The last few days of January weren’t much to shout about in terms of new birds, a second Iceland Gull of the year was found on the 29th at West Beach and another bird initially thought to be another Iceland Gull was found flying round the pier on the 31st the bird wasn’t checked thoroughly as we needed to collect food from the plane, so it went down as an Iceland Gull and it subsequently disappeared despite raising some initial questions.
It wasn’t until nearly week later (4th Feb), when it was finally re-located that it was re-identified as a 1st winter Kumlien’s Gull, good things come to those who wait I guess!
The same brutish 1st winter Glaucous Gull was also seen on the 31st at Bewan along with our first Shelduck of 2018! Other final January highlights included the lone Pink-footed Goose and a pair of Great Northern Divers.
February kicked off with a horrendous windy day on the 1st but despite the bad weather there were plenty of Gulls about, 161 Great Black-backs were supported by 97 Herring Gulls and 194 Common Gulls all sheltering or feeding in various spots, the Larus highlight reel wasn’t complete without a cast of white-wingers, three Iceland Gulls of varying ages, 1st winter, 2nd winter and an adult were all feeding on the sea-weed at Quoybanks, while an adult and a 1st winter Glaucous Gull were making the most of the wind around the lighthouse. Snow Bunting numbers were also high totalling 111.
The 2nd saw the same pair of Glaucous Gulls joined by a further 1st winter bird and one the Iceland Gulls from the previous day was also present, the biggest shock of the year, more shocking than the Cranes, was the brief re-appearance of the Northern Harrier, the bird didn't stay long and was seen heading South towards Sanday.
The 2nd also bought about the arrival of our third returning staff member in the form of Lewis Hooper back for a full season of birding, ringing and various amounts mischief.
The 3rd was a stark contrast to the months opening day weather wise and a calm descended over the island, with barely any wind it allowed for good sea conditions and better numbers of Divers were seen offshore 9 Great Northerns and 4 Red-throats made for more healthy reading! As did a lone Puffin seen chugging its way along the Firth between here and Sanday.
The long staying Smew made and overdue re-appearance on the 4th along with the initial re-finding Kumlien’s Gull, it wouldn’t be identified fully for another couple of days due to poor views, but it had certainly put tails up!
Most of our efforts the next day went into re-finding the gull, but this proved a fruitless endeavour! It wasn’t until the 6th when the bird was seen in the morning that we had a clear of what is was going to be, it then pulled another disappearing act on us!
It wasn’t until later that day and we were tending to a sheep break in below the obs that the bird flushed off some sea-weed and went onto the sea. This time we were ready for it and managed to get a few pictures and furiously took field notes while sending photo’s to various sources, although we had a pretty good idea it was a Kumlien’s we wanted to be 100% sure! The other highlight for the day was a 1st winter Black-throated Diver drifting past the sea-watch hide with a pair of Red-throated Divers.
The 7th bought an excursion to Eday for the long (not so) staying Snowy Owl. It wasn’t there. The less said about that the better!The 8th proved far better, after a pretty rank start to the day weather wise things brightened up. The early bad weather didn’t stop us getting an early Greenfinch on the board, always a good year bird as they’re not exactly common on the island. It wasn’t the only morning offering either, a pair of Black-throated Divers were seen off the North end and a ringtail Hen Harrier and male Merlin were also at Trebb. There was also a good chorus of Skylarks making their presence known giving the feeling that Spring isn’t a million miles away, even if it does keep snowing!
|The now showy Kumlien's Gull|
|Very showy indeed!|
|A bit more straightforward than above!|
|The theme is...Gulls with white wings, here's the 1st and 2nd winter Iceland Gulls|
|Terrified Purple Sandpipers running away from other Purple Sandpipers|