Saturday, 30 June 2018

27th - 29th June


A settled few days with plenty of bright sunshine and light to moderate easterly winds (although the inevitable fog did drift in for a while on the 28th); Golden Plover numbers continue to rise reaching 130 on the 27th when there was still a single Red-necked Phalarope on Gretchen.   A bit more to mention on the 28th with 5 Swifts over The Links (only the second record of the year after a woeful spring for this species), a Heron on Ancum, 2 Whimbrel, a Sandwich Tern, at least 50 Sand Martins around the breeding colony on The Links, a Rock Pipit at Trolla (the first one since 14th May) and 7 Manx Shearwaters offshore during a brief seawatch.

                The Heron was still on Ancum on the 29th while 2 more Swifts were over Brides and 24 Bar-tailed Godwits included a Norwegian colour ringed individual.



Both Black-headed and Common Gull fledglings are on the wing now

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

25th and 26th June


A bright and sunny start on the 25th, it soon clouded over though but the winds remained light; it proved to be a decent day in the field with a nice selection of random scarcities across the island, in no particular order they included a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver off The Links, a female Garganey still on Hooking (but no sign of any chicks), an adult male Hen Harrier which flew north up The Links (very unusual mid-summer!), a pair of Red-necked Phalaropes on Gretchen and the Little Gull again, this time at Garso.

                Other little bits included 41 Golden Plover, 26 Dunlin, 21 Bar-tailed Godwits and at Holland a Woodpigeon, 5 Collared Doves and at least 2 Chiffchaffs.

                Light winds again on 26th but with lots more sunshine although it did cloud over in the afternoon; a single Red-necked Phalarope remained on Gretchen and a Whimbrel was at Ancum.   Promising news came from the Arctic Terns where a visit to this year’s biggest colony near Sangar produced 60 ringable chicks – almost double last year’s ringing total!



Plenty of baby Wheatears and Wrens around too

Sunday, 24 June 2018

22nd - 24th June


Mixed conditions again over these past three days with a bright and breezy 22nd seeing the first really obvious returning wader flocks which included 44 Golden Plover, a Whimbrel, 7 Knot and 17 Bar-tailed Godwits.  

The 23rd however, was a horrible day with a blasting westerly wind bringing nasty showers whipping in through the morning and then persistent and heavy, misty, murky, drizzly, foggy awfulness through the afternoon; all of the days interest came up at the north end where thousands of seabirds gathered on and offshore with conservative totals including 2,197 Kittiwakes (huge flocks came ashore when the worst weather came in during the afternoon), 800 Arctic Terns, 1,167+ Puffins (in 1.5 hrs), 1,700 large Auks (also in 1.5 hrs), 20 Arctic Skuas, 340 Gannets, 2 Storm Petrels, 11 Manx Shearwaters and 3 Red-throated Divers.

It changed again on the 24th but this time for the better as it was a lovely day with acres of bright sunshine and an easing wind; the previous days rough weather took its toll though as three out of the four Swallow broods we were due to ring today were unfortunately dead in the nest and the Raven chicks didn’t survive the westerly gales – although their nest was only a couple of metres above the high tide mark on the west coast

Out and about though a first summer Little Gull was bobbing around on Hooking Loch with 40+ Black-headed Gull fledglings, a Willow Warbler that was re-trapped at the Obs had originally been ringed on the 8th and good numbers of previously failed Arctic Terns re-laying at a number of sites.


Kittiwakes at the foghorn

First summer Arctic Tern being photobombed by a Fulmar

Friday, 22 June 2018

19th - 21st June


A real mixture of weather over the last three days with sunshine, strong winds, light winds (W or NW) and nasty little showers; there was very little – pretty much nothing, in the way of new arrivals with the main feature being an impressive build-up of Kittiwakes at the north end, reaching 750 by the 20th, while a fine sight it was sad in a way that they represented failed breeders with many of them calling like they were in a colony and carrying weed and mud around.

                There were regular Storm Petrels and Manx Shearwaters off the north end peaking at 28 Manxies on the 20th and small numbers of waders continue to be seen including Knot, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwits and Sanderling.   Our main focus is still on the breeding birds at the moment with waders chicks to ring, colonies to count and monitor and Swallows nests to find.


Curlew chick

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

17th and 18th June


Nice, bright and calm first thing on the 17th but the wind gradually picked up through the day; a few new little bits included an unseasonal 2cy Iceland Gull at Lenswick, 2 Canada Geese on Hooking, a male Greenfinch in Holland briefly (only the second of the year), a Heron, a cracking full breeding plumaged Grey Plover and 2 Common Redpolls at the Obs while at least 3 Chiffchaffs and 4 Collared Doves remained around Holland.

                A rough day on the 18th with a very strong SW wind blazing across the island bringing a few nasty little showers with it; there were at least 7 Storm Petrels and 6 Manx Shearwaters lingering off the north end along with the big flock of loafing Kittiwakes, now totalling c400 birds – there were quite a few 2cy birds mixed in but its still not a good sign!

                The Iceland Gull was still present along with a decent count of 32 Lesser Black-backed Gulls while the Heron, 3 Chiffchaffs and 3 Collared Doves also remained.



2cy Kittiwake

Sunday, 17 June 2018

15th and 16th June


After early morning rain had cleared through it was a pleasant day on the 15th with bright sunshine and easing winds which eventually swung round into the east; the dubious highlight of the day was a flock of 8 Canada Geese which spent most of the day loafing on Gretchen.

                Other birds were few and far between with single Manx Shearwater, Storm Petrel and Great-northern Diver offshore, 7 Collared Doves, 4 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler while gatherings of 110 Kittiwakes and 150 Arctic Terns up at Bewan suggested early breeding failures elsewhere.

                A nice day on the 16th with a light SE breeze produced a handful of late spring migrants with the highlight being a female Red-breasted Flycatcher trapped in Holland whilst other new birds included a Grey Wagtail, an extra Collared Dove (8 now!), 3 Chiffchaffs and a Carrion Crow.

                Three Pink-footed Geese were a bit of a surprise as they flew out south while wader totals included some already returning waders with 14 Golden Plover, 24 Knot, 34 Dunlin, 60 Bar-tailed Godwits and noticeably increasing non-breeding flocks of Lapwings, Redshank and Oystercatchers.


Red-breasted Flycatcher

Friday, 15 June 2018

13th and 14th June


A calmish start on the 13th but the wind gradually increased through the day bringing rain by late afternoon (the first rain for a long long time!); the Quail was again singing from near Holland while a new Chiffchaff and a new Blackcap were trapped in the gardens where the 6 Collared Doves remain.   Offshore, 6 Great-northern Divers and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers were of note.

                Heavy rain overnight led to a very rough day on the 14th with the SW wind reaching force 7 by the afternoon bringing frequent, vicious showers; some long hours were put in seawatching from the north end but in the rough weather the results were moderate as totals included 20 Manx Shearwaters, 3 Storm Petrels, 359 Gannets, 10 Arctic Skuas, 13 Bonxies, 205 Kittiwakes and 450 Auks sp.   Predictably birds on the land were limited, although a Kestrel was new at Holland where the 6 Collared Doves remained.



Wader chicks are appearing all over the island now, we hope they manage to hold out against this rough weather!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

11th and 12th June


Another similar couple of days with light westerly winds and cloud cover coming and going; an early morning seawatch produced most of the highlights on the 11th with an unprecedented flock of 55 Common Scoters past the hide the pick (more than double the previous island record count!).   Also passing during the two hours were 36 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels, 2 Red-throated Divers, 3 Great-northern Divers, 195 Gannets, 45 Puffins and 1,544 Auk sp.

                A Quail was again singing in the Kirbest area while the only other migrants included the lingering Chiffchaffs in Holland and a Willow Warbler around the Obs.

                A fully spooned, adult Pomarine Skua was a bit of a surprise past the seawatch hide late afternoon on the 12th while other birds included a group of 6 Common Scoter in Nouster Bay, 2 Black-tailed Godwits on Gretchen which included a French colour ringed bird, 5 Collared Doves still at Holland and the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warbler still.


Arctic Tern

Monday, 11 June 2018

9th and 10th June


A very samey couple of days with extensive cloud cover and a light NE breeze (although this did swing round to the west by the evening of the 10th); the main focus at the moment is the nesting birds and it was great to get conformation of breeding Garganey with a female and six ducklings seen on Hooking.   Waders are already starting to build up with post / failed / non-breeding flocks of adults starting to form which on the 9th included 109 Oystercatchers, 128 Lapwings, 12 Golden Plover and 120 Sanderling.

                Landbirds were limited to 5 Collared Doves, 5 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher, the Siskin still and a Common Redpoll.   Also of note were 4 Great-northern Divers offshore and the first Storm Petrel of the year off the north end.

                A similar array of birds on the 10th with 7 Collared Doves, 3 Chiffchaffs, the Willow Warbler, the Pied Flycatcher and the Siskin on the land with 9 Great-northern Divers, a Red-breasted Mergansers and 7 Black-tailed Godwits elsewhere.   A pod of 15 Risso’s Dolphins off the north end were the first of the year.



Our Skuas are just starting to settle down

Saturday, 9 June 2018

7th and 8th June

A glorious day with light NE winds and wall to wall sunshine on the 7th; certainly, the day’s highlight was a very scruffy and tatty BLACK KITE which flew north over Brides, up to the lighthouse from where it spiralled up and continued of to the north – it was seen on Fair Isle a couple of hours later.   It was identified as the eastern race bird that has been seen sporadically on Orkney, possibly since last November and has been labelled ‘of suspect origin’ due to the heavy abrasion on both the wings and tail but who can tell....anything more than that is pure speculation!

                As the Obs crew were chasing the Kite up the island an Osprey came in from the north and flew south down the centre of the island – a late spring record and the first of the year but the rest of the day proved to be pretty quiet as waders included 91 Sanderling, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, 68 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 2 Golden Plover and 34 Knot and landbirds just comprised 6 Collared Doves, a Blackcap and 5 Chiffchaffs.

                Still very calm on the 8th with a very light NE breeze but there was complete cloud cover for a change; the cloud cover seemed to drop a few new migrants into the island with a Marsh Warbler near the Obs the highlight along with 7 Collared Doves and single Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Siskin and Common Redpoll.

                Other little bits included our first Common Scoter of the year which flew past the seawatch hide with 3 Great-northern Divers and 4 Red-throated Divers remaining on calm seas.

Scruffy looking Black Kite                             Simon Davies

Marsh Warbler                                       Simon Davies

Thursday, 7 June 2018

5th and 6th June


A glorious couple of days with acres of warm sunshine and light winds which swung round from the NW to the NE through the day on the 5th; we are getting more and more into the breeding season now and in combination with this and the end of the spring there were hardly any migrants to mention with just a selection of waders comprising 156 Ringed Plover, 6 Knot, 50 Sanderling, 19 Dunlin and 77 Bar-tailed Godwits (a large presumably non-breeding flock which looks set to over-summer).

                A handful of migrants were unearthed on the equally sunny 6th including a Woodpigeon, 4 Collared Doves, a Whinchat (only the third of the year!), 3 Chiffchaffs (with a couple of birds holding territory in Holland gardens) and 3 Jackdaws over The Links.   The most interesting sightings though involved a pair of Fieldfares around Gue Park acting very suspiciously and alarming – there has been one around the area for a while now but today was the first day that two have been seen together which raises obvious questions….


Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

3rd and 4th June


Still pretty foggy through the day on the 3rd but there were signs that it wanted to clear – still no planes though!   The highlights were lingering birds again with the Red-backed Shrike still at Ancum and the Hawfinch and Long-eared Owl still around Holland while other landbirds included a Collared Dove, 2 Garden Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs and a Pied Flycatcher.

                A few odd wildfowl emerged with 4 Wigeon, 3 Pintail and 2 Garganey perhaps hinting at breeding attempts while lingering waders were highlighted by single Little Stint and Curlew Sandpipers at Westness and Trolla respectively along with a Golden Plover, 153 Sanderling, 24 Knot, 2 Purple Sandpipers and 29 Bar-tailed Godwits.

                A quiet day for new migrants on the 4th with our focus slowly shifting to breeding bird monitoring but a Quail was seen at Kirbest and the Red-backed Shrike and Hawfinch remained in place; other bits and pieces included a Woodpigeon, a Collared Dove, a lingering Redwing at Holland, a Garden Warbler, 4 Chiffchaffs and a Spotted Flycatcher.


There are now trillions of baby Starlings emerging from everywhere!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

1st and 2nd June


Thick fog all day through the 1st made time spent in the field feel like a bit of a slog at times but there was still a good array of leftover scarcities to keep us entertained; the best birds included the Rose-coloured Starling around the centre of the island, the Hawfinch again round Holland, a new Red-backed Shrike at Sangar, the long awaited first Whinchat of the year at Westness and a singing Marsh Warbler at Veracott.

                Other birds across the island included a soggy Long-eared Owl at Ancum, a Tree Pipit, a Garden Warbler, 4 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher.   The dwindling wader totals included 31 Knot, 94 Sanderling and 32 Bar-tailed Godwits.

                A similar day on the 2nd, the fog did threaten to clear at times but always won out in the end with the now NW wind too light to make much of an impact on the visibility; many of the birds were the same with the Hawfinch re-trapped in Holland, the Red-backed Shrike still at Ancum and the lighthouse Marsh Warbler re-found at Bewan House.

                Other landbirds included 2 Collared Doves, the Long-eared Owl again, a Tree Pipit, a new Whinchat, a Whitethroat, 3 Garden Warblers, 5 Chiffchaffs and a Pied Flycatcher.   The Pink-footed Goose seems set to over-summer while 5 Barnacle Geese flew north and 17 Gadwall were a bit of an influx as were 18 Black-tailed Godwits.


Blackbirds, Starlings and House Sparrows are now starting to fledge

Friday, 1 June 2018

30th and 31st May


A cracking day on the 30th with the light wind enough north of east to keep the fog away and plenty of warm sunshine; it was a brilliant day in the field with a great cast of scarcities spread across the island, a stunning adult ROSE-COLOURED STARLING striding around with the sheep in the north of the island was the pick of the new arrivals but the supporting birds included a singing Quail at Brides, the Goosander off The Links, the first 2 Curlew Sandpipers of the year on Trolla, the Bee-eater again showing well around Holland, a lovely male Grey-headed Wagtail near the lighthouse, 3 Marsh Warblers scattered around the island, a female Red-backed Shrike caught in Holland and the Hawfinch again.

                It was also one of the better days of the spring for common migrants as totals included 5 Collared Doves, 2 Tree Pipits, the first 2 Redstarts of the year, a Fieldfare, a Garden Warbler, 10 Chiffchaffs, a Willow Warbler, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and 7 Pied Flycatchers.   Four Garganey were also seen along with 5 Purple Sandpipers, 9 Black-tailed Godwits and 2 Whimbrel.

                A similar day on the 31st but the anticipated fog rolled in rapidly from mid-afternoon; it was quieter for new arrivals but the Rose-coloured Starling was still roving around the middle of the island, a Little Ringed Plover was briefly at Bewan before being seen flying high south over the Obs – only the third record for the island after the second last month, the lighthouse Marsh Warbler was still present, a new Red-backed Shrike was caught at Holland and the Hawfinch was again around the Kirkyard.

                Other birds across the island included 2 Garganey, the redhead Goosander again, a Merlin at the lighthouse, 4 Purple Sandpipers, influxes of 75 Knot and 65 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Redstarts, the lingering Fieldfare, 5 Garden Warblers, 8 Chiffchaffs, 3 Willow Warblers, a Spotted Flycatcher and 3 Pied Flycatchers.

                Perhaps the most impressive feature of the day was the continued influx of Silver Y’s and Diamond Back Moths which literally carpeted every field – there must have been thousands involved!   Associated with these were small numbers of Red Admirals, Painted Ladies and Large Whites while the highlight was a Clouded Yellow seen flying across the airfield (not sure on the status on the island?).


Rose-coloured Starling                              Simon Davies

Grey-headed Wagtail                                Simon Davies

Curlew Sandpiper and Dunlin                             Simon Davies