Tuesday, 18 September 2018

15th - 17th September

Bright and breezy on the 15th with little evidence of any new arrivals as migrant totals across the land included the Barred Warbler still at Obs, 2 Kestrels, 2 Merlins, a Peregrine, 404 Meadow Pipits, 3 Rock Pipits, the Black Redstart, one of the summering Fieldfares still, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap and 6 Willow Warblers.   Other little bits of note comprised 8 Red-throated Divers off Stennabreck and single Grey Plover, Ruff and Jack Snipe.

                A very difficult day on the 16th with a blazing force 8 southerly swinging round into the west, it certainly was tricky out in the field as the few birds unearthed included 5 Herons, 5 Pintail with 80 Wigeon, 2 Kestrels, a Merlin, 2 Peregrines, a lone juvenile Sand Martin, the Barred Warbler again at the Obs, 2 Willow Warblers and a Lapland Bunting on Trinley.

                A much nicer day on the 17th with lighter winds and some nice sunshine in the afternoon; most of the interest was offshore with two and a half hours seawatching producing single Red-throated and Great-northern Divers, 2,184 Fulmars, 22 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters, 6 Storm Petrels, 2 Leach’s Petrels, 725 Gannets and 7 Common Scoter while a nice flock of 8 Whooper Swans flew south along with 32 Pink-footed Geese.

                On the land birds included single Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine, a Ruff, 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Barred Warblers (at the Obs and possibly a new bird at Senness), 2 Willow Warblers and a Common Redpoll at the Obs.

Whooper Swans


Saturday, 15 September 2018

13th and 14th September

A very rough day on the 13th with strong westerly winds bringing heavy, nasty squalls across the island; the main feature of the day was a movement of 647 Pink-footed Geese south over the island with small flocks passing by throughout the day (the biggest flock of 220 rested for a time on Stromness Point), associated with these were a few Wigeon seen coming in from the north and a juvenile Scaup briefly on Brides Loch – the first of the year.

                Passerines were limited to lingering birds which included 2 Sand Martins, 544 Meadow Pipits, a Rock Pipits, a Black Redstart, a Redwing, the Grasshopper Warbler near the lighthouse, a Barred Warbler at Brigg, a Yellow-browed Warbler at Holland, a Willow Warbler and a Brambling.   Other birds of note comprised 6 Herons, 2 Kestrels, 2 Merlins (including one in off the sea from the north) and an adult and juvenile Common Tern in Nouster Bay – only the fourth record of the year.

                A nicer day on the 14th, still blustery with showers sweeping through but slightly calmer and the showers were further apart; a few Passerines popped up in the better conditions – probably all lingering birds which included a Lapland Bunting, 3 Yellow-browed Warblers (two at Holland and one at the surgery), 2 Barred Warblers (Obs and Holland), 3 Sand Martins, 5 Rock Pipits, a Robin, a Black Redstart, 59 Wheatears, 2 Sedge Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat and a Willow Warbler.

                Other birds included the first Whooper Swan of the autumn in off the sea, 2 Kestrels, 2 Merlins, 2 Peregrines (including on over the Obs carrying at Kittiwake!), a Grey Plover, 6 Ruff and 4 Black-tailed Godwits.

There's always one lone, lost juvenile when the Pink-feet come through!

Yellow-browed Warbler               Simon Davies

Thursday, 13 September 2018

10th - 12th September

A rough day on the 10th with a strong SW wind and showers blowing through; the recent spell of easterlies still exerted their influence though as the day’s highlight was a lovely, tiny, streaky LANCEOLATED WARBLER caught by hand in rough grass at Sandar, ringed, admired and released at the Obs where it typically ran away like a mouse and rapidly disappeared – only the fifth for the island!   Other birds dug out on the land included the Greenish Warbler still at Dennishill, 2 Common Rosefinches together at Phisligar, 2 Kestrels, 5 Sand Martins, a Rock Pipit, a Black Redstart, a Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Pied Flycatcher.    Also of note were 8 Red-throated Divers, 6 Herons, 2 Pintail and 2 Ruff.

                An even rougher day on the 11th with a blazing strong SW wind and more showers so new arrivals were at a premium but did include a Grasshopper Warbler by the lighthouse – the overdue first of the year, a House Martin in off the sea at the north end – only the second of the autumn and a little arrival of 39 Wheatears.   Lingering birds comprised the Buff-breasted Sandpiper still on Brides Loch, the Greenish Warbler still, a Barred Warbler at Brigg, 2 Kestrels, single Ruff and Whimbrel, a Short-eared Owl, 3 Rock Pipits, a Whitethroat and 2 Willow Warblers.

                We are now in the time that birds are going to move despite the weather not just because of it as with the strong westerly airflow still in charge on the 12th there were still some new arrivals noted with a Corncrake flushed from docks at Longar – the first of the autumn and second of the year, a juvenile Stonechat at the Obs, 2 Bramblings at Holland and the overdue first Lapland Bunting of the autumn on The Links.

                Other birds seen which were most likely lingering individuals included the Greenish Warbler again, 2 Barred Warblers (Obs and Holland House), a Yellow-browed Warbler at the surgery, 2 Kestrels, 2 Ruff, the Black Redstart, 4 Willow Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher while the lochs held 73 Wigeon and 4 Pintail.

Lanceolated Warbler - shame it had lost its tail                Simon Davies

Sand Martin hiding from the showers                       Simon Davies

Monday, 10 September 2018

8th and 9th September

A good autumnal feeling day on the 8th with light winds and misty murk coming and going through the day, it was just a shame that the wind had gone back into the NW; there was a good list of scarcities across the island through the day which included a Marsh Warbler trapped at Holland, 2 Barred Warblers (Obs and a new bird trapped at Holland), 2 Yellow-browed Warblers, 3 Common Rosefinches and the early first Brambling for the autumn.

                Other migrant totals comprised 2 Short-eared Owls, a Rock Pipit, the Black Redstart, a Redstart, a Whinchat, a Reed Warbler, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, a Garden Warbler, a Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaffs, 3 Willow Warblers and a Spotted Flycatcher.   Also of note were 82 Wigeon and a little arrival of 14 Pintail, a Kestrel, 774 Golden Plover, a Grey Plover, a Ruff, 10 Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel.

                A light southerly breeze started the day on the 9th but this soon became a brisk south-westerly, not usually our most profitable wind direction but there was again a nice selection of migrants across the island which included a Rock Pipit, the Black Redstart, a Redstart, 3 Whinchat, a Sedge Warbler, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Whitethroats, 3 Garden Warblers, 2 Blackcaps, the Greenish Warbler again which reappeared back at Dennishill, a Yellow-browed Warbler, a Chiffchaff, 8 Willow Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, a Pied Flycatcher and a single Common Rosefinch.

                Other little bits included the Buff-breasted Sandpiper still on Brides Loch, the first Jack Snipe of the autumn with an influx of 300+ Snipe, an increase to 8 Red-throated Divers, 3 Kestrels, a Ruff and 9 Black-tailed Godwits.

Yellow-browed Warbler                          George Gay

Whinchat                                            George Gay

Saturday, 8 September 2018

5th - 7th September

A calm start on the 5th before a brisk southerly breeze picked up through the day; the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was still at Brides while a trickle of migrants across the land included an influx of 375+ Meadow Pipits, the first Reed Warbler of the autumn (and only second of the year!), the Icterine Warbler again, a Garden Warbler, 2 Willow Warblers and a Common Rosefinch at the Obs in the evening.   Other bits included an influx of 8+ Kestrels, single Merlin and Peregrine, a Grey Plover and 9 Black-tailed Godwits.

                A pleasant day on the 6th with a few little hints that we might be finally getting some migrants including a Pied Flycatcher, 4 Willow Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Barred Warblers (Obs and The Mill), the Icterine Warbler still, 2 Sedge Warblers and a Black Redstart.   Elsewhere, counts included 78 Wigeon, 80 Teal, single Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine and 11 Black-tailed Godwits.

                A fantastic day on the 7th with out autumn finally arriving with a bang and a host of new migrants across the island, the overnight rain lingered through until mid-morning but it wasn’t until the afternoon that birds started to be unearthed as it seemed that new birds kept arriving all the time.    The highlights in summary included a GREENISH WARBLER at Bewan House, an ARCTIC WARBLER at Ancum Willows (about time after multiple birds just to the north of us!), the first Wryneck of the year at Nether Linney, our earliest ever Yellow-browed Warbler at Westbeach, a Common Rosefinch, a Barred Warbler and the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Brides still.

                Other migrants across the land included 2 Kestrels, a Peregrine, 6 Sand Martins, 3 Tree Pipits and 3 Rock Pipits in amongst a big arrival of 655+ Meadow Pipits, 3 Redstarts, the first Whinchat of the autumn, a Reed Warbler, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, a Whitethroat, 8 Willow Warblers, the first 2 Spotted Flycatchers of the autumn and a Pied Flycatcher.   Also of note were 4 Herons, 4 Ruff, 9 Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel.

Arctic Warbler                      Simon Davies

Common Rosefinch                      Simon Davies

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

2nd - 4th September

Another pleasant, bright day with light winds on the 2nd with a good selection of migrants (just not passerines!); an influx of duck was perhaps most noteworthy as counts included 68 Wigeon, 82 Teal, 39 Mallard and a Pintail all being harried by a good spread of raptors which comprised the second Common Buzzard of the year around Holland and Trebb, 2 Hen Harriers, 3 Kestrels, a Merlin and a Short-eared Owl.   Other little bits included 4 Great-northern Divers, 6 Sooty Shearwaters, 6 Puffins and 5 Risso’s Dolphins offshore, 5 Herons, 44 Knot, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 60 Redshank and 4 Willow Warblers – the only landbird migrants of note.

                A similar day on the 3rd with a light westerly breeze but a trickle of migrants made it onto the day’s log which included 3 Barred Warblers (two trapped at Holland and another at Veracott), the first Blackcap of the autumn, a Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Garden Warblers, 6 Sedge Warblers, 6 Willow Warblers, a Song Thrush and a Black Redstart.   The day’s other highlight was the re-appearance of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Brides Loch in the afternoon.

                Other birds through the day included a Hen Harrier, 5 Kestrels, a Merlin, a Ruff, 10 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Sandwich Terns in Nouster (an adult and a juvenile) while 6 Risso’s Dolphins and a Minke Whale were off the top end.

                An awesome day on the 4th with bright sunshine and hardly a breath of wind first thing developing into a welcome light easterly; a selection of migrants included the first Common Rosefinch of the autumn at Gravity, an Icterine Warbler at Antabreck, 2 Barred Warblers (Obs and Holland), the first Redstart of the autumn at Westness, 6 Willow Warblers, a Lesser Whitethroat, 7 Herons, the first Sparrowhawk of the autumn, 4 Kestrels and a Hen Harrier.

                The Buff-breasted Sandpiper was still at Brides while other waders included a Grey Plover and 13 Black-tailed Godwits.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper                               Simon Davies

Knot                                                  Simon Davies

Sunday, 2 September 2018

30th August - 1st September

A nice day on the 30th with a light westerly breeze and plenty of sunshine; the highlights of a quiet day in the field came early on as we caught a smart young female Kestrel and a new Barred Warbler in the traps around the Observatory.   Other birds of note through the day included a Hen Harrier, 3-4 Kestrels, a Merlin, a good count of 1,010 Golden Plover, 94+ alba Wagtails (including a good roost of 45 at the Obs), an influx of 133 Wheatears, the 2 Fieldfares and the Lesser Whitethroat again.

                A calm start on the 31st but the wind rapidly picked up to become a strong southerly by the afternoon, unlike elsewhere on the northern isles it was tough out in the field with little rewards as birds of note comprised 3 Herons, single Hen Harrier, Kestrel and Merlin, an influx of 170 Snipe with many small flocks buzzing around and a Black Redstart still around Holland.

                All change again on the 1st with fully overcast conditions and a very light and decreasing SW breeze; there was a nice range of species seen across the island but still quiet on the landbird front with the regular suite of raptors being joined by a 3cy Peregrine, a Tree Pipit, the Black Redstart, a Song Thrush and 8 Willow Warblers.

                Other birds of note included single Red-throated and Great-northern Divers, 4 Sooty and 16 Manx Shearwaters offshore, another trickle of ducks onto the island included 23 Wigeon, 4 Gadwall and the first Pintail of the autumn, 2 Grey Plovers again, 2 Ruff, 138 Snipe and 3 Black-tailed Godwits.

Barred Warbler               Simon Davies

Kestrel                             Simon Davies

Thursday, 30 August 2018

28th and 29th August

Dry and bright through the 28th with a brisk and increasing southerly breeze; two more stand out birds were seen through the day with a moulting adult Black Tern seen briefly roosting on Bewan Loch before being flushed by an Arctic Skua and then being seen zooming over Brides Loch half an hour later which was followed in the afternoon by a cracking adult Buff-breasted Sandpiper found feeding on the beach at Brides.
                The great raptor spectacular continued with 2-3 Hen Harriers, 2 Merlins, 3-4 Kestrels, a Peregrine and 3 Short-eared Owls all floating around, making counting them a bit tricky, also on the land the first 2 Tree Pipits and Rock Pipit of the autumn were seen along with the Lesser Whitethroat still at the Obs.   Other birds included 46 Sooty Shearwaters, 58 Manx Shearwaters and a Red-throated Diver were offshore, 3 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Whimbrel.
                Bright and sunny again on the 29th but the now force 6-7 southerly wind made things difficult in the field; there were limited new arrivals with an influx of ducks noteworthy which included 108+ Teal, 77+ Mallard, 4 Shoveler and 3 Wigeon along with a few increased wader counts comprised 71 Ringed Plover, 67 Dunlin, 3 Ruff and 28 Black-tailed Godwits.   Two Hen Harriers, 2-3 Kestrels and a Merlin were still present while at least 300 Meadow Pipits and 30 alba Wagtails came in off the sea at the north end.
                Other birds included a Great-northern Diver, a Black Redstart still at Holland and the Barred Warbler again at Senness.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper                              George Gay

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

26th and 27th August

A decent day on the 26th with the brisk wind eventually swinging round into the SE during the afternoon; the main feature of the day was some good seawatching totals from the north end – the first day of the autumn with some obvious passage as birds of note included 153 Sooty Shearwaters, 108 Manx Shearwaters, a Pomarine Skua, a Storm Petrel, 7 Common Scoter, 2 Red-throated Divers and a pod of 5+ Risso’s Dolphins lingering off the beacon.   Other birds across the island included 2 Hen Harriers, 2 Kestrels, a Merlin, the first 2 Grey Plovers of the autumn (an adult and a juvenile), 46 Purple Sandpipers, 2 Ruff, 5 Black-tailed Godwits and the 2 over-summering Fieldfares still in Gue Park.

                Rain overnight led to a damp start to the day on the 27th but the SE wind had shifted back into the NW producing a fine, bright, sunny day; there were two obvious stand-out birds through the day, both seen by single, fortunate observers.   The best came early morning with a juvenile RED-FOOTED FALCON seen briefly on wires near Ancum from where it flew over to North Manse, dropped behind a wall, never to be seen again!   The other highlight was a Balearic Shearwater which flew close inshore past the seawatch hide in the evening along with 64 Manx Shearwaters and another Pomarine Skua.

                The burst of south-easterly wind yesterday produced a sprinkling of migrants including a Barred Warbler at Senness, the first Lesser Whitethroat of the autumn, a Garden Warbler, 3 Willow Warblers, a Black Redstart, 3 Short-eared Owls, 3 Kestrels, 2 Hen Harriers and 2 Merlins.   Other birds of note 3 Red-throated Divers, 5 Herons, 9 Wigeon, 56 Teal, 35 Mallard, 16 Knot, 169 Sanderling and 10 Black-tailed Godwit.

Barred Warbler                                        Simon Davies

Sunday, 26 August 2018

23rd - 25th August

Bright and sunny again on the 23rd with the brisk westerly wind persisting; the first Reed Warbler of the autumn at Ancum was the pick on the land along with now 2 Hen Harriers, a Merlin and 5 Willow Warblers while waders included 27 Knot, 3 Ruff, 9 Black-tailed Godwits and 92 Redshank with a single Great-northern Diver offshore.

                A fresh NW wind through the day on the 24th brought frequent but short-lived squalls blasting across the island, the day’s highlights comprised the Spotted Redshank again on Brides and an adult Common Tern at Bewan with the late Arctic Tern families – only the third of the year.   Other birds included 3 Herons, a Kestrel, 2 Merlins (including one heading south out to sea off The Lurn) and a decent count of 928 Golden Plover.

                A really rough morning on the 25th with a blazing NW wind bringing regular, nasty showers whipping through; birds today included a juvenile Garganey on Hooking (maybe one of ours but equally likely to be an immigrant), a Great-northern Diver, 4 Herons, a Hen Harrier, 2 Kestrels, a Merlin and 28 Knot.

Bar-tailed Godwit and Knot

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

20th - 22nd August

Still calm on the 20th but with some increased cloud cover with the day’s highlight going to a brief but vocal Spotted Redshank on Brides.   Other birds included 8 Sooty Shearwaters and 9 Manx Shearwaters on a seawatch in the morning, the first autumnal migrant flock of 10 Wigeon, the Hen Harrier, Kestrel and 2 Merlins, a Black Redstart still and the 2 Fieldfares still hanging on in Gue Park.

                A nice, flat calm start to the 21st but the now SE wind rapidly built up to a blazing force 7 by the afternoon but there was again, little new to mention with the Nightingale appearing in a mist net at Holland once more.   Other bits of note comprised a Red-throated Diver, 3 Herons, now 15 Wigeon and the Hen Harrier, Kestrel, 2 Merlin and 7 Ruff still.

                A moderate westerly replaced the blasting south-easterly on the 22nd with the Spotted Redshank reappearing on Kirbest Myre and then Brides and (presumably) one of the same Roseate Terns popped up again just off Gue Park.   The Hen Harrier, Kestrel and Peregrine were seen again along with 4 Black-tailed Godwits.

Spotted Redshank                                   Simon Davies

Hen Harrier                                      Simon Davies

Monday, 20 August 2018

17th - 19th August

Bright and sunny again on the 17th with a brisk SW wind so there was little change in the islands birdlife with the highlights comprising long staying birds which included the Hen Harrier, the Kestrel, 7 Ruff in a field near Holland, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, the Short-eared Owl showing well on The Links, 8 Swifts overhead, a Black Redstart and a Willow Warbler.

                All change on the 18th with blazing force 7-8 westerly winds blasting across the island bringing heavy showers throughout, coverage was understandably reduced with the only notable birds being at the top end as 7 Sooty Shearwaters and 8 Manx Shearwaters went through and a trickle of waders and Lesser Black-backed Gulls came in off the sea from the north.

                All change yet again on the 19th with a glorious contrast to the blazing winds as we were bathed in sunshine and enjoying almost flat calm conditions; on the land, the Common Nightingale reappeared in a mist net at Holland while a Common Crossbill flew south (only the second of the year) with the young Song Thrush, 2 Black Redstarts, 8 Sedge Warblers and 5 Willow Warblers also seen.   One of the day’s highlights was fantastic views of at least four well grown juvenile Water Rails at Ancum – great to see proof of breeding which is suspected every year.

                Nine Black-tailed Godwits, 22 Knot and 6 Ruff were the pick of the waders while little influxes of 34 Teal and 20 Mallard were noted along with the now regular Hen Harrier, Kestrel and Merlin.   Offshore 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Sooty Shearwaters, 3 Manx Shearwaters and some Porpoise were noted.

Juvenile Water Rail                                           Simon Davies

Short-eared Owl                           Simon Davies

Friday, 17 August 2018

14th - 16th August

Drizzle and rain drifted in and out through the day on the 14th with the light SE wind swinging round into the SW; despite these promising conditions there was no sign of any more drifty landbirds after yesterday’s arrivals with the highlights again being the two Roseate Terns showing well at the foghorn and one of the juvenile Mediterranean Gulls offshore at Bewan.   Other birds included a trickle of hirundines down the west coast comprising 140 Swallows, the first House Martin of the autumn and 6 Swifts, the Hen Harrier and Kestrel again, a Ruff, good high tide counts at the north end of 42 Purple Sandpipers and 247 Turnstone and 4 Willow Warblers the only leftovers from yesterday.

                The 15th and 16th then passed with barely a ripple as sunny conditions and a brisk SW wind were not conducive to producing many new arrivals; 5 Ruff were with 1,200+ Golden Plover in the Kirbest area, the Kestrel remained, the first juvenile Bar-tailed Godwits of the autumn sneaked in and the 2 Roseate Terns were again by the foghorn on the 16th.

Roseate Tern                                                Simon Davies

Hen Harrier                                            Simon Davies

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

12th and 13th August

Bright sunshine through the 12th with a promising easterly breeze but it was a fairly quiet day in the field with no real landbird arrivals although the first Merlin of the autumn was dashing around and a female Crossbill at Ancum finally made it onto the yearlist; other birds on the land included a Black Redstart, the two over-summering Fieldfares and the juvenile Hen Harrier.

                Wader counts through the day comprised 777 Golden Plover, 114 Lapwing, 119 Sanderling, 169 Dunlin, 3 Ruff, 2 Whimbrel, 89 Curlew and 160 Redshank while there were still 915+ Arctic Terns present around the island and 4 Risso’s Dolphins were off the east side.

                With light easterlies and some cloud cover coming and going on the 13th it was classic conditions for the first decent birding day of the autumn which started early with a beautiful, fresh juvenile Common Nightingale plucked out of a mist-net at Holland House – an odd record as it was only the eighth record for the island and just the second in autumn.   The day carried on at its relaxed but exciting pace with the first Icterine Warbler of the year at Hooking and the first Barred Warbler of the year at North Gravity.

                A good sprinkling of other migrants across the island comprised 26 Black-tailed Godwits on Ancum, 4 Ruff, the Hen Harrier, the Kestrel, the Merlin, a big female Peregrine, the Short-eared Owl, a new island record count of 64 Sand Martins in the Ancum area, 2 Black Redstarts, 48 Wheatears, a very juvenile looking Song Thrush trapped in Holland, 8 Sedge Warblers, a Garden Warbler, 8 Willow Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher.

Nightingale                     Simon Davies

A packed Linnet nest

Sunday, 12 August 2018

9th - 11th August

Bright and sunny conditions on the 9th with a brisk southerly breeze produced a good morning’s visible migration with 302 Swallows the main feature of the day (171 went south from 0830-0930 – it was brilliant to see small flocks of Swallows heading out to sea, threading their way through a big feeding flock of Arctic Terns just off The Lurn!), also on the move were 6 Swifts and several small flocks of Dunlin, Redshank and Sanderling.   Other birds through the day included 2 Manx Shearwaters off the north end, a Heron, the Kestrel still, 4 Ruff and 13 Black-tailed Godwits at the airstrip, one of the lingering Roseate Terns still, at least 23 Arctic Skuas blogging offshore chasing the Terns and Tysties and an improved count of 54 alba Wagtails with numbers swelled by many juveniles.

                Still warm and settled on the 10th with a couple of notable new arrivals with now 4 Mediterranean Gulls present (three in the Brides area and another up at the north end) and the first Hen Harrier of the autumn cruising around – a fine, fresh juvenile female.   Other little bits comprised the Kestrel, an increase to 25 Knot including the first few spangly juveniles, 2 Whimbrel, 23 Black-tailed Godwits, a Greenshank and 2 Sandwich Terns with 550+ Arctic Terns.

                Yet another stunning day on the 11th with a couple of heavy morning showers giving way to wall to wall sunshine and light winds (getting a bit repetitive now!); 2 Great-northern Divers were offshore, the Hen Harrier was still floating around, 4 Ruff were still present, a Short-eared Owl was quartering Ancum and 3 Black Redstarts popped up.

Black-tailed Godwit                                  Simon Davies

Swift                                               Simon Davies

Arctic Skua                                     Simon Davies

Thursday, 9 August 2018

6th - 8th August

A drizzly morning on the 6th gave way to a fine afternoon with the highlights again limited to two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls and an adult Roseate Tern.   Many wader totals continue to rise as counts today included 77 Ringed Plover, 145 Oystercatchers, 1,023 Golden Plover, 313 Sanderling (a big influx), 220 Dunlin, 23 Black-tailed Godwits (an influx largely consisting of juveniles), a Green Sandpiper and 165 Turnstone.   Also of note were 2 Great-northern Divers, a Kestrel, the first juvenile Kittiwake of the year offshore, the juvenile Cuckoo still, 6 Swifts and 2 Willow Warblers.

                Nice and calm conditions on the 7th produced the first 3 Garden Warblers of the autumn along with 3 Willow Warblers and a steady southbound passage of 26+ Swifts.   A Mediterranean Gull was seen again while other bits of note included 2 Herons, 3 Ruff, 3 Whimbrel and a Greenshank.

                Flat calm again in the morning of the 8th with a moderate SW breeze developing through the day; 2 Mediterranean Gulls were again in fields near Senness and at least 2 Roseate Terns were flying around (timings of sightings suggested there may have been another individual but we just can’t prove it!).   Other sightings included the Kestrel again, juvenile Little Grebes on Garso and Brides (finally proof of successful breeding this year!), a Swift, 2 Black Redstarts, a Garden Warbler, a Willow Warbler, a flock of 9 juvenile Twite at the Lighthouse (the first juveniles we’ve seen this year), 2 juvenile Ravens at the top end (unfortunately not from here!) and yet another Hummingbird Hawkmoth.

Its been a record breaking year for breeding Ringed Plover with lots still scurrying around

Monday, 6 August 2018

3rd - 5th August

Beautiful and calm on the 3rd with some extensive cloud cover producing a good day to be out in the field; somewhat predictably most of the action was again around the cut fields where the highlight was again two juvenile Mediterranean Gulls near Holland House.   Other counts included 1,419 Golden Plover, 146 Lapwings, 165 Sanderling, 152 Dunlin, 5 Black-tailed Godwits (including the first juveniles), 2 Whimbrel, 121 Redshank and some increasing Gull counts with 468 Common Gulls and 31 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

                Other highlights comprised a single Roseate Tern again at the top of The Links and excellent news of three juvenile Garganey at last breaking cover on Hooking Loch, finally giving evidence of successful breeding – they haven’t been seen since small ducklings were noted in June.   Also, of note was the juvenile Cuckoo again, a Pied Flycatcher caught in Holland, a single Willow Warbler, 2 Herons and a Great-northern Diver offshore.

                Another pleasant day on the 4th with now 3 Mediterranean Gulls in fields near Ancum, 2 Roseate Terns again on the rocks of Bridesness Point and 9 Swifts of note.   The 5th was pretty much a write-off in terms of birding with some persistent rain combined with an Obs / visitor’s v islanders football match on The Links (which we won on penalties!) leading to hardly any birding getting done, although two Swifts flew over just before kick-off.

Mediterranean Gull

Roseate Tern

Black-tailed Godwit

Friday, 3 August 2018

31st July - 2nd August

A calm start on the 31st but the SE wind picked up through the day; it was quiet for new arrivals but some decent counts included 29 Knot, 104 Dunlin, 2 Whimbrel, 1,465 Arctic Terns and an excellent 47 Sand Martins which comprised good numbers of local fledglings.   The Black Redstart was still around Holland where there was also a Willow Warbler, a flyover Heron and the Hummingbird Hawkmoth again.

                The first day of autumn was a good one, with light winds and variable cloud cover and a nice selection of birds across the island; a Roseate Tern flew past Brides (probably one of the birds from a few days ago), the first Peregrine of the autumn – a monster juvenile female, flew south over the Obs, the first Short-eared Owl of the autumn was at Westness and the first Woodpigeon of the autumn came in off the sea at the north end.

                More good wader counts through the day included 303 Lapwings, 545 Golden Plover, 178 Dunlin, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Whimbrel and a Green Sandpiper while other little bits comprised 3 Herons, a Kestrel, probably the same juvenile Cuckoo, 4 Swifts, the 2 over-summering Fieldfares which popped up again and 2 Willow Warblers.

                The theme continued on the 2nd with another great day in the field with the obvious highlight being 2 juvenile MEDITERRANEAN GULLS feeding in recently cut fields near Holland House, the two birds were not seen together but identified as different birds through photographs – the first records since 2009 and the first juveniles for the island.   The bare fields also attracted big numbers of other birds including 354 Common Gulls, 8 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Ruff, 2 Whimbrel and 1,120 Golden Plover.

                The days other main feature was some very mobile (or multiple!) Roseate Terns, as shortly after two were seen together on the rocks at Bridesness, one was seen feeding off The Links with Arctic Terns and a single Common Tern and then shortly after that, one was seen flying south over The Lurn to join a big feeding flock offshore there….they’ll just go down as two birds though!   Other birds included a Great-northern Diver in Nouster, a Blue Fulmar and a Sooty Shearwater off the north end, the juvenile Cuckoo again, the Short-eared Owl again, a good total of 18 Swifts (by far the highest count of the year), 5 Willow Warblers and a Pied Flycatcher.

                75 Storm Petrels were trapped overnight with a Leach’s Petrel flying and calling round the nets but not getting caught.

Mediterranean Gull                                 Simon Davies

Sand Martin                                        Simon Davies

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

28th - 30th July

A mix of weather through these couple of days with the wind constantly in the SE but ranging from strong to almost flat calm and some long but welcome spells of rain; a little influx of insects on the 28th was noteworthy and included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Burray along with 10+ Painted Ladies, 20+ Red Admirals and 50+ Silver Y’s.   Birdwise, the first Common Sandpiper of the autumn was near the airstrip with 30 Knot and a Whimbrel the other wader highlights, a build-up of Arctic Terns included a huge flock of 2,500+ on Torness and a female-type Black Redstart was a surprise around the Obs.

                Bright and sunny on the 29th with a very strong SE wind produced a few highlights including 6 Swifts in off the sea on the west side, the first juvenile Willow Warbler of the autumn at Bewan and the first juvenile Ruff of the autumn on Ancum along with 2 Herons, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Whimbrel and the Black Redstart again.

                There were some notable influxes on the 30th in response to the SE breeze slackening off to almost nothing in the morning; waders were very obvious as totals included 150 Oystercatchers, a big arrival of 1,350+ Golden Plover, 81 Knot (including a Norwegian colour flagged bird), 35 Sanderling, 28 Purple Sandpipers, an influx to 360 Dunlin, 24 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, 69 Curlew, 114 Redshank and 139 Turnstone.   A big arrival of 5,050+ Arctic Terns was also noted with huge flocks roosting in a few spots round the island and included many of our local juveniles mingled in with the hordes.

                Other little bits included 3 Swifts, 9 Sedge Warblers with dispersing juveniles in odd places, 3 Willow Warblers, the first Pied Flycatcher of the autumn (like Fair Isle, only the fourth July record!), another Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Holland and the first Peacock of the year at Vincoin.


Heron annoying the Terns

Hummingbird Hawkmoth                       Simon Davies

Saturday, 28 July 2018

25th - 27th July

Bright and sunny on the 25th and 26th with a brisk easterly wind to take the edge off; in between sheep punding there wasn’t too much to mention on the bird front with a Heron and a Collared Dove the best from the 25th and a smart summer plumaged Great-northern Diver in Nouster and a single Whimbrel the pick of the 26th.

                There was a bit more to mention on the 27th as the easterly wind continued to increase with the highlight being two cracking Roseate Terns found roosting with Arctics on rocks at Bridesness Point.   Wader numbers included 45 Ringed Plover, 345 Golden Plover, 183 Lapwing, 16 Knot, 75 Sanderling, 238 Dunlin, 5 Whimbrel, a Ruff and 2 Green Sandpipers which flew south down the west coast.

                Other little bits included the Great-northern Diver still in Nouster, 2 Herons, a little influx of 26 Teal, 5 Lesser Black-backed Gulls including the first immigrant juveniles of the year and a Common Redpoll.

Roseate Terns                                  Simon Davies

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

22nd - 24th July

A settled few days with plenty of sunshine and warm conditions; the escaped Saker Falcon was still present on the 22nd and showed well on telegraph poles in the centre of the island before being tracked – its GPS giving its position every four hours leaving to the north and arriving on Fair Isle shortly afterwards (along with a second escaped individual which was also tracked over the island but not seen!).   Migrants included a Siskin round the Obs, a Common Redpoll at Sandar, a Heron on Hooking and a Kestrel which flew south over the Obs on the 24th.

                Some big flocks of waders are starting to build up now as counts included 130 Dunlin (with the first few juveniles starting to appear), 120 Oystercatchers, 655 Golden Plover, 95 Lapwings and 131 Redshank while at least 12 Arctic Skuas are putting on a fine performance as they chase the Tysties bringing fish into their colonies.

                We’ve started Storm Petrel ringing now and enjoyed some good sessions catching 150 birds so far with two Leach’s Petrels also being trapped while we are still putting some good effort into the breeding birds, now having ringed 120 Black Guillemots (similar to last year), 200+ Arctic Terns (many times better than last year) and 22 Ringed Plover chicks (the highest ever total!).

Saker                                               Simon Davies

Ringed Plover chicks                             Simon Davies

The moth trap is still pulling in some good things like this Burnished Brass with Common Carpet, Lempke's Gold Spot, Northern Spinach and Heart and Dart being firsts for the island.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

19th-21st July

Sanderling numbers have gradually begun to build up, with 18 on the 19th rising to 24 on the 21st. Other waders on the 19th included a Green Sandpiper at Brides and 15 Bar-tailed Godwits. Arctic Terns have stayed steady at around 820 birds.
The 20th saw the Green Sandpiper return to Bewan and another Ruff on Garso, 4 Black-tailed Godwits were seen feeding in recently silaged fields and a lone Purple Sandpiper made its way back to the island. Otherwise the 20th was quiet with 5 Manx Shearwaters and 2 Sooty Shearwaters from the sea-watch hide.
The 21st bought in some more variable weather and some interesting birds, firstly a Juvenile Cuckoo was found flycatching on the fences around the Old Kirk, there’s a slight amount of intrigue as to where the Cuckoo has come from being a very young bird. A very tired, grotty and unseasonal Redwing was seen at Claypows and duck numbers have begun to increase with 7 Shoveler on Brides, 3 Teal and a lone Gadwall.
The biggest surprise of the day turned out to be an escape Saker Falcon! The bird was initially seen at Westness before heading North and finally settling outside the obs on nearby telegraph poles. Although the bird is an escape it’s an absolute cracker so we’re not complaining!
More moth news! The previously reported Gold Spot has been re-identified as a Lempke’s Gold Spot, a far scarcer moth, so we’re definitely not complaining. The second 1st for North Ronaldsay in a matter of days came in the shape of a Common Carpet. We assume these moths although scarce are regularly occurring on here but a lack of consistent trapping over the years has meant they’ve gone vastly under-recorded.

Fledgling Arctic Tern                                              George Gay

Common Carpet                         Lewis Hooper

Saker Falcon                                                   George Gay 
Saker Falcon                                                             George Gay