Still some big Curlew chicks to be found
Tuesday, 16 July 2019
An OK day on the 14th, overcast with a moderate NW wind; quiet on the bird front but the Black Tern reappeared at Bewan and the first returning Common Sandpiper was at Nouster Pier. A calmer day on the 15th with a decreasing NW wind which swung round into the N and varying cloud cover; it was a good birding day as the highlights included a Hobby which came in off the sea at Nouster and continued north up the island and an almost certain Little Bunting seen briefly near Holland with the observer only hesitating due to the time of year! The other main feature was increasing numbers of waders and gulls which appear instantly and as if by magic when the silage fields start to get cut as counts included 435 Oystercatchers, 280 Golden Plover, 400 Lapwings, 174 Redshank, 260 Common Gulls and 9 Lesser Black-backed Gulls in amongst which were 3 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel and the first returning Ruff of the autumn – a nice male. Also of note were 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Swifts, a Lesser Redpoll and a Common Crossbill.
Sunday, 14 July 2019
A decent day on the 12th with light westerly winds and plenty of cloud cover but thick fog covered the island on the 13th - slightly unusual on a westerly! A / the female Two-barred Crossbill (re) appeared back in Ancum Willows on the 13th but more unusual was the Shorelark found at the Lighthouse in the evening of the 12th - unsurprisingly the first July record! Other birds included a Great-northern Diver, singing Quail and Corncrake still, a steady increase to 420 Golden Plover, 17 Sanderling, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Little Terns still and the 2 ringed Common Crossbills still while 5 Risso’s Dolphins were off the Lighthouse on the 12th.
Friday, 12 July 2019
A couple of days where thick fog was the dominant feature, grounding planes to cause traffic chaos; there were breaks in the fog though – a few hours in the afternoon of the 10th when it actually felt pretty warm and sunny for a while and then the afternoon of the 11th when it was overcast but calm (it was still foggy in Kirkwall though so no flights got in!). We finally got in on the Crossbill irruption on the 10th, albeit briefly with a female TWO-BARRED CROSSBILL seen and heard near the Old Kirk from where it flew over to the coast but couldn’t be relocated. Other birds included a Heron, the Quail singing from long grass near Holland, an increased 270 Golden Plover, one Little Tern still in Nouster and 2 Common Crossbills trapped and ringed in the evening of the 10th.
Tuesday, 9 July 2019
Another good day in the field; it started out calm and sunny (with 13 Storm Petrels caught overnight - plus a Leach’s Petrel which bounced out of the net) but the easterly breeze picked up through the day and it clouded over by lunchtime with light rain by the evening. It felt promising with the easterly winds (almost like autumn!) and there were some good highlights comprising a skulky Marsh Warbler found at the Obs, a female Common Crossbill at Ancum Willows in the evening (not the Loxia we were looking for but a nice year tick none-the-less) and the 4 Red-necked Phalaropes still on Bewan. Other birds of note included 8 Manx Shearwaters off the Lighthouse, a Heron, a Quail which gave a brief burst of song near Gretchen, a further increase to 228 Golden Plover, 13 Sanderling, 6 Purple Sandpipers, 117 Turnstone and single Woodpigeon and Collared Dove. Also seen were a Hummingbird Hawkmoth at Holland House and a medium sized Basking Shark off the Lighthouse in the evening to round off a great day.
None of the day's highlights really gave themselves up for pictures so here's a baby Pied Wagtail!
Monday, 8 July 2019
A day with lots going on so it deserves a blog post to itself! Glorious conditions with wall to wall sunshine and an easing westerly breeze moving round into the east by the evening; the good array of birds was highlighted by a drake Goosander over Westness (a good island scarcity!), a nice group of 4 Red-necked Phalaropes on Bewan and the Black Tern again at Trolla. Other bits of note comprised good late summer influxes of waders including 165 Oystercatchers, 140 Golden Plover, 183 Lapwing, the first 11 returning Purple Sandpipers of the ‘autumn’, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 127 Redshank and 65 Turnstone, an adult Common Tern at Bewan, the 2 Little Terns still, a Collared Dove, 7 Swifts and a little influx of butterflies with 30 Painted Ladies, 12 Red Admirals and 7 Large Whites.
Two days of pretty much constant low cloud, drizzle and poor visibility on 4th - 5th followed by nicer conditions on 6th - 7th but with most of the staff off for a break in Kirkwall coverage was limited. The visibility finally improved in the evening of the 5th allowing some hopeful Giant Petrel inspired sea-watching from the Lighthouse, no Petrels but a fine Long-tailed Skua was pretty decent compensation along with 12 Manx Shearwaters. Other birds included the Black Tern still present on the 4th along with 800+ Arctic Terns (with 1st summers now up to 450+), 6 returning Wigeon, the Corncrake still giving brief snatches of song, a Common Tern in Nouster on 7th and a small pod of 3 Risso’s Dolphins off the lighthouse, also on the 7th.
Black Tern again
Wednesday, 3 July 2019
The same mix of sunshine and showers with spells of rain but also long periods of dry and sometimes sunny weather; nice and calm on the 2nd degenerating into wet and windy conditions by the afternoon of the 3rd. Breeding bird work dominated the proceedings with good numbers of Arctic Tern chicks ringed as well as the two fluffy balls of death (Bonxie chicks!) ringed; other birds included 2 Great-northern Divers, 3 Manx Shearwaters on the 3rd, a singing Quail at Ancum on the 3rd, wader totals peaking at 43 Golden Plover, 36 Knot and 41 Dunlin, an increase to 1,460+ Arctic Terns (including 400+ 1st summer birds) in amongst which were an adult Common Tern and an adult Black Tern on the 3rd, a Collared Dove and a male White Wagtail at Trolla.
Monday, 1 July 2019
Some spells of heavy rain swept across the island through the last few days of the month, especially through the evening of the 29th as several showers of biblical proportions meant further woes for the breeding birds. The selection of birds over the few days included 3 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great-northern Divers, 6 Manx Shearwaters and 4 Storm Petrels off the Lighthouse on the 29th, the Whooper Swan still, a female Garganey on Garso on the 29th, a Kestrel at Westness, a further increased 98 Golden Plover and 2 Collared Doves.
Plenty of aggro still around the island!
Saturday, 29 June 2019
A quiet few days with again a complete mix of weathers, especially on the 28th with a nice, calm, sunny start reverting into a chilly, foggy, damp middle of the day before going back to a lovely, sunny evening. Birds of note included a Great-northern Diver, 2 Herons, the Whooper Swan and 2 Barnacle Geese, a fresh, flying juvenile Garganey on Hooking – for the second year in a row, confirming successful breeding, up to 38 Golden Plover and 5 Black-tailed Godwits, the 2 Little Terns still, 2 over-summering Chiffchaffs, a new Willow Warbler at the Obs and a Lesser Redpoll (with a brood patch) trapped at Ancum Willows – only the second of the year. Also to mention was the island’s first Poplar Hawkmoth trapped overnight on the 28th – its been a resident on the Mainland and southern isles for several years now but this is the first record for the outer isles.
Wednesday, 26 June 2019
Again, mixed weather but the general airflow was a chilly NW with the odd shower but also a few sunny spells allowing us to get out and do some breeding bird monitoring; it was predictably quiet for migrants although more and more returning waders are starting to appear now and included an influx of 77 Golden Plover along with increased totals of 105 Lapwing and 60 Redshank in their traditional late-summer fields around Hooking. Other birds included a Red-throated Diver, 2 Great-northern Divers, the two Barnacle Geese still, the first flock of returning Wigeon with seven drakes at Hooking on the 26th, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, two Red-necked Phalaropes which appeared on Gretchen on the 26th, further increases in non-breeding Arctic Terns with 175 1st summer birds counted on the 26th, the Turtle Dove which reappeared at Brides on the 24th and 2 Chiffchaffs, a Robin and a Blackcap in Holland on the 26th.
Sunday, 23 June 2019
Mixed weather over these few days but some good extended spells of bright, warm sunshine allowed us to get out and about into some tern colonies to get some accurate counts of nests with massive variability in the success of different sites within the island. The Gretchen and Sangar colonies seem to be spiralling into failure (the Sangar colony was the most successful last year) – a spell of bad weather hit right when they were hatching but the Foghorn, North Links and Gue Park colonies, perhaps slightly behind, are doing well and maybe attracting some second attempts, adding to the protection of the colony.
Migrants of note included a Great-northern Diver, a Heron, the Whooper Swan still, two new Barnacle Geese at the north end, c50 Knot still around Trolla / Bewan, up to 9 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, non / post-breeding flocks of Arctic Terns and Kittiwakes starting to build-up on the rocks at Bewan which included an adult Common Tern on the 22nd – the first of the year, up to 3 Woodpigeons and 2 Collared Doves at Holland and a Common Redpoll at the Obs on the 23rd.
That moment when you are admiring the super cute and fluffy baby Bonxie....and it suddenly vomits up a whole Arctic Tern chick - priceless!
Many Tern chicks are doing well though...but this one may have been fed a slightly too large fish!
Photos - Laura Whyte
Friday, 21 June 2019
Sunny, cloudy, breezy and showery through the day complicating efforts in breeding bird monitoring; there were actually a few new migrants scattered around the island highlighted by a tired looking Turtle Dove, sheltering under a dyke on the coast at Brides – the first one since 2016. Other birds included a Great-northern Diver, 3 Herons (including two new juveniles from somewhere), the Whooper Swan, 3 Common Scoter past the Lighthouse, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers, 75 Lapwings (post-breeding flocks starting to build-up), 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a Cuckoo by Parkhouse – only the second of the year, 3 House Martins and a Spotted Flycatcher.
Thursday, 20 June 2019
A nice, bright day with plenty of sunshine and a variable but light breeze dropping off to virtually nothing by the evening; the day’s bird highlights were 2 Quail, one flushed from underneath the bar window at the Obs and another which randomly flew along the beach at Brides as we had just finished tracking down the Great Black-backed Gull chicks around the loch – we were getting worried that we wouldn’t get it on our year list!
Other birds included the Whooper Swan still, the Corncrake still, a Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Whimbrel, a Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Doves, 2 singing Lesser Whitethroats – at Ancum Willows and Sangar and a Common Redpoll at Holland.
Eider families are a constant sight round the coast now
Wednesday, 19 June 2019
The odd little shower in the morning and a brisk southerly wind but largely it was a pleasant day with some bright sunshine in the afternoon; bits and pieces through the day included single Great-northern and Red-throated Divers, the Heron, a Sparrowhawk south over the Obs (scarce in June!), a singing Corncrake still, 32 Golden Plover (the first little influx of returning birds), 3 Sandwich Terns milling around Hooking but not showing any signs of breeding activity, a Little Tern in Nouster still, a Collared Dove and a House Martin.
Tuesday, 18 June 2019
A showery morning followed by a nice sunny afternoon with a light SW breeze; the North Ronaldsay Island Conference took up a large part of the day but as always there was time enough to get out in the field with the recent spell of south-easterlies resulting in a handful of new migrants. Birds of note included 2 Great-northern Divers, an influx of 21 Black-tailed Godwits, the 2 Little Terns still in Nouster, 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Collared Doves, a House Martin and 2 Spotted Flycatchers (at Holland and Upper Linney). The Butterfly influx continued as well with minimum counts comprising 40 Red Admirals and 75 Painted Ladies.
Monday, 17 June 2019
A day of mixed weather, starting off bright and sunny with a light easterly breeze, followed by a band of light drizzle before reverting back to bright and sunny with the wind switching into the SW with yet another band of rain early evening but settling down into another picture postcard evening. As befits the time of year our focus is on the breeding birds but events 49 Km to the NE prove anything is possible....try as we might though we couldn’t produce many migrants!
Birds of note did include the Heron, a female Garganey on Garso, a returning flock of 13 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, a Collared Dove and the first 2 Swifts of the ‘autumn’ (and only our second record of the year). A further influx of 60+ Painted Ladies and 25+ Red Admirals with a steady southbound movement was the best migration spectacle on offer.
zero ***** given!
Saturday, 15 June 2019
A quiet few days for migrants but not for weather as we were treated to the full range of conditions but unfortunately for the breeding birds, a cold easterly bringing long spells of rain dominated the island – many broods of Swallows have unfortunately failed in the unfavourable conditions and several dead chicks of other species have been found, seemingly just victims of the bad weather.
Birds of note did include the Heron, Whooper Swan and Barnacle Goose lingering, a Manx Shearwater on the 13th, a few odd returning Golden Plovers dotted around, a Black-tailed Godwit on Ancum and 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps on the 15th. We did though finally get involved in the Painted Lady influx that has been occurring through the country with 50+ seen on the 14th along with a few Red Admirals and buckets of Diamond Back Moths.
These Wrens which nested in the Gretchen hide were sheltered from the worst of the weather
Thursday, 13 June 2019
A strong, cold northerly wind dominated the day but it did remain largely dry throughout; a female Red-backed Shrike was the days highlight popping up in a Heligoland trap during the afternoon and was hopefully the forerunner of some more late migrants over the following week! Other bits included the Whooper Swan, 49 Knot, 20 Bar-tailed Godwit and a Woodpigeon.
Wednesday, 12 June 2019
Dry but overcast through the day with a brisk and increasing NW moving into the N wind; bird highlights included a Great-northern Diver, 9 Manx Shearwaters and 406 Puffins past the Lighthouse in an hour first thing, a Heron, a Corncrake which gave a brief snatch of song at Brides (possibly a new bird) and 18 Knot. Also of note were our first three Painted Ladies of the year.
This White Ermine was the only moth in the trap this morning and I can't find any previous records for the island!
Tuesday, 11 June 2019
A so so kind of day with a light NW breeze and plenty of cloud but it remained dry; not much to mention with it feeling more and more like spring is now over and we’ve moved straight into late summer with nothing in between as gangs of young Starlings are roving across the island and non / failed breeding Lapwings and Curlews are starting to form bigger and bigger flocks. Birds of note included the Whooper Swan and Barnacle Goose, a Heron and a Black-tailed Godwit while the moth trap produced its first double figure total – 12 Flame Shoulders, 4 Silver Ground Carpets and an Angle Shades.
Some big wader chicks are now running around
Monday, 10 June 2019
A decent day with a moderate W / NW breeze but almost complete cloud cover; 5 Common Scoter and 28 Manx Shearwaters (the first double figure count of the year) passed the seawatch hide first thing. Other birds included the Whooper Swan, 2 Little Terns back in Nouster – last seen on 26th May, a Woodpigeon and a Lesser Whitethroat.
Sunday, 9 June 2019
A dry day but with a chilly, brisk NW breeze and plenty of cloud, especially in the afternoon; few new arrivals were noted through the day but birds did include 2 Great-northern Divers, a Heron, the Whooper Swan and Barnacle Goose together on Garso (not a typical June sight!), the drake Garganey again, a Black-tailed Godwit, 33 Bar-tailed Godwits, 5 Whimbrel and a Greenshank around Bewan (maybe returning birds already!), a Woodpigeon, 2 Collared Doves, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff.
Still decent flocks of non-breeding waders present
Saturday, 8 June 2019
After a cloudy start, it soon brightened up into a wonderful, sunny, warm day and another glorious, picturesque evening; pretty much all of yesterday’s migrants had unsurprisingly moved on in the fine conditions but a great highlight came late on, as a Marsh Warbler was found at the Lighthouse Punds just before dinner and as photos showed that it was ringed, we went up and caught it to reveal a Swedish ring! As far as we can tell the first Swedish Marsh Warbler recovered in the UK!
Not much else to mention although other birds included a Great-northern Diver, a / the Barnacle Goose on Hooking, a Greenshank which dropped briefly onto Brides, 2 Purple Sandpipers still, a Short-eared Owl at Ancum, single Blackcap and Chiffchaff and proof of Water Rail breeding with a nest containing eggs found at Hooking.
Swedish control Marsh Warbler
Water Rail nest
Friday, 7 June 2019
An overcast start developed into a persistent spell of rain lasting from mid-morning through until mid-afternoon (plus a few shorter spells afterwards as well!) with a light NE breeze; there was a nice arrival of a few late migrants as the rain eased off in the afternoon comprising 2 Red-backed Shrikes near the Obs – a male and a female, 3 Spotted Flycatchers, a Pied Flycatcher and a Lesser Whitethroat while an adult Common Crane wandering around The Links late afternoon was also very welcome.
The few other bits through the day included the Whooper Swan, a Golden Plover (the first one of the month), a Black-tailed Godwit, more and more 1st summer Arctic Terns turning up with 34 seen today, a pod of 5 Risso’s Dolphins seen off the Lighthouse and a couple of Harbour Porpoise off The Lurn – first ones for several months.
Common Crane Simon Davies
I think this Starling was regretting leaving the nest today!
Thursday, 6 June 2019
Damp and overcast through the morning with occasional spells of light rain but it brightened up in the afternoon to produce a decent day despite the northerly breeze; birds of note through the day comprised 2 Manx Shearwaters off the Lighthouse, the Whooper Swan still, a drake Garganey on Garso, a Red-breasted Merganser, a female Common Scoter on the sea off Sandback (only the second record of the year), 15 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, a Collared Dove and 2 Chiffchaffs.
Red-breasted Merganser and Common Scoter
Wednesday, 5 June 2019
Breezy through the morning with the strong SW wind easing off though the day to produce a lovely calm, sunny afternoon and a glorious, picture postcard evening; the pick of the day’s few migrants was yet another first year White-tailed Eagle which flew high south straight down the island late morning – amazingly, our fifth record this year with this latest one becoming the first June record for the island in the Observatory era.
Other bits included a Heron, a Red-breasted Merganser, the Corncrake still forlornly advertising himself, 2 Whimbrel, a Collared Dove, single Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher and a super bright male Common Redpoll briefly at the Obs.
Tuesday, 4 June 2019
After a bit of rain overnight, it was bright and dry through the day with an increasing southerly wind; the highlight was a lovely but very flighty and mobile adult ROSE-COLOURED STARLING which was zooming around between the Lighthouse and Scottigar, never settling for more than a few minutes.
Other bits through the day comprised a Sparrowhawk, 70+ Knot (presumably a non-breeding flock, settling in to over-summer as most of them are grey individuals), a Little Stint still at Westness, an increase to 15+ Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.
Rose-coloured Starling - just!
Monday, 3 June 2019
The wind went back into the east for a time bringing low cloud and drizzle (turning into proper rain on occasion) which dominated much of the day, it cleared in the afternoon with the wind picking up before dropping off to almost nothing late evening; the all-over-the-place weather through the day did produce some good new birds though with a Black Tern present on Ancum for a matter of minutes the highlight along with a Spotted Crake which gave a few snatches of song early evening, 2 Little Stints at Westness and a Curlew Sandpiper at Bewan.
Other totals included a late Pink-footed Goose on Ancum, the Corncrake still croaking away, 3 Whimbrel, a Collared Dove, 4 House Martins, a Robin, single Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler and 2 Spotted Flycatchers.
Sunday, 2 June 2019
A damp and mizzly start to the day but it brightened up through the morning to leave a bright middle section of the day with a light westerly breeze before rain moved in again early evening. Not too much to mention Birdwise through the day as totals included a Manx Shearwater past Nouster, 19 Knot, 182 Sanderling, 2 Whimbrel, 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Collared Doves, a House Martin, a Garden Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff and a Tree Sparrow.
These Shelducklings were temporarily separated from their parents but all ended well!
Saturday, 1 June 2019
A glorious start to the day, a light easterly and clear skies, it didn’t last long though as the wind increased, the cloud built-up and rain moved in by late morning and remained throughout the rest of the day – a shocker of an afternoon! The birds of note were all squeezed in before the weather turned with a drake Garganey on Ancum, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a late Long-eared Owl in Ancum Willows, 2 Collared Doves, a Robin, a Blackcap, a Chiffchaff and 2 Common Redpolls at Ancum.
Soon be plenty of these out and about - photo taken in the sun yesterday!