Any day with an island first is a special one, and today we were fortunate to have a magical encounter with a HUMPBACK WHALE - the first ever to be seen from North Ronaldsay shores. First seen under circling Gannets between Bridesness and Stromness points at around 11am it conveniently slowly made its way through the firth towards the Obs allowing all at the team, guests and several island residents time to get to the Pier and witness the event. It came remarkably close to shore, always within half a mile and put on a great show, blowing 'frequently' and even brought its tail up and out of the water to dive deeper half a dozen times. The whole experience lasted over an hour (our photos really don't do it justice) before this magnificent beast moved out to the west of the island and headed off in that direction with more purpose. All birds pretty much played second fiddle today, with the male Northern Harrier the highlight again and today it was seen in the company of an adult male Hen Harrier for about 5 minutes further emphasising our belief of quite how different the two races (species) actually are! Understandably, the sea was well watched resulting in 18 Great Northern Divers being logged and there was also another arrival of some 24 Whooper Swans and 10 Pink-footed Geese while 2 Kestrels, a Jack Snipe, 4 Great Skua's and 2 Short-eared Owls were also seen. On the passerine front, it was another busy day at the nets with over 100 birds caught and ringed again (mainly Redwings) and totals of 7 Robins, the Whinchat, 9 Wheatears, 36 Blackbirds, 556 Redwings, 37 Fieldfares, 7 Song Thrushes, 17 Blackcaps, a Yellow-browed Warbler, 9 Chiffchaffs, 5 Siberian Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 38 Goldcrests, a late Pied Flycatcher at the Observatory, a small number of Finches which included the first Mealy Redpoll of the autumn plus 87 Snow Buntings recorded.
Humpback Whale (top 3 photos George Gay, fourth Mark Warren)