an increase in common migrants with noteably more Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails hanging around, with four of each noted around the observatory a few more further afield. Wader numbers seem to have steadied out and most the breeders are well into their courtship rituals! Spring has well and truly started its slow roll, hopefully we'll manage a Wheatear before too long!
The 20th although a good day was busy for other reasons. An exodus from mainland UK meant the arrival of Gavin, Phoebe, Sara and Rael. The latter of which you'll recognise from previous years! Birdy highlights were limited a Merlin over T5 and a Song Thrush trapped around the obs in the morning.

Great Northern Diver

Ringed Plover

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

6th-17th March

It's been a little while but finally we're back with a full compliment of staff. While I was away we saw build up in numbers of Pied Wagtail and our first Stonechat of the year its their appearance on the 12th at the school followed by a female around the obs on 14th and another bird on the 17th at the airfield.
The Green-winged Teal and the Glaucous Gull have been hanging around in similar haunts, a Song Thrush at Holland was new to the year list. Otherwise it's been fairly quiet, in other news we're all keeping safe and isolated from this dreadful Coronavirus! But the less said about that the better, it'll be spring soon!

Green-winged Teal and Glaucous Gull

There might be a reason we haven't had a boat this year...

Saturday, 7 March 2020

3rd-5th March

I'll try and keep things brief as there hasn't been an awful lot bird movement in the last few days.
The Green-winged Teal has remained on Gretchen, I'm sure it'll move eventually! Good numbers of Skylark have been building, with up to 143 birds recorded in the area between the observatory and Kirbest, 63 of which were hanging around the obs.
A Pied Wagtail at the airfield on the 3rd was new for the year, so things are grinding along slowly and the Glaucous Gull that's been hanging about made a brief appearance on the 4th as did a Jack Snipe flushed from the Funny Park, another island year tick!
If you're on Twitter (and if you are and you don't already follow us please do, we're @NRonBirdObs) you'll have already seen the Coot recovery post. A Coot that Gavin ringed in June has been re-trapped some 880km away in St. James Park, London.
Eurasian Coot are relatively migratory so maybe not such a huge surprise, but we're excited as we've only managed to ring nine Coot in thirty-one years so maybe we ought to try and catch a few more! We also assume this is just the Coots wintering ground (in London) and hopefully it'll be back to breed, now with extra leg bling in the shape of a shiny darvic ring.

On a final footnote- There won't be any updates now until 15th March.

The Frogs know it's nearly Spring...

...This Lapwing might not though


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

28th Feb - 2nd March

A weekend of absolutely abhorrent weather meant birding was at a minimum, the only birds of interest were the rather soggy Green-winged Teal and a Robin that kept popping up by the obs. Once Monday arrived we had another poor morning of weather but that quickly cleared and gave way to a splendid afternoon. However I took the option to give one of the heligoland traps some much needed tlc!
Tuesday was another superb day so a walk around the North end in the morning got the ball rolling again. It wasn't spectacular but it's early March. The two Mute Swans were still on Garso, 61 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, 4 Gadwall and 3 Goldeneye were all Bewan had in stock. A small flock of Great Black-back Gulls didn't hold anything and the usual wader flocks still included Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone and Ringed Plover. The main event of the day came back at the obs in the shape of a Woodpigeon, not the most exciting bird but they're a migrant here so hopefully a sign of things to come, as long its not all Woodpigeons!
An afternoon stroll up the West side was a little more exciting, a Robin at Verracott brings the wintering numbers up to at least five. A 1cy male Merlin was on West Beach as was a ringtail Hen Harrier.
So it seems Spring is on its way up here, albeit slowly, but good things come those who wait...or so I'm told!


Friday, 28 February 2020

25th-27th February

A differing three days of weather has included pretty much all the elements, but the predominant factor has been the wind, making everything that little bit colder.
Bird wise there hasn't been much in the way of change but that's to be expected in February. Great Northern Divers in Nouster and two in Linklet on the 26th and 27th were the only Divers present around the island. Wildfowl numbers were also pretty steady, the three Shelduck remained between and Ancum and Gretchen while up to three Pink-footed Geese, including the long staying bird at Rue have been hanging around with Greylags one of which seems somewhat paler than the rest. The Green-winged Teal remains in its favoured haunt on Gretchen. 
A quick sea-watch on the 27th was labelled so for reason but provide a lone Kittiwake. Two Hen Harriers have been throwing themselves around the island, while a Merlin on the 25th and a Peregrine the next day at Brides completed the raptor list for period. 
Wader numbers are still good with up to 120 Purple Sandpipers on the island. Golden Plover have seemingly began to return with the flock slowly growing in size daily, it's now up to just over 80 birds. 
The Glaucous Gulls are still in situ at Brides, Bewan and Westness while we're hoping something else drops in with them! 
Passerine wise things have been predictably quiet, Skylark numbers are building, a couple of wintering Robins at Lenswick and the Obs have resurfaced in the last day or so and the Twite flock is still hanging around the Funny Park. Other than all of that its business as usual on the birding side of things and we await the joys of Spring migration.   
Glaucous Gull

'pale' Greylag

Monday, 24 February 2020

24th February

Back to business as usual. It's been a little while since the blog has been updated due to folk being away from the island on various other duties.
A light Easterly breeze and cold sharp showers made birding tricky but it was still enjoyable to be outside.
The long-staying Green-winged Teal was still present on Gretchen where it's spent most of the winter. Up to three Hen Harriers have been on the island, two ringtails that have spent the whole winter and a new adult male that was seen for the time today also near Gretchen.
Also appearing in a three were Glaucous Gulls! A first winter was at Bridesness while two second winters were at Westness and the Twingness.
Finally the long staying Pink-footed Goose was still opposite Rue.
Other totals for the day include 3 Shelduck, 2 Mute Swan, 144 Wigeon, 109 Teal, 4 Pintail, 2 Gadwall, 31 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Snipe, a Merlin and 61 Twite.

Glaucous Gull

Oystercatcher, Teal, Snipe and Redshank

Ringed Plover

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2nd January

With the weather turning near apocolyptic over the next few days this was maybe our final chance to get some birding done for a couple of days.
It seemed the birds had read the weather and decided to stay tucked away out of sight. The long staying Green-winged Teal finally re-surfaced on Gretchen with 63 Wigeon and 17 Teal.
Bewan was uncharecteristally quiet with just the usual suspects. The year list additions for the day were a drake Red-breasted Merganser at Brides, 36 Twite in East Loch Park, 8 Grey Heron at Westness, a Black Gulliemot off the pier and a Meadow Pipit in Loch Park.

On another note I'm supposed to be off island for a few days so there won't be any further updates until 12th January.

Common Gull

1st January

Happy New Year!
Our first foray out into the wilderness of 2020 was quite productive.
Much of the usual stuff was accomapnied by a few unusal bits that we wouldn't perhaps expect to have on the year list at this early stage.
A 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was present in the small flock of Gulls sheltering from the wind at Bewan, the loch was otherwise playing host to its usual suspects. Small groups of Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal and Wigeon were also sheltering on the loch as were a pair of Goldeneye.
The beach at Brides was fairly busy with Wigeon, Goldeneye and Common Gulls all feeding in the surf, the loch was less busy but did have a lone Little Grebe in one of the small bays and the Mute Swan from the previous day had seemingly found its way from Bewan. Other birds of note were 2 Red-throated Diver, 4 Great Northern Diver, 4 Long-tailed Duck, 16 Redwing and 13 Fieldfare.



Tuesday, 31 December 2019

31st December

Thankfully the wind and rain seem to have abated a little bit and birding the island today was far more pleasant than the previous couple of days.
There isn't great deal different in what was around but a few notable highlights certainly gave us reason to keep going!
Probably the most exciting but a lone Shelduck on Gretchen was the first of few decent birds, Decemeber Shelducks aren't a regular occurance on North Ronaldsay so this was quite a welcome start to the day.
Bewan was our main source of birding action for the day a Mute Swan that certainly wasn't around yesterday was joined by a bathing adult Glaucous Gull. We don't see many adult white wingers so again a more than welcome sight.
Other day totals include: 1 Pink-footed Goose still at Vincoin, 34 Purple Sandpipers, 4 Grey Heron at Westness, 21 Fieldfare the bulk of which were in the fields surrounding Kirbest, 33 Redwing, 4 Robins, 14 Snow Bunting and 2 Reed Buntings.
See you all in 2020!

Glaucous Gull


Monday, 30 December 2019

29th - 30th December

Some bonus end of the decade coverage for you!
Strong South-Westerlies and intermittent showers made birding slightly ardous, but despite this there's still a smattering of left over migrants from the Autumn.
Lingering pockets of Redwing totalling up to 19 birds were joined by 2 Fieldfare at Southness.
A solitary Pink-footed Goose was still opposite Vincoin with Greylags and up to 3 Robins have been hanging around the observatory and Lurand as have flock of around 40 Twite.
3 Hen Harriers seem to have set up thier winter terrortories on the island and the 29th saw 2 Woodcock flushed from Holland in a very brief look before dark. Finally a flock of around 20 Snow Bunting were feeding around Sandar.
Otherwise things are pretty quite up here as we head into 2020, but you never know what might turn up!

Pink-footed Goose                                                                 George Gay

Sunday, 15 December 2019

15th December

A much better day with lighter, southerly based winds and some good spells of sunshine; a fine selection of wintering birds were found across the island during the day which included 9 Herons, 273 Wigeon, 169 Teal, the Green-winged Teal still, 3 Hen Harriers, single Merlin and Peregrine again, a lone Knot on the rocks off Torness, 161 Purple Sandpipers, a Woodcock in Holland, 12 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Black-headed Gull (scarce in the winter), 8 Skylarks, 17 Rock Pipits, 3 Robins, 3 Fieldfare, 3 Song Thrush, 60 Redwing, 75 Twite remaining in the Obs sacrificial crop and 25 Snow Buntings.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

14th December

A little bit of bonus winter coverage for you!   Breezy with frequent showers but there were some decent spells to get out in the field; the birds seen were generally a continuation of the last blog entry and included 2 Herons, a single Pink-footed Goose with 420 Greylag Geese, 143 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 127 Teal, the drake Green-winged Teal still on Gretchen, 88 Mallard, 11 Shoveler, 35 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Goldeneye, 3 Hen Harriers, single Merlin and Peregrine, 95 Redshank, 191 Turnstone, 2 Skylarks, a Meadow Pipit, 3 Fieldfare, a Song Thrush, 65 Redwing and 13 Twite.