Monday, 19 October 2020

16th-18th October

 A rather quiet period in which very few new migrants seemed to emerge, but with winds switching to the East over Monday and Tuesday there's certainly promise of more to come! 

A distinct lack of birds over the 16th and 17th left us scratching our heads a bit, but also allowed our brains to get some rest after what has been a whirlwind start and middle of October! Highlights from these two days include 4 Grey Plovers, good residual numbers of Robin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest and Redwing, a Lesser Whitethroat and 80+ Snow Buntings. 

The 18th was a slightly busier affair and with increased numbers of observers again we expect the good fortune of this Autumn to continue. A Little Bunting was re-discovered at North Gravity meaning folk arriving today had something to get their teeth into early on. Rosefinches were again re-discovered in the Observatory crop field and at Holland while a Lapland Bunting was also heard in the crop. The first Glaucous Gull of the Autumn was present for short while on the sea below Neven while up to 5 Goldfinches and 4 Greenfinches also made the highlight reel for the day. The first Little Auks of the Autumn were seen during a brief sea-watch that also featured the first Sooty Shearwater for a little while. The island also played host to at least 18 Siberian Chiffchaff with most being around the middle of the island. Despite this the highlight of the day had to be a female Hen Harrier trapped at Holland! Not the expected result for the evenings netting session! 

As previously mentioned the weather for the next couple of days looks interesting and with increased observers anything seems possible at the moment! 

                                   'Siberian' Chiffchaff              
                                   Little Bunting 
                                            Hen Harrier 

Thursday, 15 October 2020

14th-15th October

 A rather quite start to the 14th didn't leave us feeling highly optimistic although a Locustella seen briefly in Holland did give us the feeling that something might happen. The day progressed in an otherwise quiet fashion, the first Greenfinches of the year were at Holland and Sangar while 3 Velvet Scoters also made their way onto the year list. Remaining Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Robins were joined by the occasional Goldcrest, Redwing and Song Thrush but otherwise it felt like the day would fizzle out. However a Pallas' Warbler decided to make its presence felt at about 17:30 in the obs crop and was closely followed by the second Lanceolated Warbler of the year in Holland. A rather bizarre late flurry that left almost everyone a bit baffled to be honest! 

The 15th didn't include quite as much bafflement although there was a bit! A Grasshopper Warbler or what is assumed to be one appeared in the gardens first thing but wasn't seen again. A Common Rosefinch was also in Holland but found its way into a net. Other highlights include 2 Black-throated Diver, a Greenshank, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Tree Pipit. It's slim pickings but things are looking good over the next few days so we'll keep plugging away!

                                   Pallas' Warbler                                                                        DS

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

11th-13th October

 The last few days have seen a mass exodus of the migrants that have graced the island over the past week or so. 

The bird of the period was the previous days Buff-bellied Pipit that made a very welcome re-appearance on the Links, this time hanging around long enough for everybody to get a good view. Yet another Red-throated Pipit was seen briefly over Nouster as it headed towards Howar. Both of the previous days Little Buntings were present near Stennabrek while another Short-toed Lark was heard flying over the Links. A Buzzard was present between North and South Gravity. Otherwise a few migrants remained left over with singles figures and low double figures of Robin, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Goldcrest. 

The 12th bought in winds originating in the North bringing in a cold air flow and near constant light rain. Not the best birding conditions and it proved to be a rather quiet a flock of 57 Snow Buntings were at Westness while one of the Little Buntings was still at Stennabrek and another was around North Gravity. The Buzzard was also present as was the second Goldeneye of Autumn on Brides. A Black Redstart was also present around Haskie. 

The 13th saw the wind from the North-east but overall a much quieter day than perhaps anticipated. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen briefly around obs and at least 4 Siberian Chiffchaffs were seen around the island. A large flock of Chaffinch have built up around the Gravity area now totalling 36 birds. 

                                   American Buff-bellied Pipit                                                 GG
                                   Jack Snipe                                                                             GG

Saturday, 10 October 2020

7th-10th October

 It's been equally mad over the past few days but a gradual clear out of migrants has allowed us to go back to some form of birding normality despite lingering mega's and couple more great additions to the North Ron year list! 

The 7th was probably the busiest day of the lot and with birds still lingering after the incredible fall the day before it's barely a surprise. The adult male Red-throated Pipit was still lingering in East Loch Park while the Short-toed Lark was doing a similar thing just over the wall at Kirbest. The Bluethroat from a few days previous seemingly re-appeared at the Shooting Gallery coupled with the lingering Rosefinch while a further two Bluethroats were discovered at Haskie and Viggay in the afternoon. One of the lingering Little Buntings was seen near Senness and a very smart adult male Red-backed Shrike was seen between the Shooting Gallery and Burray throughout the day, unfortunately for at least one of the many lingering Goldcrests. The highlight for the day would have been the now long staying Eyebrowed Thrush until it's limelight was deservedly robbed by the islands second record of Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler, initially found in irises below Greenwall the bird proved tricky to absolutely get everything on but a net was deployed and the bird was trapped and ringed making for a pretty good first day of the finder David Roche's trip! 

A quieter day followed mostly punctuated with lingering birds again. The Red-backed Shrike was joined on the list by the re-appearance of the juvenile at Holland in the morning, a bird that managed to elude and evade us for a number of days! The Bluethroats at Haskie and the Shooting Gallery also remained as did the initial Rosefinch which would be joined by a second bird arriving at the Lighthouse in the early afternoon. A Reed Warbler was still skulking away in the Kirbest ditch while nearby the Short-toed Lark was still giving us the run around. The Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler and Eyebrowed Thrush still remained giving a good feel to the day overall. 

The 9th would see the disappearance of the Eyebrowed Thrush. A full week after a rather panicked set of obs staff and guests arrived to try and re-find it, it had departed. The story was similar across the board and the PG tips (birders slang for Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler) had also left the island, along with a good number of the commoner migrants. Saying this the Shrike, Bluethroat and one of the Rosefinches still hung on. The new additions for the day came in the shape of a 6th Red-throated Pipit for the Autumn at Rue (yes we's getting silly!), a 1st winter bird that spent much of the day bombing about the North end of the island. The other addition was 2 Slavonian Grebes in the bay at Linklet, they've been rather long awaited! 

The final day in this post and another good bird to add on to the yearlist! But first there had been a major clear out overnight meaning the Short-toed Lark and Red-backed Shrike has also departed for pastures new and we needed to fill the gap that had been left by them with something. That something arrived at about mid-day on the Links in the form of an American Buff-bellied Pipit! Initially feeding on the edge of Sandsheen the bird was seen by three observers including the finder before preforming a highly unappreciated bunk! The afternoon was spent trying re-locate it but this proved a futile task despite extensive searches. Elsewhere the Bluethroat was still hanging around the cow fields at Haskie and 2 Little Buntings were seemingly fresh arrivals near Stennabrek.

                                   Pallas' Grasshopper Warbler                                         Both GG
                                   American Buff-bellied Pipit                                                  GG
                                   Red-backed Shrike with Goldcrest                                        DS

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

3rd-6th October

 As you can probably tell from the lack of posts its been nothing short of mental here over the past few days. The sheer number of common migrants has been a bit overwhelming at times and with a few goodies thrown in for good measure it's been a week to remember for the staff and guests.

The Easterlies have been fairly consistent and with rain involved almost everyday bar the 5th it's been a recipe for migrants that's proved rather tasty. I think the best course of action is to go through high totals for the last few days and throw in the odd rarity! 

3rd October- 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Buzzard, 2 Little Buntings, 43 Snow Buntings, Common Rosefinch, 69 Brambling, 3 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 3 Willow Warbler, 39 Chiffchaff, 15 Yellow-browed Warbler, 5 Garden Warbler, 3 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 181 Robin, 3 Tree Pipit, 122 Goldcrest, 2 Red-throated Pipit and Eyebrowed Thrush.

4th October- 1 Buzzard, 6 Willow Warbler, 40 Chiffchaff, 7 Yellow-browed Warbler, 106 Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Common Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 1459 Redwing, 446 Song Thrush, 16 Fieldfare, 17 Ring Ouzel, 105 Robin, 1 Spotted Crake, 1 Osprey, 2 Rustic Buntings, 1 Red-throated Pipit and Eyebrowed Thrush.

5th October- 10 Willow Warbler, 43 Chiffchaff, 4 Yellow-browed Warbler, 144 Goldcrest, 1 Garden Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 4 Reed Warbler, 4 Whinchat, 1 Stonechat, 106 Robin, 4 Dunnock, 2 Richard's Pipit, 1 Red-throated Pipit, 1 Short-toed Lark, 3 Rustic Buntings and Eyebrowed Thrush.

6th October- Lingering migrants were coupled with a late arrival of birds after a spell of rain. There's still birds to be found tomorrow as the arrival occurred so late in the day! 4 Whooper Swan, 1 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 2 Short-eared Owl, 4 Willow Warbler, 123 Chiffchaff, 6 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Garden Warblers, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Barred Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 228 Goldcrest, 1 Rosefinch, 1 Little Bunting, 1 Short-toed Lark, 2 Red-throated Pipit, 1 Rustic Bunting, 2 Red-breasted Flycatcher, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 1 Grasshopper Warbler, 1 Pallas' Warbler and 1 Eyebrowed Thrush.

As you can see there's a lot of birds around hense the brief blog post. For clarity the Red-throated Pipit numbers account for at least three individuals with birds at Kirbest, East Loch Park and Westness. Rustic Buntings are a similar story with three proven individuals at Hooking, Brides and Antabrek. The Red-backed Shrike is the same ringed bird from a few days back, the Common Rosefinch and Buzzard also refer to one individual. It's been long days in the field recently so please excuse the blogs clinical demeanour this time around! It looks going forward weather wise too! It's exciting times on North Ronaldsay! 

                                   Rustic Bunting 
                                   Eyebrowed Thrush
                                   Song Thrush                                                                     all GG

Saturday, 3 October 2020

1st-2nd October

 An absolutely mental couple of days, the Easterlies didn't disappoint and we were rewarded with two mega Sibes that we could have only dreamed of when the winds kicked off. I think the best way to tackle this post is just to give totals for certain species.

The totals for the 1st were somewhat less than the 2nd but equally impressive. 

A Curlew Sandpiper was on Ancum while there were singles of Corncrake, Redstart, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike. Other numbers were made up of 5 Robin, 4 Ring Ouzel, 14 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warbler, 19 Yellow-browed Warblers, 6 Goldcrest and 18 Brambling. The second Red-throated Pipit of the year was in the obs crop were it spent the afternoon giving poor views. The undoubtable moment of the day was a stunning White's Thrush trapped at Holland. Only the second island record and something for everyone to savour the bird was released in Holland where it spent the rest of the day and the following one.

The 2nd involved a massive fall with increases of migrants across the board. 12 Jack Snipe, 6 Ruff, a Greenshank, a Short-eared Owl, a Kestrel, a Buzzard, the Corncrake was still present, 735 Redwing, 186 Song Thrush, 9 Fieldfare, 4 Ring Ouzel, a Dunnock, 57 Robin, 12 Redstart, 3 Whinchat, a Stonechat, 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 68 Blackcap, a Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, 4 Chiffchaff, 21 Yellow-browed Warblers, 43 Goldcrest, 2 Barred Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 50 Brambling, 23 Chaffinch, 22 Snow Buntings and 3 Little Buntings. Phew. 

The big highlight of the day was yet another mega rare Thrush. This time in the shape of a rather stunning Eyebrowed Thrush that spent the afternoon between Waterhouse and Phisligar often giving stunning views, it was an unexpected treat following the previous days bird. 

We seem to be on a bit of a role and long may it continue! 

                                   Eyebrowed Thrush                                                                 GG
                                   Redwing                                                                                 GG
                                   White's Thrush                                                                      RJB
                                   Yellow-browed Warbler                                                        GG

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

28th-30th September

 A few days of promising weather included some good birds and quite a few commoner migrant, hopefully all a taster for the rest of the week ahead.

Most of the previous days birds remained, a few new bits included a male Ring Ouzel around the obs crop, a Lesser Redpoll and a few Redwing and Song Thrushes. 6 Yellow-browed Warblers looked like being the highlight of the day until a Little Bunting was found around T1 before relocating to East Loch Park. Following this a an American Golden Plover was heard as it flushed from near the Lenswick Footpath but couldn't be re-located.

The following day was equally migrant filled. The day started with Pied Flycatcher near the poly tunnel at the observatory. A Red-backed Shrike spent most of the day around the bird observatory before being trapped in Holland later that evening. Yellow-browed Warblers broke into double figures for the day while the first Mistle Thrush of year headed up the West Coast towards Tor Ness. A Common Buzzard made its way in off the sea only to be followed by another. 17 Lapland Bunting, 40 Song Thrush and 23 Redwing made for good birding. The Little Bunting re-appeared in East Loch Park to round off a good days birding.

The 30th was frankly a horrible day a record count of 16 Grey Plover were on Nouster during the morning. The first Spotted Flycatcher of the Autumn was on the beach below Garso and a Ring Ouzel was near the shooting gallery.

                                   Little Bunting                                                                        GG
                                   Grey Plover                                                                           GG

Monday, 28 September 2020

25th-27th September

 A good few days of birding that started quietly got better as a few migrants from the east began to arrive and prime sea-watch conditions provided a mega sea-bird for one lucky observer.

The 25th and 26th were quiet in terms of migrants, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper made a re-appearance on Tor Ness before re-locating to a field East of Upper Linnay. A Jack Snipe was flushed from a pool near Trolla, this was the first of the Autumn so was a welcome addition. A male Redstart was at Senness and was the only real passerine migrant for the day on the 25th. The 26th was also quiet in comparison to the following day although a Ring Ouzel near Gretchen was another first for the Autumn. 

The 27th was much busier and a slackening in the wind meant sea-watch conditions looked and they turned out to be exactly that! Along with 163 Sooty Shearwater and 8 Manx Shearwater was something a little different. A small Shearwater with a Manxie proved to be a Barolo Shearwater, a bit of mad moment and not one that will be easily repeated! The sea-watch also produced a Fin Whale. A very smart Red-breasted Flycatcher was hanging around the surgery while 10 Yellow-browed Warblers flitted their way around bushes and gardens in various locations around the island. Three Goldcrests at North Gravity, the Post Office and Upper Linnay were joined on the day list by 4 Chiffchaffs, a Redstart, a Whitethroat at Scottigar, a Blythii Lesser Whitethroat at Bewan and a Green Sandpiper on Ancum.

The weather looks interesting for the next few days and hopefully we'll score big again before the Autumn winds up! 

                                   Red-breasted Flycatcher                                                both GG
                                   Redstart                                                                                 GG
                                     Yellow-browed Warbler                                      Chris Bridge

Thursday, 24 September 2020

21st-24th September

 A bit of a longer period between posts than intended but these things sometimes happen when you're hoping for rarities! The last four days haven't disappointed for the most part although the 22nd was almost a wash-out and the 24th despite early promise never lived up to its billing!

We'll start with the 21st however and a small smattering of birds mostly vestiges from the previous few days of birding. A Yellow-browed Warbler was still in Holland along with the Redstart at Bewan and the Reed Warbler between North and South Gravity. These birds all remained in place until the 23rd. A House Martin was seen at the Lighthouse and then presumably the same bird was seen at Holland in the evening, the first and potentially only record of the Autumn. A Snow Bunting was hanging around on the pier but the day was otherwise quiet.

As previously stated the 22nd was a near wash out with birding made difficult by driving rain and nasty winds, the only avian highlights being 5 Grey Plover and a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull.

A much better day followed and despite a quiet morning involving a Goldcrest and the same ever fattening Barred Warbler in Holland and a Robin at Nether Linnay the birding slowly got better as the day wound on. A Stonechat at Ancum was perhaps a slightly unseasonal record for here, less so were 9 Lapland Buntings, 7 of which were together at Sandar. A Common Whitethroat at Sangar, a Yellow-browed at Burray and the first Siskin of the Autumn also at Burray were good additions to the day list. The highlights of the day consisted of the first Red-breasted Flycatcher of the year at Antabrek seemed to be the bird of day until the visiting Heatherlea group uncovered a rather smart Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the wet field just below Holland.

The 24th showed promise after the previous days late showing and the anticipation increased after the morning nets session produced a Goldcrest, a Blackcap and a Pied Flycatcher, with at least two other Goldcrests in the garden. This however was slightly miss-placed and six hours later the only passerine migrants of note were two Redwings. A general clearout had taken place and the cold Northerly wind had left us with little to shout about!

We're not too worried though, an interesting high pressure developing over Scandinavia will hopefully begin to provide us with birds on the other side of the weekend. 

                                   Red-breasted Flycatcher                                                        GG
                                   Buff-breasted Sandpiper                                                        GG
                                   Reed Warbler                                                                         GG

Monday, 21 September 2020

18th-20th September

 A superb period in which promising weather bought in some good birds and such much needed migrants. 

The 18th started with light winds and drizzle that eventually turned into a light mist, this undoubtably dropped in the first spell of birds. Things started with a Yellow-browed Warbler at Holland followed by one at the Manse before things began to kick off and the day produced a fine haul of migrants a further two Yellow-browed Warblers pushed the day total to 4, a Reed Warbler was between North and South Gravity as was a Chiffchaff, 2 Willow Warblers and a Common Whitethroat, a further Chiffchaff was in Holland. The Baird's Sandpiper was joined by a Little Stint at Bewan. Other migrant totals included 8 Blackcaps, 5 Pied Flycatchers, 7 Willow Warblers, 2 Goldcrests and 2 Tree Pipits. An Unstreaked Acro at Garso remained unidentified due to it's skulky nature and wasn't around the following morning. It seemed Little Buntings at North Gravity and 2 at Stennabrek would be the highlights for the day until a Red-throated Pipit was found feeding around the Irises near Bridesness, a superb end to a superb day! 

The following day was met with anticipation and it delivered. The Red-throated Pipit had disappeared overnight but had been replaced by good numbers of migrants. Yellow-browed Warblers increased to a total of 10 birds spread across the island while Pied Flycatchers had increased to 12. Flocks of Pink-footed Geese totalled over 600 birds by the end of the day as they headed south through low cloud occasionally shrouded from view. Other migrants included a Redstart near the Lighthouse, 2 Whitethroats, 2 Snow Buntings, 1 Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Barred Warbler, a Reed Warbler at Bewan, a Tree Pipit and 2 Brambling. A Crane was heard flying around clearly disorientated by the mist, The Baird's Sandpiper and Little Stint also remained on Bewan. Away from the birds, if you believe we managed to see other things a pod of 4 Risso's Dolphins were seen heading South. It was one of those days of birding that will live long in the memory, superb day! 

The birds didn't linger and the following day saw a clear out of most of the previous days migrants. The Redstart, 3 Blackcaps and 2 Yellow-browed Warblers remained while new birds included 4 Goldcrests, 2 Robins and a Garden Warbler trapped at Holland. The Pied Flycatchers had all disappeared overnight but the Baird's and Little Stint remained faithful to their usual haunt. Pink-footed Geese moved but in much smaller numbers with just over 200 seen heading South. As I said a much quieter day all said and done but by no means a bad day at all! 

                                    Red-throated Pipit                                                                GG
                                    Pied Flycatcher                                                                    GG
                                    Yellow-browed Warbler                                                       GG
                                   Yellow-browed Warbler in the hand                                  SMR

Thursday, 17 September 2020

15th-17th September

 A very profitable couple of days with a quieter one thrown in the middle. Very slight easterly winds on the 15th and over night and into the morning of the 17th provided a few migrants for us to sink our teeth into. 

An early flurry of migrants provided excitement with Blackcaps and Goldcrests in Holland and around the traps. A flycatcher in Holland was probably a Red-breasted but gave appalling views so we're leaving it for now. Fieldfares at Holland and Southness were new for the Autumn. A Redstart at Westness was another first for the Autumn as were a pair of Whoopers Swans seen flying South. The Baird's Sandpiper was present again but the highlight of the day was a very showy Lanceolated Warbler found skulking around the punds near Trolla. If accepted it will represent the 6th island record. 

The following day was a much quieter affair with the highlights being the Baird's Sandpiper again, it was pursued by a Peregrine at about mid-day but managed to escape, this however was the last time it was seen. Two Merlins and two Peregrines joined the three Hen Harrier on the day list while a lone Willow Warbler at Southness seemed to be all that remained from the previous day.

The 17th also saw a small fall of migrant birds. A Black-throated Diver flew south down the West Coast during the morning while at least 11 Pied Flycatchers made their way onto the island accompanied by a lone Redwing in the obs crop, two Willow Warblers and re-emergence of the Pale-bellied Brent Goose near Holland. A Brambling in off the sea at the foghorn was also a first for the Autumn, two Willow Warblers at the Old Kirk and the Shooting Gallery were good additions as was a Blackcap and a Barred Warbler in Holland. Up to 42 Lapland Buntings made for great viewing meanwhile, a pair of Yellow-browed Warblers at Dennishill were the second and third this Autumn. A Bluethroat at Lenswick was probably the pick of the bunch for the day but despite this we still there has to be more out there to see!   

                                   Lanceolated Warbler
                                    Lanceolated Warbler                                                   
                                   Lapland Bunting                                                        all pics GG

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

12th-14th September

 A mixed bag weather wise turned up a few migrants along the way, things haven't started migration wise in a big way yet but it won't be long! 

The 12th saw a day of howling 50mph gusts and prolonged wet spells that made being out an unpleasant experience, that said the birds didn't seem all that bothered and all in all it was a good day out in the field. The day started with our second Pectoral Sandpiper of the year feeding with the Dunlin at Bewan. It was quickly joined by the Baird's Sandpiper, the two making a rather nice combination. A Short-eared Owl was battling the high winds near Rue while a Common Tern was hanging around the point at Brides while small groups of Lapland Buntings and lone Snow Bunting were dotted around. 

The 13th saw the arrival of our first Heatherlea group of the year, it's been good to see a few familiar faces. It also saw the arrival of the our first Robin of the Autumn at Holland, a Barred Warbler was also seen briefly in the gardens. Good numbers of Lapland Bunting and Rock Pipit arrived throughout the day with both posting totals of over 30 for the day. A pod of 10 Risso's Dolphin tracked North from the Beacon. A lighthouse attraction somewhat smaller than the one of three years ago saw around 50 Meadow Pipits attracted to the lighthouse disorientated by a low fog that had descended in the evening.

The 14th was a lovely day weather wise but it ended up being quieter than we'd have wished. The Baird's remained on Bewan with a Curlew Sandpiper. Flocks of Lapland Bunting continued to track South throughout the day. a Willow Warbler and the Barred Warbler were both seen in Holland, a Garden Warbler was at Milldam the evening saw us treated to another pod of Risso's Dolphins off the pier and a colour ringed Hen Harrier was photographed near Hooking. 

                                    Pectoral Sandpiper                                                                GG

Saturday, 12 September 2020

9th-11th September

 A wild and windy few days have resulted in very little in the way of new migrants on the land but the 10th produced a spectacular sea-watch.

The 9th was a quiet affair with the highlights being the Semipalmated Plover still on the Links in the afternoon and the Baird's Sandpiper was still feeding around Bewan with 3 Curlew Sandpipers and a group of Dunlin and Knot.

Early signs of a Sooty Shearwater seen from the Links on the 10th pointed to good sea-watching conditions, things were quiet to begin with with just over 30 Sooty Shearwaters passing in the first hour but an incoming band of rain had plenty of birds in front of it. A small flurry of four Manx Shearwater was followed by a rather unexpected Balearic Shearwater; A much commoner sight in the South of England this bird represents only the 18th island record and the first of 2020. A flock of 21 Sooty Shearwaters followed the Balearic before a heavy shower ruined visibility and the sea-watch was suspended. When the sea-watching resumed it did so at quite some speed with a deluge of Sooty Shearwaters passing and eventually gathering to feed on the sea. At least 60 birds passed in the next 20 minutes before slowing up slightly, but with a large amount of birds lingering in the area it was quite some spectacle. Through the middle of all this a larger shearwater was spotted cruising through in the shape of a Great Shearwater, sadly the bird didn't hang around but for three lucky observers it made the effort more than worthwhile! Other sea-watching highlights included 2 juv Long-tailed Skuas and an adult Little Gull. The afternoon was then taking up by re-finding the Semipalmated Plover which proved to be in its favoured spot on the Links. 

The 11th was plagued by strong winds and heavy downpours, highlights were limited but the absence of the Semipalmated Plover among some 130 Ringed Plover was notable. The Baird's Sandpiper remained on Bewan with at least one Curlew Sandpiper and 8 Lapland Buntings were flying around Tor Ness despite the high winds. 

Things are looking interesting just after the weekend so we'll be keeping an eye on the weather for the coming days. 

Lapland Buntings                                                                  GG

Semipalmated Plover                                                          GG 

                                             A not great quality Great Shearwater video               GG

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

6th-8th September

 The Westerlies continued with intermittent spells of rain and an overall colder feel to the weather in general.

The 6th was a fairly quiet day but not without its highlights. A Snow Bunting at Bewan was the first of the Autumn while Lapland Bunting numbers increased to 8 birds, 3 at Sandar and 5 on Tor Ness. The first Pink-footed Geese of the Autumn were below the school and the Baird's Sandpiper remained on Bewan with 3 Curlew Sandpipers until the 8th. Up to 3 Hen Harriers have been stalking the island often seen together over the obs crop or Holland.

The 7th seemed like it was going be fairly quiet, a new Rosefinch at Dennishill looked as though it would be the only highlight on top of a Short-eared Owl near Sandar. A late afternoon message from Dante including a photo of 'an odd looking Ringed Plover' would eventually turn in Britain's 5th and Scotland's 2nd Semipalmated Plover! The bird was striking its overall smaller appearance and worn mantle. It wasn't however until we got back and began looking at photos of the birds feet that reality began to set in. A few emails to notable wader experts confirmed our suspicions, our role good birds continued.

The 8th was taken up mostly trying to re-find the Plover, it was eventually re-found in the early afternoon on the Links before it re-located to the grass between Sjavier and Bewan before heading back to Links. Other day highlights included 33 Pink-footed Geese, a Pale-bellied Brent, 3 Curlew Sandpipers and the Baird's Sandpiper.

Semipalmated Plover                                                            GG

Hen Harrier                                                                            GG

Sunday, 6 September 2020

3rd-5th September

 A wild and windy few days have made for challenging birding conditions but nonetheless produced the goods as has so often been the case in the early parts of the Autumn.

A rather wet day on the 3rd saw the re-appearance of the Subalpine Warbler around the traps, despite this after it was re-trapped it remained elusive. There were 3 Rosefinches at Holland however an un-ringed bird meant that one had been replaced by a new arrival. Up to 5 Lapland Buntings were made their way onto the island and represented the first records this Autumn after just one Spring record. The 11 Pale-bellied Brent Geese remained in their favoured spot behind Lochend and were also present on the 4th, at least 2 Swifts made appearances but the likelihood is that there were up to 4 birds on the island including 2 that attempted to roost on the observatory buildings. A Kestrel over the airfield, a new Barred Warbler at Upper Linnay and 2 Curlew Sandpipers on Gretchen would have made for a good day, but we weren't done there! A very smart Juvenile Baird's Sandpiper was discovered at Westness in the early afternoon before it disappeared giving the rest of us the run around! It left Westness and was re-located sometime later at Lenswick where it flew back towards Westness, but with no sign at Westness things looked rather bleak, until a search party re-discovered the bird feeding on Trolla Vatn where it remained for the rest of the day, giving superb views. This is only the 4th island record and 6th in total for Orkney. Finally a late influx of Wheatears saw 55 birds counted on the grass between the lighthouse and Bewan in the last hours of light.

A rather wild day followed the 3rd however the Baird's remained and a few other lingerers made for pleasing viewing in windy conditions, the Curlew Sandpiper total rose to 5 birds with 3 on Bewan and 2 on Gretchen still. Other than these the likelihood of stumbling across any passerine migrants was slim to the say the least!

The 5th saw the wind calm ever so slightly, the Baird's Sand had moved slightly and was now on Bewan with 3 Curlew Sandpipers and up to 15 Dunlin. Lapland Buntings at the obs and Stromness continued their little pulse onto the island while 2 of the 3 Rosefinches were seen sat Holland. A Grey plover was on the beach at the far end of Nouster and 33 Sooty Shearwaters passed the sea-watch hide. 

The wind looks set to drop off which should hopefully provide some good sea-watch conditions otherwise we seem to be stuck in a system of Westerlies for the next week or so, but it's September in the Northern isles and you simply never know!! 

Baird's Sandpiper and a Dunlin                                          GG

Baird's Sandpiper                                                                 GG

Wheatear                                                                             GG