With westerly winds whipping up and then veering into the north-west on the 13th, there was only one thing to do and it was very much all eyes on the sea from the point at Westness. A short sea-watch session on the evening of the 12th logged a flock of at least 7 distant Long-tailed Skuas but an early start the next morning turned into a very special day! A total of 79 Long-tailed Skuas passed in 5 hours (0600-1100), in various flock sizes and there were even groups of 9 and 4 picked up flying behind us cutting the corner over the land!! Also seen were 8 Pomarine Skuas, 10 Arctic and 16 Great Skuas with 4 Skua sp too distant to identify for certain. This represents a record day total for Long-tailed Skua and these stunning birds have now been picked up passing Westness on almost every sea-watch attempt there in the right conditions-143 birds in the last 3 years, with just 33 birds (from various locations) recorded in the fist 25 years of the observatories history. While the numbers are still short of those moving off the Outer Hebridies, it seems that spring Skua passage always has passed North Ronaldsay- someone just needed to look at the right bit of sea! But that wasn't the end to the action off the coast and just after 3.30, the first pod of Killer Whales for three years were picked up moving north off West Beach. There were at least 4 (including a large bull), but sadly they only stayed with us for about 20 minutes or so, being last seen off the Lighthouse and eluding the masses. Other sightings from the 12th included a drake Garganey on Hooking Loch again, female Blue-headed Wagtail on the golf course, a Sparrowhawk and Tree Pipit while on the 13th, a late Goldcrest and Dunnock among the birds caught and ringed at Holland House in the evening indicated how far behind spring migration still is.
Long-tailed Skuas (all photos Stephen Rutt)
Killer Whales (photos MW)