Wednesday, 17 January 2018

11th-17th January

The last week has had the full spectrum of weather with wind, rain, sun, sleet, hail and snow!
It’s also provided some fairly good birds, the 11th was very quiet and the only real noteworthy birds were the first Skylark of 2018 flushed from the ploughed field South of the camping field and a Merlin that cruised into the bay a Westness.
A bird I thought we weren’t going to get on the year finally made appearance, the drake Smew that had graced the island in the final days of 2017 was seen briefly on Bewan and hasn’t been since!
Other birds of interest for the 12th a Hen Harrier at Sandar and a lone Pink-footed Goose.
The 13th and 14th were quiet also. The 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was still on the Links, a good count of 18 Goldeneye were spread out between Bewan, the Links and Brides. An early Mistle Thrush was feeding at the bottom of the fields near the shooting gallery on the 14th, the final bird of the day was a very smart drake Pochard on Bewan.
A pair of Glaucous Gulls were present on the 15th in near un-birdable winds, Black-headed Gull added itself to the year list and the Pochard remained on Bewan.  
The 16th was much calmer but a hell of a lot colder! A Woodcock in off the sea at Westness was another addition to the year list closely followed by a Red-throated Diver and 2 Great Northern Divers off the Links.

Snow on the 17th gave the island an even colder feel! Appropriately a large flock of 58 Snow Buntings were feeding round the cattle feeders in East Loch Park. The Hen Harrier was still present around the Westness area and the Pochard was still present on Bewan, finally an impressive 32 Fieldfares were dotted around the island. 
A Common Gull Mosh Pit in the Snow

"Whatever this white stuff is, I don't like it" - Hooded Crow Jan '18


The ever camera shy drake Smew

Whooper Swan in heavy snow, probably wishing it wasn't 

Thursday, 11 January 2018

8th-10th January

With winter ticking along nicely and birds slowly adding themselves to the year list it’s been a topsy-turvy few days in content and weather wise.
The 8th was much the same as the previous two days, a second Glaucous Gull of the year, this time a 1st Winter or 2nd Calendar Year (whichever you prefer) was loafing around Bewan with other Gulls.
A flock of Snow Buntings were seen feeding in the fields that surround South Ness and a short sea-watch provided the first Great Northern Diver of 2018 and a probable White-billed Diver that showed all the characteristics of White-billed but in fading light it cannot be a certainty.
Poor weather on the 9th and having a few jobs to do lead to very little in the way of birding being done. The highlight being a large count of Great Black-backed Gull and Herring Gulls posting totals of 188 and 112 respectively, the biggest surprise was a lack of white-wingers.
Weather improved considerably on the 10th, a pair of Pink-footed Geese kicked things off, one in East Loch Park and one behind the Kirbest Myre. Gull numbers were still high following rough weather and Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls were joined on the Links by yet another Glaucous Gull.
A clear increase in Redwing numbers was evident, numbers rising to an impressive 41 and Fieldfares seemed to stay steady at around 13 birds. Another Great Northern Diver was joined by 17 Long-tailed Ducks off the Links, 3 Robins were dotted around the island and the Chaffinch that has spent the winter around the obs croft was lingering at T4.

The biggest surprise of the year (all 10 days of it) was the appearance of 7 Common Cranes at Nether Linnay! They’re not a usual visitor to the island and caused a small-scale twitch! The birds were eventually flushed by curious cattle and flew South towards Sanday. Not a bad start to 2018!

Common Cranes 

Common Cranes shortly after being investigated by the Cows

1w Glaucous Gull at Bewan

Sunday, 7 January 2018

6th-7th January

The 6th saw the return of two obs staff members and an increase in coverage of the island.
Fieldfare numbers remained high with 15 birds in various locations, the bulk of them being in the fields the surround South Ness. Numbers of Redwings also stayed very similar as they were prior to the new year.
Wildfowl numbers have been fairly typical for this time of year, the pair of Mute Swans have been joined by up to 3 Whooper Swans.
Unsurprisingly wintering Greylag numbers are well into the hundreds, the 6th saw 421 counted and the 7th saw 367 dotted around in small flocks.
The Duck side of things proved to be slightly more exciting, 15 Pintail, 11 Tufted Ducks, 31 Mallard, 132 Wigeon, 7 Goldeneye, 71 Teal and 6 Gadwall were joined by the overwintering Green-winged Teal that is still spending its time on Gretchen.
Wader numbers have been low, 27 Bar-tailed Godwits being the highlight, Purple Sandpipers posted a respectful 198, the bulk of which have been feeding on washed up piles of tangles at Westness.
A few wintering Robins have set up around the island, 3 of which are around Holland House.
It seems as though the large numbers of Snow Buntings have all but moved on with only one bird being seen over the two-day period.
The ringtail Hen Harrier is still terrorising the islands ducks and waders as it cruises around.
Finally, Gull numbers have been unexpectedly low all barring Common Gulls, with numbers over 100 on both dates, but low numbers of large Gulls have meant there have been very little in the way of white-wingers to sift through, just a lone adult Glaucous Gull at Bewan on the 6th.
With windier conditions on the way we’re hoping for a few more year ticks!

A Fieldfare being unusually obliging

Adult Glaucous Gull with other Gulls

      Ringtail Hen Harrier at sunrise 

All photos George Gay  

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

18th December - 2nd January

Among the usual wintering species, highlights in the last couple of weeks have been a single Whooper Swan on 18th Decemeber, a females Sparrowhawk on 20th, a lone Pink-footed Goose on 22nd and a pair of Mute Swans from the 22nd onwards. The wintering Black Redstart has been seen regularly near the pier and a male Chaffinch has been around the croft. With reasonable weather on Xmas day, there was a Merlin, Hen Harrier and peak of 112 Snow Buntings. A drake Smew was seen on Bewan Loch on the 27th and 28th; a Peregrine at Bridesness on 29th was seen taking a Snipe, with a Hen Harrier also hunting there at the same time. There were 17 Long-tailed Ducks off the pier on 30th.
Some New Year's day birding failed to turn up the either the Smew or the Black Redstart, but the Mute Swans remained ever present and some thrush numbers included 10 Redwing and 6 Fieldfare.
All that's left to say is, we hope you a have a very good 2018 and we're looking forward to seeing you soon!
                  A muddy Whooper Swan enjoying island life!                         

One of seven Snow Buntings at Brides

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

12th December

A glorious day with hardly a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine; most of the birds of note were Passerines which popped out in the calm weather around B and E and included 6 Robins, 34 Redwings, 10 Skylarks, 2 Reed Buntings, 9 Meadow Pipits, 16 Rock Pipits and 4 Snow Buntings.   Other birds of note comprised 6 Great-northern Divers and 16 Long-tailed Ducks off Stennabreck, 2 Whooper Swans and 2 Pintail on Ancum and 4 Herons.

Reed Bunting

Rock Pipit


Monday, 11 December 2017

10th and 11th December

The wind mercifully died down from mid-morning on the 10th becoming very pleasant in the afternoon; birds round the coast from Gretchen to The Links included 10 Great-northern Divers, 6 Red-throated Divers, 3 Herons, an adult Whooper Swan by Brides, 35 Long-tailed Ducks, a female Common Scoter which flew past Nouster, 5 Red-breasted Mergansers, the wintering Grey Plover, 65 Ringed Plovers, 64 Sanderling, 84 Dunlin, 255 Purple Sandpipers and a Black-headed Gull.   Passerines which came out of the woodwork in the calm weather included 69 Snow Buntings, single Song Thrush and Fieldfare, 11 Redwings, 3 Skylarks, 6 Robins, 4 Meadow Pipits, 12 Rock Pipits and the Chaffinch still around Nouster.

                A lovely day on the 11th with light northerly winds and plenty of sunshine (still cold though!); a productive two hour seawatch first thing comprised a Black-throated Diver with 9 Great-northern Divers and 3 Red-throated Divers, 922 Fulmars (with 11 Blue ones including a very dark, almost black looking individual!), 45 Kittiwakes, 6 Puffins, a single Little Auk and 3,431 Auk sp.   Other birds in the north included 14 Snow Buntings, 4 Goldeneye and 5 Pintail.

                The Common Redpoll reappeared at The Lurn (presumably it will try and overwinter now) along with 4 more Snow Buntings, 2 Great-northern Divers and 8 Tysties.

Great Black-backed Gull


Saturday, 9 December 2017

7th - 9th December

An incredible few days as Storm Caroline wreaked her foamy vengeance upon the island with storm force winds battering the Northern Isles; not much birding was done on the 7th as the winds reached their peak but some hardcore dazzling produced some good results after dark with a good selection of Gulls and waders caught.   We ventured out briefly on the 8th into the still gale force winds and wintery squalls with 2 Glaucous Gulls (an adult and a juvenile) off Brides in amongst good numbers of other Gulls, Ducks and Waders feeding along the marginally sheltered side of the island.

                Still extremely windy on the 9th with huge waves and long, heavy snow and hail showers; a few hours spent at the top end produced the highlights of 3 Glaucous Gulls (two juveniles and a different adult) and a juvenile Iceland Gull (which may have had some kumlieni in there somewhere).   Other birds included 32 Snow Buntings, an increased 7 Goldeneye, 10 Pintail, 22 Bar-tailed Godwits and 21 Curlew.

Glaucous Gulls,   Simon Davies

Iceland Gull,   Simon Davies

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

4th - 6th December

Still hard going out in the field with the strong W/NW winds bringing long periods of heavy, driving rain; a Sooty Shearwater passed the hide on the 4th during an hours seawatch along with 2 Great-northern Divers, 341 Fulmars, 38 Kittiwakes and 317 Auk sp. while 10 Gadwall, 7 Pintail and 2 Goldeneye were on Bewan.   There was pretty much nothing to mention on the 5th although the shrinking moon and increasing wind and rain produced a productive nights dazzling as the spoils included a Water Rail in Loch Park and the first Teal to be ringed this year at Bewan along with some Turnstone, Ringed Plover and Snipe.

                More effort was put in on the 6th despite the pouring rain, as birds around the coast between the pier and Bridesness included a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, 145 Wigeon, 195 Teal, 12 Shoveler, 7 Long-tailed Ducks, 122 Lapwing, 80 Sanderling, 165 Purple Sandpipers, 80 Snipe, 81 Redshank, 95 Turnstone, 3 Black-headed Gulls (the first ones for several weeks!), 180 Common Gulls, 12 Rock Pipits and 9 Snow Buntings.   Elsewhere there were 3 Robins, 22 Redwings (a bit of an increase) and a Chaffinch, seemingly settling in for the winter around the Obs.


Water Rail

Sunday, 3 December 2017

2nd and 3rd December

Brisk westerly winds through the 2nd with the expected wintery showers whipping through didn’t encourage much time out in the field but totals round the north end of the island included 4 Red-throated Divers, 6 Great-northern Divers, 13 Gadwall and 13 Pintail.   Still a strong W/NW wind sweeping across the island on the 3rd but it generally remained drier and brighter so more time was spent out and about; the potential highlight was a large Gull which flew through Nouster which showed many characteristics of a second winter American Herring Gull – we’ll have to see how far that gets in the system as I’m not sure it has the full suite of features to prove it either way…

                Other totals around the Obs and Bridesness census areas of the island included a Pink-footed Goose, 12 Shoveler, 14 Long-tailed Ducks, the same adult female Hen Harrier, 371 Golden Plover, 215 Purple Sandpipers, 209 Common Gulls, 6 Meadow Pipits, 8 Rock Pipits, 2 Robins, 8 Redwings, the one lingering Common Redpoll still along the coast at The Lurn, 49 Snow Buntings and a Reed Bunting.

Herring Gul Sp.   Simon Davies

Common Redpoll,   Simon Davies

Friday, 1 December 2017

30th November and 1st December

Still very cold, strong northerlies on the 30th with a Little Auk off Brides the only bird really worth mentioning.   A big change in the weather on the 1st with the winds swinging back into the west and dying down to almost nothing for a while but the change brought waves of mist, murk and drizzle which drifted in and out through the day; a seawatch first thing before the weather closed in produced a Sooty Shearwater (it’s amazing how late in the year they still pass the island!), 526 Fulmars (with one Blue one), 6 Great-northern Divers, 65 Gannets, 18 Kittiwakes and single Little Auk and Puffin with 674 Auk sp.   There were then 13 Pintail, 17 Gadwall and a Merlin around Bewan.

                Other birds included a Water Rail around the Obs, still one Common Redpoll on the coast at The Lurn and 2 Pink-footed Geese by Holland before a look round Southness / Brides produced a Fieldfare, 7 Redwings, 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Skylarks and 2 more Pintail while offshore there were 6 Red-breasted Mergansers and 9 Long-tailed Ducks.

Raven showing off

Snow Bunting,   Simon Davies

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

28th and 29th November

Very cold, very strong northerly winds blasted across the island on the 28th and a little look round the top end in the afternoon was all we managed; an almost certain White-billed Diver was seen on the sea off the seawatch hide but views were so brief in the heaving seas that it couldn’t be properly claimed while two ‘Blue’ Fulmars flew past during a little seawatch.   Also around Bewan were 24 Gadwall, 7 Pintail, 2 Goldeneye and 7 Snow Buntings while two Water Rails were seen running across the road between the Obs and Holland.

                The wind was still bang in the north on the 29th and very slightly lighter, with an hours seawatch first thing producing an adult White-billed Diver which flew north, close inshore as well as 2 Glaucous Gulls (an adult and a juvenile) along the shore, other birds around the north included a Merlin in off the sea, 4 Herons, 2 Whooper Swans and 39 Snow Buntings.

                A strange little calm spell at lunchtime allowed a selection of lingering Passerines to poke their heads out during a walk round the south of the island including the Nouster Black Redstart, 3 Robins, 7 Redwings, a Chaffinch and 2 Common Redpolls.

Raven being all evocative!

Monday, 27 November 2017

26th and 27th November

Another rough, windy day on the 26th with frequent showers and with limited coverage a Hen Harrier which flew past the bar window was the only real bird of note!   The wind eased slightly on the 27th and swung round to the NNE but persistent rain lingered through until mid-morning becoming showers later on; the highlights were on the sea first thing and included 1,071 Fulmars (with 16 ‘Blue’ individuals) with single Sooty Shearwater and Great Skua while an adult Glaucous Gull roosted on Seal Skerry.

                Wildfowl totals comprised 134 Teal, 381 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, 55 Mallard, 6 Pintail, 12 Shoveler, 34 Tufted Duck, 23 Long-tailed Duck, 3 Goldeneye and 5 Red-breasted Mergansers with 3 Red-throated Divers and 2 Great-northern Divers on the sea.   Waders included 127 Sanderling and 90 Dunlin on The Links along with 70 Redshank and 27 Bar-tailed Godwits with the few lingering Passerines including 6 Meadow Pipits, 8 Rock Pipits, a Fieldfare, 24 Redwing and 3 Snow Buntings.

Red-throated Diver,   Simon Davies

Red-breasted Merganser,   Simon Davies

Saturday, 25 November 2017

24th and 25th November

The dreaded blazing westerlies came back with a vengeance on the 24th bringing endless wintery showers during which no one really ventured outside with just a new young male Peregrine over Gretchen which again showed some characteristics of one of the Arctic races – just how common are they?   Are they all from up there?

                Strong westerly winds again on the 25th but it was OK I guess between the wintery showers, it was just that the showers came very frequently!   The highlight was re-finding the dark juvenile Kumlien’s Gull which showed better on the grass around the Lighthouse; other birds included a juvenile Iceland Gull which flew past Brides and a distinctive adult female Hen Harrier with a very hooded appearance also at Brides where there were also 4 Meadow Pipits, 6 Fieldfares, 16 Redwings, a Chaffinch and 2 Snow Buntings.

                Also of note was a Woodcock at Hooking and wildfowl totals of 525 Wigeon, 23 Gadwall, 23 Tufted Duck, 10 Long-tailed Ducks and 4 Goldeneye.

Kumlien's Gull,   Simon Davies

Hen Harrier,   Simon Davies

Thursday, 23 November 2017

22nd and 23rd November

A little blast of NE winds and rain on the 22nd proved that the autumn is not quite over yet with a trickle of typical late migrants to keep us on our toes including 7 Woodcock, a Long-eared Owl flushed from the coast at The Lurn, 7 Robins (although these are probably lingering birds), a new Black Redstart at Torness, 4 Fieldfares, 16 Redwings, a Chiffchaff and 3 Common Redpolls.

                The main feature of the day however, was a huge arrival of Gulls in the stormy conditions with at least 1,290 Hrring Gulls and 450 Great Black-backed Gulls providing the bulk while qualityincluded 6 Glaucous Gulls (slightly different age categories than Fair Isle produced with fouradults and two juveniles) and the tricky highlight of a very dark juvenile Kumlien’s Gull on The Links (although the possibility of it being a Thayer’s Gull has not been ruled out yet but opinion is swinging towards Kumlien’s).   A notable increase to 36 Long-tailed Ducks was also to mention as was the adult female Hen Harrier floating around.

                Pretty much all yesterday’s Gulls had disappeared as quickly as they arrived on the 23rd with much lighter winds which had swung round into the NW bringing some heavy wintery showers in the afternoon; it was a nice day to be out in the field though in the calmer conditions when landbirds included the Nouster Black Redstart still, 9 Skylark, 6 Robins, 15 Fieldfares, 2 Song Thrush, 31 Redwing, a Common Redpoll and 51 Snow Buntings.

                On calmer seas some improved totals were noted with 6 Red-throated Divers, 7 Great-northern Divers, a female Common Scoter with 29 Long-tailed Ducks off Hooking (always scarce on here!), 3 Goldeneye, 10 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Little Auk in Nouster.   Other wildfowl included 362 Wigeon, 23 Gadwall and 10 Pintail with a Grey Plover and 94 Dunlin the wader highlights.   9 Herons stalked the edges while the Hen Harrier nd a young male Peregrine patrolled the skies.

Kumlien's (or Thayer's) Gull,   Simon Davies

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

20th and 21st November

A marvellously calm day on the 20th with a light but cold NE breeze allowing us to get some decent counts in; wildfowl included 482 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, 137 Teal, 10 Pintail, 80 Mallard, 4 Long-tailed Ducks, a Goldeneye and 7 Red-breasted Mergansers while waders of note comprised 117 Dunlin, 29 Bar-tailed Godwits, 36 Curlew, 66 Redshank and 112 Ringed Plover with 8 Herons.   Offshore were 3 Red-throated Divers, 8 Great-northern Divers and a Sooty Shearwater past the Beacon.

                On the land, birds were pretty much as you were with a ringtail Hen Harrier, a female Peregrine, a Woodcock, 21 Rock Pipits, 35 Redwing, 2 Chiffchaff, a Chaffinch and 70 Snow Buntings.

                Calm still first thing on the 21st allowing us to get out for just a few hours before the wind came back bringing heavy, persistent rain which lasted from mid-morning right through until dark; a two hour seawatch from first light produced good totals of 2,135 Fulmars (including 6 Blue ones) and 1,911 Auk sp. along with 10 Sooty Shearwaters, a Great Skua, 635 Kittiwakes, 2 Little Auks and 5 Great-northern Divers.   Elsewhere, there was little to mention with 14 Pintail on Bewan, the Black Redstart again by Nouster Pier where there was also a Common Redpoll feeding with a flock of 14 Snow Buntings.