Continued effort in the field has proved worthwhile although a reduced obs staff has meant that the island is covered less thoroughly but still opens up the opportunity for finding some brilliant birding highlights. We said goodbye to George and Erin, two incredible friends who have dedicated a huge amount of their time and effort into the upkeep of the obs, offered great support by taking charge of the ringing as well as their time spent out in the field doing census. Thanks for an amazing time!
A short seawatch on the 7th brought with it yet more of the previous weeks variety, including 43 Sooty Shearwaters, 5 Manx Shearwaters, 5 Red-throated Divers, 7 Great Northern Divers, 16 Long-tailed Ducks, 4 Little Auks, 16 Puffins, 3 Black Guillemots, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, and a Great Skua. A timed count of Kittiwakes and Fulmars for fifteen minutes produced 115 and 242 birds respectively. The later species included 8 "blue" morphs in the full two and a half hour watch. Noteworthy waterfowl distributed around the island included 5 Whooper Swans, 42 Wigeon, 8 Gadwall, 9 Teal, 3 Pintail, 15 Shoveler and 3 Goldeneye. Three species of birds of prey were encountered in a brief excursion, Northern Harrier, Hen Harrier and Merlin. 7 Purple Sandpipers and 20 Sanderling were around Nouster, the later is always worth checking for colour ringed birds, mostly originating from Sanday. However the proportion of ringed to unringed birds have diminished a great deal recently suggesting that there is still a steady turnover of new waders arriving and leaving the island. Some hardy passerines are still lingering, a flock of 6 Snow Buntings being the highlight amongst a commoner selection of 5 Robins, 2 Chaffinches, 15 Blackbirds and 5 Redwing.
It's amazing what a day of difference does to the birding scene. A one and a half hour seawatch produced only 3 Sooty Shearwaters, 5 Red-throated Divers and 3 Great Northern Divers. In contrast, auk numbers had increased dramatically with 1411 passing in a single hour, aided by the light southerly breeze encouraging a surge of birds out of the North Sea. 2 Black Guillemots, Red-breasted Merganser and 2 Long-tailed Ducks were also seen. Waterfowl numbers were not quite as evident as the day before but Teal and Mallard counts rose to 32 and 19 respectively whilst 3 Whooper Swans lingered. Other birds of note included the male Northern Harrier, Merlin, Woodcock, 7 Bar-tailed Godwits. 23 Blackbirds, 6 Redwing and a Chiffchaff were all that could be found on the passerines front.