Monday, 23 April 2018

22nd and 23rd April

A light SE wind through the morning of the 22nd naturally led to thick fog by lunchtime but the wind had switched into the west by the afternoon with the fog clearing almost instantly; it was a bit disappointing out in the field with the interesting and changing conditions as highlights were confined to yesterday’s Dotterel relocating to Torness and the first Goldfinch of the year which flew south down the west coast.

                Migrants were reduced in numbers and included 2 Merlins, a Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Doves, 2 Sand Martins, 7 Dunnocks, 12 Robins, 49 Wheatears, a Ring Ouzel, 2 Fieldfares, 2 Redwings, 2 Blackcap, 12 Chiffchaffs, a Goldcrest, 2 Chaffinches and a Common Redpoll.   12 Great-northern Divers were offshore, waders included 6 Ruff, 8 Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel and the Kumlien’s Gull was still present.

                A brisk and increasing SW wind turned the 23rd into a different kind of day with hardly anything new to mention across the island as birds of note comprised a Merlin, a Grey Plover, 10 Black-tailed Godwits, a bit of an increase to 387 Black-headed Gulls with Hooking Loch becoming noisier and noisier, 3 Sand Martins, 2 Dunnocks, a Ring Ouzel, 5 Chiffchaff, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Goldcrest, a Brambling, a Common Redpoll and 3 Carrion Crows.

Dotterel                                                        Simon Davies

Whooper Swan                                         Simon Davies

Saturday, 21 April 2018

20th and 21st April

Bright and sunny throughout the day on the 20th but the southerly wind gradually increased to become brisk by the evening; the day’s highlight was a very early Little Tern seen briefly in Nouster – continuing the theme of this slightly odd spring as the previous earliest record was 5th May!   More typical were the first 2 Whimbrel of the year which flew over Stennabreck.

                Other migrant totals included 2 Merlin, 2 Woodpigeon, a Collared Dove, 7 Swallows, 7 Rock Pipits, 2 White Wagtails, 43 Pied Wagtails, 13 Dunnocks, 24 Robins, 30 Wheatears, a Ring Ouzel, 60 Blackbirds, 41 Fieldfare, 4 Song Thrush, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Blackcap, 6 Chiffchaff, 4 Willow Warblers, 7 Goldcrest, 2 Chaffinches, 5 Bramblings, 3 Siskins, a Common Redpoll and the lingering Snow Bunting.

                Also of note were a single Manx Shearwater past the seawatch hide, one remaining Barnacle Goose, 10 Long-tailed Ducks, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Arctic Skuas, 9 Great Skuas and the Kumlien’s Gull still.

                A gorgeous day on the 21st with a light southerly breeze swinging round into the SE by the evening and plenty of warm(ish) sunshine; there were some obvious new arrivals even though it was generally ‘too nice’ for many grounded migrants.   The highlights were two drake Mandarin which pitched down briefly on Hooking Loch (only the sixth record for the island!) and a still largely winter plumaged Dotterel which was found with the Golden Plover in Loch Park.

                The day’s migrant totals comprised single 3 Woodpigeon, a Collared Dove, 5 Sand Martins, 4 Swallows, 186 Meadow Pipits, 7 Dunnock, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 9 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, a Siskin and a couple of roving Corvid flocks totalling 15 Carrion Crows and 5 Ravens.

Also seen were 10 Great-northern Divers offshore, the single Barnacle Goose and Whooper Swan, 267 Golden Plover, 174 Sanderling, 48 Dunlin, 2 Ruff, a Whimbrel and the Kumlien’s Gull yet again.

Mandarin                                              Simon Davies

Dotterel (honestly!)                                   Simon Davies

Thursday, 19 April 2018

18th and 19th April

We kept the brisk S / SE winds on the 18th but it stayed dry and bright and it was generally very pleasant to be out and about; there was a nice array of migrants across the island as totals included 2 Sparrowhawks, 2 Merlin, a Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Doves, 2 Tree Pipits, 18 Dunnocks, 36 Robins, a Black Redstart, 24 Wheatears, 2 Ring Ouzels, a Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 2 Chaffinches, 3 Bramblings, 3 Siskins, 108 Linnets and a corking adult male Common Redpoll trapped at Holland as it came into roost – it was a huge bird with wing of 79mm, weighing 17g, wonder what population that’s from!?

                Other little bits included some decent wader counts including 221 Purple Sandpipers, 158 Turnstone and 161 Redshank (which included several big flocks heading high to the north), 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, the Kumlien’s Gull still and an increased 12 Sandwich Terns.

                A gorgeous day on the 19th as the moderate southerly breeze first thing quickly dropped off to virtually still conditions by lunchtime; there was a general increase in migrants across the island with counts of 2 Woodpigeons, a Collared Dove, a Woodcock, the first Sand Martin of the year over The Links, 3 Swallows, 168 Meadow Pipits, 14 Dunnocks, 33 Robins, a Black Redstart, 31 Wheatears, a Ring Ouzel, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Blackcap, 11 Chiffchaffs, 7 Willow Warblers, a Goldcrest, a Chaffinch, 5 Brambling, a Siskin, a flyover Lapland Bunting and a lingering Snow Bunting.

                A good array of other birds included a Black-throated Diver in Nouster with 5 Great-northern Divers, the single Whooper Swan showing no signs of leaving, 4 Long-tailed Ducks still, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, a good count of 294 Golden Plover, 53 Sanderling, a single Knot, and a 3cy Iceland Gull lingering off the south end of the island.

Iceland Gull                                        Simon Davies

Swallow                                          Simon Davies

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

16th and 17th April

Very similar conditions on the 16th with a brisk easterly wind bringing in fog again which drifted in and out throughout the day (although mainly in!); the selection of birds on offer was therefore predictably similar as well although the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year was near Holland – again the earliest island record by a few days, what a funny year so far!

                Other migrant totals included 7 Woodcock, 3 Woodpigeons, a Swallow, 23 Dunnocks, 48 Robins, 19 Wheatears, 6 Ring Ouzels, 100 Blackbirds, 75 Fieldfare, 24 Song Thrushes, 3 Blackcap, 4 Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 2 Chaffinches, 4 Bramblings, a flyover Redpoll sp. and a Snow Bunting.

                A real change on the 17th with the S / SE wind picking up and blowing the fog away but bringing in rain through the morning, as if by magic though the clouds parted at lunchtime leaving a gorgeous, sunny afternoon – still windy though!   Migrant totals were again down on the last few days but did include a Merlin, 4 Woodpigeon, a Black Redstart, 22 Wheatears, 5 Ring Ouzels, a Mistle Thrush, a Lesser Whitethroat, 3 Blackcap, 6 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Goldcrest, 7 Chaffinch, 7 Brambling and a Snow Bunting.

                Also lingering were the 3 Barnacle Geese, 6 Pintail, 7 Long-tailed Ducks and a Ruff while 41 Curlews included a few flocks heading noisily high north as soon as the weather cleared.

Lesser Whitethroat                                      Simon Davies

Ring Ouzel                                                  Simon Davies

Monday, 16 April 2018

14th and 15th April

The easterly wind had dropped off to more manageable levels on the 14th but that inevitably led to thick fog which was pretty thick in the morning, thinned out through the afternoon and came back in very thickly in the early evening; it was a good day’s birding though with a decent arrival of migrants highlighted by the first 2 Tree Pipits of the year near the Obs (four days earlier than the previous earliest arrival!), a good arrival of 17 Ring Ouzels and a record equalling 10 Mistle Thrushes – continuing the excellent spring for this species.

                The rest of the days totals comprised 2 Hen Harriers (first ones since 24th March), 2 Sparrowhawks, a Woodcock, a Short-eared Owl, 200 Meadow Pipits, a littoralis Rock Pipit on Torness, 45 Pied Wagtails, a great arrival of 42 Dunnocks (the record being 66 in March 1980!), 107 Robins, a Black Redstart, 16 Wheatears, 210 Blackbirds, 165 Fieldfares, 35 Song Thrush, 49 Redwing, 2 Blackcap, 14 Chiffchaff, a Willow Warbler, 5 Goldcrest, 8 Chaffinches and 12 Bramblings.

                Other little bits included the Kumlien’s Gull again, a Grey Plover in Nouster, 3 Great Skuas and 3 Sandwich Terns.

                Yesterday’s fog very slowly dissipated on the 15th through the day with the light easterly breeze and as visibility improved some good new birds and some increased totals made for a great day in the field; the highlights included the first Blue-headed Wagtail of the year (a nice male at Ancum) – again the earliest record by over a week, the overdue first Swallow of the year in off the sea at the north end and arguably the best being a Swiss ringed Robin trapped at the Obs late morning – the first Swiss ringed bird recovered on the island and potentially the first Swiss ringed Robin recovered in the UK!

                Many species showed some real influxes from yesterday with 17 Woodcock, 22 Ring Ouzels, 77 Song Thrushes and 24 Chiffchaff all excellent mid-April figures.   Other totals included a Hen Harrier, 2 Sparrowhawks, a Merlin, 7 Woodpigeons, the 2 Tree Pipits still, 3 Grey Wagtails, 39 Dunnock, 119 Robins, 3 Black Redstarts, 28 Wheatears, 6 Mistle Thrush, 3 Blackcap, 4 Willow Warblers, 4 Goldcrest, 2 Rook, 6 Chaffinches, 14 Brambling, a Siskin (a British control trapped at Holland), 2 Snow Buntings and the male Yellowhammer from the 10th which reappeared at the Obs.

Ring Ouzel and Siskin                   Simon Davies

Friday, 13 April 2018

12th and 13th April

A gorgeous, sunny day on the 12th but we kept the strong, chilly SE wind; the clear conditions led to some good vis mig action, especially during the morning when we were tied up with punding the sheep along the south coast of the island just prior to lambing.   There was a steady stream of Meadow Pipits heading out to the SW along with a few alba Wagtails and a single Brambling which left with some Pipits but soon came back!   A few flocks of Common and Black-headed Gull also came in from the south as well as 15 Curlews and a Bar-tailed Godwit.

                Grounded migrants were thin on the ground but they did include some nice year ticks with a Common Buzzard flushed out of Holland Gardens, 2 Ring Ouzels on Torness, 2 Blackcaps along the coast and a Willow Warbler at Brides.   Other birds of note comprised single Sparrowhawk and Merlin, a Grey Wagtail, a White Wagtail, a Dunnock, a Black Redstart, 4 Wheatears, a Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, single Rook and Jackdaw and a lingering Snow Bunting.

                Overcast on the 13th with the brisk SE wind still blowing across the island; no new additions for the year today but migrants did include a Merlin, a Woodcock, 4 Woodpigeons, 3 Dunnocks, 60+ Robins (still a good turnover of birds passing through), 4 Ring Ouzels, 94 Fieldfares, 9 Song Thrushes, 3 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Blackcaps, 4 Chiffchaffs, 2 Goldcrest, a Rook, 2 Chaffinches, a Brambling and a Snow Bunting.

                222 Golden Plover were in Loch Park while 4 Black-tailed Godwits and a Knot were on Gretchen.

Blackcap                                                  Simon Davies

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

10th and 11th April

Overcast and very calm first thing on the 10th so we took advantage of the conditions, made a dawn start and carried out a whole-island Black Guillemot count; we ended up with a total of 792 breeding plumaged birds around the coast – 50 down from last year which was a record count so its still a very good total.

                The good conditions also led to a great days birding with lots of obvious vis mig going on including the first decent arrival of 71+ Wheatears – with birds seen launching themselves over the sea to the north from the rocks by the lighthouse, another leap to 553+ Meadow Pipits – with many seen over the sea, flocks of Greylags and Curlews heading noisily north and the first Yellowhammer of the year at Lurand – the first spring record since 2012.

                Other totals on the land comprised a Sparrowhawk, 2 Merlins, 3 Woodcock, 4 Woodpigeons, 160 Skylark, 17 Rock Pipits, 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 White Wagtails, 47 Pied Wagtails, 4 Dunnock, 60 Robins, 2 Black Redstarts, 145 Blackbirds, 122 Fieldfares, 18 Song Thrushes, 76 Redwing, 7 Mistle Thrush, 5 Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 4 Chaffinch, 8 Brambling, 92 Linnets and 2 Snow Buntings.

                Elsewhere, 30 Great-northern Divers were offshore, the Whooper Swan and 3 Barnacle Geese remained, 277 Golden Plover were in Loch Park while other waders included a Grey Plover and 3 Black-tailed Godwits and 5 Sandwich Terns were off The Links.

                A different day on the 11th with a strong force 6-7 SE wind making things difficult in the field but it remained dry and bright and with many of yesterday’s birds having departed it was a much quieter day’s birding; the first Manx Shearwater of the year passed the seawatch hide late morning while also offshore were 6 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Merlin heading out to the north and handfuls of Pipits coming in.   Other notable birds included a Woodpigeon, a Grey Wagtail, 51 Wheatears, 3 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Black Redstarts, 5 Chiffchaff and 2 Snow Buntings while the 3 Barnacle Geese and 2 Goldeneye lingered on.

Sparrowhawk and Goldcrest             Simon Davies

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

8th and 9th April

A very different day on the 8th with complete cloud cover but hardly a breath of wind and mist coming in late afternoon; the favourable conditions naturally led to an increase in common migrants and despite nothing too amazing being found its starting to feel exciting when you get out into the field.   Totals included a Sparrowhawk, a Merlin, 2 Woodcock, 3 Woodpigeons, a Short-eared Owl, 103 Skylarks, 118 Meadow Pipits, 16 Rock Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, 2 White Wagtails, 33 Pied Wagtails, 54 Robins, a Black Redstart, 4 Wheatears, an increase in Thrushes to 174 Blackbirds, 125 Fieldfares, 17 Song Thrush and 88 Redwings, 3 Chiffchaff, a Goldcrest, 20 Hooded Crows (the first migrant flocks of the spring were noted), 4 Chaffinches, a big jump to 94 Linnets and 3 Snow Buntings.

                Elsewhere, the main feature on the calm seas were excellent numbers of Divers offshore with a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver off the north end, 7 Red-throated Divers and a year’s high count of 58 Great-northern Divers.   Also, of note were the 3 Barnacle Geese, the Whooper Swan, the Kumlien’s Gull again and a new 3cy Iceland Gull which flew past the seawatch hide.

                A similar day on the 9th with more cloud and light easterly winds but the morning was marred by some persistent spitting rain; there were inevitable increases in common migrants through the day including 2 Merlins, a Peregrine, 2 Woodcock, 3 Woodpigeon, a big increase to 275+ Meadow Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, 20 Rock Pipits, 4 Dunnocks, 60 Robins, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 7 Wheatears, 3 Chiffchaffs, 9 Chaffinches, 3 Bramblings and presumably the same male Lapland Bunting from a few days ago, relocated to Hooking.

                A different, non-breeding Black-throated Diver was in Nouster with still good numbers of other Divers, the unprecedented winter Ruff flock increased again to 7 birds in a field below Holland and a Bonxie was off the south end as were 2 Sandwich Terns.

Great-northern Diver                                  Simon Davies

Barnacle Geese                                        Simon Davies

Just look away........

Sunday, 8 April 2018

6th and 7th April

Fairly calm and bright first thing on the 6th but the wind soon began increasing, bringing more cloud and eventually heavy rain by mid-afternoon; with the wind largely in the SE we were hopeful of a few new arrivals but it remained quiet on the land as totals included single Merlin and Sparrowhawk, a Woodpigeon, a Collared Dove, 98 Skylarks, a Dunnock, 51 Robins, a Black Redstart, a Wheatear, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Goldcrest, 6 Chaffinches, a Brambling and 2 Snow Buntings.

                There were some slight wildfowl increases with 17 Gadwall, 14 Pintail, 10 Shoveler, 41 Tufted Duck and a single lingering Goldeneye.   43 Sanderling were new in, although they probably just hopped across from Sanday while 57 Curlew included several small flocks heading high off to the N.   Other little bits included 151 Purple Sandpipers, a Ruff, the Kumlien’s Gull and 4 Sandwich Terns off the seawatch hide where there were also a handful of Puffins passing by with other Auks.

                A lovely day on the 7th with plenty of warmish sunshine and very light winds; a few new arrivals were noted including our overdue first Short-eared Owl of the year, single Merlin and Sparrowhawk again, a Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, an influx of 162 Meadow Pipits, 2 Grey Wagtails, 45 Pied Wagtails, 49 Robins, 2 Dunnocks, a Black Redstart, a Stonechat, 3 new Wheatears, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Jackdaw, 4 Chaffinches, 3 Siskins, 36 Linnets and a Carrion Crow.

                Elsewhere 10 Great-northern and 5 Red-throated Divers were offshore, the 3 Barnacle Geese remained, 300 Golden Plover represented a notable influx along with 58 Sanderling, 47 Dunlin and 4 Ruff and 3 Sandwich Terns and the Kumlien’s Gull were noted again.

Late news came in the evening, with a dark phase Arctic Skua which flew along the south end of the island – the first of the year.

Coot fight!

Friday, 6 April 2018

4th and 5th April

A lovely sunny day on the 4th with the moderate wind swinging around in the westerly quadrant becoming very calm by the evening; there was a decent little arrival of new birds across the island with the 3 Sandwich Terns off Southness and later on Gretchen, the Jackdaw over Westness, the male Lapland Bunting at Southness and the male Siskin trapped in Holland all new for the year.

                There was also a noticeable arrival of Thrushes with 215 Blackbirds, 102 Fieldfares, 43 Song Thrushes, 120 Redwings and 5 Mistle Thrushes spread across the island while other landbirds included 6 Woodcock, 2 Woodpigeons, 107 Skylarks, a White Wagtail, 34 Pied Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail (later trapped at Holland becoming only the seventh to be ringed on the island), a Dunnock, 74 Robins, a Stonechat, a Black Redstart, a Chiffchaff, a Rook, 6 Chaffinches, 35 Linnets, 17 Snow Buntings and 6 Reed Buntings.

                Wildfowl counts comprised 709 Greylag Geese, the 3 Barnacle Geese, the Whooper Swan, 8 Shelduck, 174 Wigeon, 14 Pintail and 9 Shoveler while a 2cy Glaucous Gull flew south past Torness and 6 Black-tailed Godwits were on Gretchen.

                The westerly winds became much stronger on the 5th bringing several heavy (but very localised) hail showers making it a bit uncomfortable out in the field; there was a corresponding dip in the number of birds seen through the day both because of the weather and a bit of a clear-out of yesterdays Thrushes as totals included a Merlin, 2 Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, 30 Meadow Pipits, a Grey Wagtail, 43 Robins, 118 Blackbirds, 59 Fieldfare, 17 Song Thrushes, 69 Redwing, 5 Mistle Thrushes, a Chiffchaff, 2 Jackdaws and 3 Chaffinches.

Lapland Bunting                                              George Gay

Merlin                                                          Simon Davies

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

2nd and 3rd April

Nice again on the 2nd with bright sunshine but a cold NE breeze giving the day an edge; there was little new found through the day with the highlight on the land being a very smart looking littoralis Rock Pipit which appeared in front of the window as we were sitting down to eat at Lurand and at sea, the first Great Skua of the year off Seal Skerry.    Migrant totals included 4 Woodcock, a Woodpigeon, 109 Skylark, 36 Meadow Pipits, 19 Rock Pipits, 37 Pied Wagtails, 2 Grey Wagtails, 2 Dunnock, 87 Robins, a female Stonechat at Brides, the wintering Black Redstart, 170 Blackbirds, 106 Fieldfare, 4 Mistle Thrush, a Chiffchaff, 3 Chaffinches and 3 Snow Buntings.

                Wildfowl totals comprised 9 Great-northern Divers, 5 Red-throated Divers, 132 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, 66 Teal, 10 Pintail, 6 Shoveler, 27 Tufted Duck, 19 Long-tailed Ducks and 7 Red-breasted Mergansers while 168 Golden Plover, a Grey Plover, 2 Ruff, 30 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Black-tailed Godwits and the Kumlien’s Gull were counted.

                A step backwards towards winter on the 3rd with a biting NE wind bringing frequent and heavy snow and hail showers across the island; a Woodlark seen briefly at Sandar was a bit of a surprise but it couldn’t be re-found after the initial couple of sightings (following one last month, the ninth for the island!).

                Perhaps unsurprisingly there weren’t really any new birds unearthed in the unpleasant conditions – a big female Peregrine flew over Ancum and a Jack Snipe was flushed from the centre of the island while 5 Woodcock, a Grey Wagtail, yesterday’s Stonechat, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Brambling and a Carrion Crow were also of note.

Black Redstart

Drumming snipe are beginning to echo across the island

Sunday, 1 April 2018

31st March and 1st April

A glorious day on the 31st with a very light easterly breeze and plenty of bright sunshine throughout; there was a great selection of migrants scattered across the island, although nothing too rare the totals were highlighted by the first Chiffchaff of the year caught in a Heligoland trap and 3 Long-eared Owls, caught at Holland in the early morning.

                Other totals comprised 12 Woodcock, 5 Woodpigeons, 65 Skylarks, 30 Meadow Pipits, 37 Rock Pipits (including another littoralis bird at the Lighthouse), 3 Grey Wagtails, 27 Pied Wagtails, 2 White Wagtails, a Dunnock, an excellent 153+ Robins, 2 Black Redstarts, 142 Blackbirds, 99 Fieldfares, 30 Song Thrushes, 110 Redwings, 9 Mistle Thrushes, a Goldcrest, 4 Rook (including one trapped at Holland – only the fourth to be ringed on the island!), 10 Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, 14 Linnets, 15 Twite, 5 Snow Buntings and 7 Reed Buntings.

                Nine Red-throated Divers were counted offshore along with little bits including a Merlin, 2 Grey Plover, a Ruff, 2 Knot and the Kumlien’s Gull again.

                Another lovely day on the first of the month with light winds (absolutely flat calm for a spell in the afternoon) and plenty of sunshine but the weather did close in slightly early evening; migrants across the island through the day included a Woodpigeon, 77 Skylarks, 40 Meadow Pipits, 22 Pied Wagtails, 3 Grey Wagtails, 3 Dunnocks, 117 Robins, 185 Blackbirds, 90 Fieldfares, 22 Song Thrushes, 2 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Chiffchaffs, a Rook, 3 Chaffinches and 2 Bramblings.

                Three Barnacle Geese were new with the Greylags while the Pink-footed Goose and Whooper Swan remained; 14 Great-northern Divers were off the south end on calm seas and in the fields, there was a slight increase to 160 Golden Plover and three Black-tailed Godwits were on Gretchen.

Long-eared Owl               Simon Davies

Rook                                 Simon Davies

Chiffchaff                                               George Gay   

Friday, 30 March 2018

29th and 30th March

A very rough morning on the 29th with a blazing force 8 easterly and driving rain and hail showers blasting across the island; it was clear though that there was a great selection of newly arrived birds on the island leading to one of the best days birding so far this year.   The highlight was only the fourth RED KITE for North Ronaldsay, seen over Loch Park mid-morning from where it flew up to the Kirk where it spent a good spell perched on the roof and surrounding dykes as it sat out the worst of the weather.

                It was brighter with marginally fewer showers in the afternoon allowing us to post some good totals from around the island including a handful of new birds for the year with 2 Grey Wagtails, a White Wagtail, 2 Goldcrests and a Carrion Crow all making it onto the list.   Other totals included 3 Herons, 20 Woodcock, 4 Woodpigeons, 58 Skylarks, 18 Meadow Pipits, 14 Rock Pipits including a bright littoralis bird, 12 Pied Wagtails, a Dunnock, 11 Robins, 257 Blackbirds, 154 Fieldfares, 21 Song Thrushes, 153 Redwings, 3 Mistle Thrushes, 5 Chaffinches, 3 Snow Buntings and 3 Reed Buntings.   An adult Iceland Gull which flew past Kirbest was the best of the rest.

                The strong easterly breeze gradually eased down through the 30th and with some good sunny spells and only a few wintery showers it was a very pleasant day to be out and about; a smart male Common Redpoll, a Brambling at Holland and a Long-eared Owl were new for the year while other new arrivals to be found included 14 Woodcock, 2 Woodpigeons, 82 Skylarks, 37 Meadow Pipits, 3 Grey Wagtails, 14 Pied Wagtails, 3 Dunnocks, 25 Robins, 3 new Black Redstarts (the first migrants of the spring), a male Stonechat, 259 Blackbirds, 120 Fieldfares, 20 Song Thrushes, 125 Redwings, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Goldcrest, 2 Rook, 6 Chaffinches and 3 Snow Buntings.

                Other birds included a single Pink-footed Goose with the Greylags, the Whooper Swans still, 10 Pintail, 26 Tufted Ducks, the 4 Ruff again, 30 Bar-tailed Godwits, a single Black-tailed Godwit and a notable influx of Gulls with a 2nd winter Glaucous Gull in Nouster, 212 Black-headed Gulls (highest count of the year so far), 273 Common Gulls, 61 Great Black-backed Gulls and the surprise reappearance of the Kumlien’s Gull – last seen on the 20th.

Red Kite                                           George Gay

Woodcock                                            Simon Davies

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

27th and 28th March

A really rough couple of days with heavy, driving rain dominating proceedings and a strong, cold easterly wind blasting it across the island; there was a little window first thing on the 27th when it wasn’t too bad and birds included a Merlin, an increase to 115 Golden Plover, 5 Black-tailed Godwits on Gretchen, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Woodpigeons and a handful of Thrushes, Robins and Pipits.

                Very little coverage on the 28th but the handful of birds seen included 2 Woodcock, 3 Robin, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Song Thrush and some very soggy looking Redwings and Fieldfares staggering around the Obs.  

Despite the weather, the Tysties are starting to get back in their groove!

Monday, 26 March 2018

25th and 26th March

Dry and bright with a moderate SW wind on the 25th but there was little change across the island with seemingly only small numbers of common early migrants trickling through; landbirds included 2 Woodpigeons, 68 Skylarks, 17 Meadow Pipits, 28 Rock Pipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, 3 Dunnocks, 2 Robins, 52 Fieldfares, 2 Song Thrushes, 2 Mistle Thrushes, a Rook, 14 Linnets, 17 Twite, 11 Snow Buntings and 12 Reed Buntings (which have now left their wintering flocks and have started to spread out and start singing).

                Other bits of note comprised the Green-winged Teal still, 9 Pintail, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers, the big female Peregrine, single Grey Plover and Ruff and 18 Black-tailed Godwits.   Also, worth mentioning is that the Kumlien’s Gull seems now to have departed as it hasn’t been seen since the 20th (cue it re-appearing again tomorrow!).

                A mixed day on the 26th with lighter winds, slowly swinging round into the NE by the afternoon but regular spells of drizzly rain whispering across the island; again, there was little new in with a Sparrowhawk and little arrivals of 85 Fieldfare, 42 Redwings, 122 Skylark and 20 Twite.   Other landbirds included 19 Meadow Pipits, 8 Pied Wagtails, the Black Redstart still, 10 Linnets, 17 Snow Buntings and a Norwegian control Blackbird caught at Holland in the evening.

                12 Great-northern Divers and 5 Red-throated Divers were counted on flatter seas while the Whooper Swan was still carrying out his lonely vigil and 2 Black-tailed Godwits were seen.



Sunday, 25 March 2018

23rd and 24th March

A very wet day on the 23rd with rain of various strengths persisting virtually all day; the first notable influx of 23 Black-tailed Godwits was the main reward for those who did brave the rain whilst other birds included the Whooper Swan, the Green-winged Teal (after a four-day absence), 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Ruff (Holland and Westness) and 33 Bar-tailed Godwits.

                On the land, migrants included 2 Woodpigeons, 10 Rock Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, the Black Redstart still, 4 Song Thrushes and 3 Mistle Thrushes.

                A much nicer day on the 24th, dry with plenty of sunshine and a moderate SW breeze; as a result, there were notable influxes of a range of common migrants on the land including 3 Woodpigeons, the first Collared Dove of the year, 153 Skylarks, 33 Meadow Pipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, and 6 Linnets (which have been very slow to arrive this year, there were 65 this time last year).  

Other birds included a Pink-footed Goose, the Green-winged Teal, a Hen Harrier, a big first winter female Peregrine, a Dunnock, 9 Robins, the Black Redstart, 6 Song Thrushes and 11 Twite.

Pink-footed Goose                               George Gay

Pied Wagtail                               Simon Davies

Friday, 23 March 2018

21st and 22nd March

A dreadful day with a strong SW wind and plenty of rain on the 21st but it did brighten up from mid-afternoon giving us at least a couple of hours of birding time; the only new birds noted were 3 Black-tailed Godwits on Gretchen and a bit of an influx of 145 Skylarks (including 80+ in East Loch Park).   Other birds included the Whooper Swan still, a Hen Harrier, 7 Meadow Pipits, 2 Pied Wagtails, the Black Redstart still, 4 Song Thrushes, 5 Mistle Thrushes, a Chaffinch, a Linnet, 7 Twite and 16 Snow Buntings.

                Once the morning mist and murk had cleared up on the 22nd, it was a decent day, overcast with much lighter winds; the first Slavonian Grebe of the year was on the sea off Brides along with a Black-throated Diver in Nouster while wildfowl counts included 8 Shelduck (a few new birds in), 168 Wigeon, 12 Gadwall, 115 Teal, 44 Mallard, 12 Pintail, 4 Shoveler, 32 Tufted Ducks, 9 Long-tailed Ducks, 8 Goldeneye and the Smew.

                Waders of note comprised single Knot and Ruff with 76 Golden Plover and 40 Bar-tailed Godwits while a selection of typical early spring migrants included 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Pied Wagtails, 3 Dunnocks, 81 Fieldfares, 6 Song Thrushes, 28 Redwings, 5 Mistle Thrushes, a Rook, a Chaffinch and a Linnet.

Typical early spring migrants - Black-tailed Godwit and Rook

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

19th and 20th March

After an awesome Aurora display overnight when it was crystal clear, calm and cold the 19th dawned cloudy with a brisk NW wind (a complete turnaround after the last week); the selection of early spring migrants on the land included an excellent 9 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Woodpigeons, 27 Rock Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, 10 Robins, 56 Fieldfares, 11 Song Thrushes, a Rook, 19 Snow Buntings, 2 Hen Harriers and a Merlin.

                Some good wader totals through the day comprised 114 Oystercatchers, a Grey Plover, 65 Golden Plover (290 were present this time last year – they haven’t really returned after the freezing weather), 2 Ruff still, 112 Dunlin and 45 Bar-tailed Godwits.   The Green-winged Teal, Smew and Kumlien’s Gull were all still present in their favoured locales.

                A similar day to yesterday on the 20th with a brisk NW wind but a couple of showers were thrown into the mix; the days highlight was certainly a Woodlark seen in flight a couple of times in Loch Park but soon disappeared (only the eighth for the island!).   Elsewhere on the land, totals included 4 Woodpigeons, 75 Skylarks, the Black Redstart still, 5 Mistle Thrushes, 2 Chaffinches and a Woodcock.

                A Black-throated Diver was again in Nouster Bay along with 8 Red-throated and 10 Great-northern Divers while wildfowl of note comprised 19 Pintail, the Smew on Hooking, 10 Goldeneye and 10 Red-breasted Mergansers.   The Kumlien’s Gull and single adult Lesser Black-backed Gull were both present again.

Aurora                                                      Lewis Hooper

Sunday, 18 March 2018

17th and 18th March

Still very windy in the morning of the 17th, with the bitter SE wind bringing snow showers sweeping across the island but it did brighten up during the afternoon and the wind did slacken very slightly; there were however, some little increases in landbirds across the island including 4 Woodpigeons, 2 Dunnocks, 10 Robins, the Wheatear, 64 Fieldfare, 6 Song Thrushes, a good 7 Mistle Thrushes (just short of the island record of 10!), a Chaffinch, 3 Woodcock, 2 Hen Harriers and a Merlin.

                Other birds through the day comprised 2 Whooper Swans, 6 Shelduck, 121 Teal, the Green-winged Teal again, 13 Pintail, 9 Shoveler, 7 Red-breasted Mergansers and the Kumlien’s Gull still.

                Although the wind was still chilly and still in the SE it had dropped away to practically nothing which, when combined with the wall to wall sunshine led to a lovely day to be out and about; this fine weather didn’t really equate to an increase in birds though, as birds on the land included 2 Woodcock, 32 Skylarks, 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Dunnock, 5 Mistle Thrushes and 9 Reed Buntings.

                There was little else to shout about but 46 Long-tailed Ducks was a notable increase along with 8 Goldeneye, the Smew again, the Kumlien’s Gull yet again, 74 Dunlin and a Knot.

Black-headed Gull


Friday, 16 March 2018

15th and 16th March

A horrible couple of days with a gale force SE wind blasting across the island, making any kind of birding a tricky ordeal!   The 15th was at least largely dry with the most interesting bird being a drake Eurasian Wigeon x American Wigeon hybrid with the throngs of birds feeding at Brides at high tide, he’s been glimpsed before in that area this year and is probably the same bird that has been seen in previous years but its proven tricky to get decent views of him.   The big numbers of birds feeding in the surf along the exposed coast also included the Kumlien’s Gull, a notable influx of 42+ Black-headed Gulls along with 108+ Common Gulls, 60 Great Black-backed Gulls, 11 Red-breasted Mergansers and a big arrival of 41 Tufted Ducks on the loch which weren’t there earlier in the day!

                Worth a paragraph of its own was the first Wheatear of the year glimpsed briefly at the airstrip – nearly two weeks earlier than last year!

                An even worse day on the 16th with the blazing SE wind bringing numerous and frequent hail and rain showers whipping horizontally through the island; it was however, worth getting out in the field though as the sheltered western side of the island did contain a few migrants including the 2 Woodpigeons, the first 2 Dunnocks of the year, 7 Robins, a / the Wheatear, 6 Song Thrushes and a Mistle Thrush.

                Other birds included the Green-winged Teal, Whooper Swan, Kumlien’s Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Hen Harrier still, a further influx of Gulls with 107+ Black-headed, 200 Common, 70 Herring and 143 Great Black-backed Gulls counted and a Knot with 78 Dunlin and 24 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Early spring migrants - Wheatear, Dunnock and Song Thrush

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

13th and 14th March

A glorious day on the 13th with acres of blue sky and a very light easterly breeze; the rarest bird of the day (and year so far!) was a BLUE TIT which appeared in Holland House gardens just as we were opening the nets in the evening and was promptly caught shortly after – only the fourth record for the island (eighth individual) and the first in spring!

                The calm conditions allowed some improved counts on the sea to be made which included 17 Great-northern Divers, 6 Red-throated Divers and 24 Long-tailed Ducks but more notably a White-billed Diver was off The Lurn and a Black-throated Diver was in Nouster (a different individual, well into its breeding plumage); a new, interloping Mute Swan and the Green-winged Teal completed the noteworthy waterbirds.   Waders included 129 Lapwings, 59 Dunlin and 34 Bar-tailed Godwits (with displaying Lapwings and mating Oystercatchers in the fine weather) while the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Kumlien’s Gull remained.

                On the land there was, unsurprisingly, a few new arrivals in the lovely conditions which included the first two Stonechats of the year by the school, 2 Woodpigeons, 4 Mistle Thrushes and a Chaffinch while other birds comprised 2 Hen Harriers, 9 Meadow Pipits, 6 Robins, 39 Fieldfares, 3 Song Thrushes, 50 Redwings, a Linnet and 4 Twite.

                Still bright and sunny on the 14th but the cold, SE wind had picked up to at least force 7 making any time spent in the field a bit of a struggle; as a result, records were of a premium through the day with the Whooper Swan still on Ancum, the drake Smew making a trip to Hooking, a Hen Harrier floating around and the two Woodpigeons still near Holland.

Blue Tit                         Simon Davies

Fulmar                                                      Simon Davies

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

11th and 12th March

An unpleasant day on the 11th with a strong, cold force 7 easterly bringing with it frequent showers which was reflected in the quiet day of birding; the single Whooper Swan and Green-winged Teal remained along with counts of 20 Long-tailed Ducks and 13 Red-breasted Mergansers.   Other little random bits included a Merlin, a single Black-tailed Godwit at Westness, the Kumlien’s Gull yet again around Brides, the lingering Stock Dove still and the only sign of any new birds – two Mistle Thrushes at Gretchen.

                A much nicer day on the 12th with lighter E/NE winds and dry and bright conditions; the sea was very quiet first thing with a single Blue Fulmar the only different bird while wildfowl of note comprised the Green-winged Teal, the Smew, 17 Pintail and 8 Goldeneye.   Two Hen Harriers floated around the island (and included one which heart-stoppingly bounced out of a mist net at Holland House!) while 96 Golden Plover and 31 Sanderlings were counted; a single Ruff and the Kumlien’s Gull were also noted.

                On the land the Woodpigeon and Black Redstart remained while 64 Fieldfares, 4 Song Thrushes and 3 Mistle Thrushes represented slight increases with 31 Snow Buntings also remaining.

Smew and Goldeneye                                Simon Davies

Whooper Swan                            Simon Davies

Saturday, 10 March 2018

9th and 10th March

Another cracking day on the 9th with hardly a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine; there was no sign of the Walrus despite searching but it eventually turned up on a beach across the water on Sanday, out of view no matter how hard we scoped it!   There was a trickle of new landbirds which arrived in the fine weather including a Woodcock, single Peregrine and Hen Harrier, the first Woodpigeon of the year at Holland, the first Rook of the year over Westness, 87 Skylarks, 27 Rock Pipits, 5 Robins, the Black Redstart, 78 Fieldfares, 76 Redwings, a Mistle Thrush which turned up in a net at Holland, 3 new Ravens which were soon seen off by the Beacon pair, 2 Linnets, 8 Twite and 27 Snow Buntings.

                Other bits included some increased totals on calmer seas with 9 Red-throated Divers, 17 Great-northern Divers and 29 Long-tailed Ducks while the Green-winged Teal was still on Gretchen, 3 Pink-footed Geese came in from the south, the Kumlien’s Gull was again on Brides and the highly unusual March Ruff flock was now up to 4!

                A decent day again on the 10th but with a bit more cloud and a stronger easterly wind; a few more landbirds made it in to the island through the day including 2 Hen Harriers, a female Sparrowhawk in off the sea chasing a Mistle Thrush, 2 Merlins (including an adult male), a Woodcock, the Woodpigeon again, the Stock Dove which re-appeared in Loch Park and 2 Pied Wagtails.

                Wildfowl totals included 17 Gadwall, the Green-winged Teal, 60 Mallard, 19 Pintail, 11 Shoveler, 8 Goldeneye and the drake Smew still.

Raven                                              Simon Davies